What to Do When a Mother Cat Won’t Produce Milk (March 2019)

The birth of a litter of kittens can be a very exciting time in any household. After all, who doesn’t love cute, wee kittens?

Helping the mother cat to take care of her kittens is something you will need to do, but what about when the mother cat won’t produce any milk to feed them?

Because of this “what if”, you need to make sure that you are prepared in case this happens, especially soon after the birth when food is absolutely critical.

There are a lot of factors as to why a mother cat won’t, or can’t, produce enough milk to feed her babies.

If this is the case, human intervention will be needed to help her out and keep those kittens alive and mewing.

Preparing to Bottle Feed

There is always the possibility of needing to feed the kittens yourself, whether mom isn’t able to produce enough milk to keep up with the litter or she’s rejected one or two kittens for whatever reason.

Here is quick list of what you’ll need to successfully bottle feed a litter of kittens:

  • Kitten replacement formula (KMR)
  • Kitten Bottles
  • 3 mm Syringes

Having both kitten bottles and 3 mm syringes on hand will ensure that you’re ready for anything.

For example, one kitten may nurse better with a bottle, while another kitten may struggle with the bottle and require a syringe to keep fed.

This method may be needed to help the mother cat feed a large litter of kittens, so make sure you’re ready.

Human baby formula and cow’s milk should be avoided as much as possible – a small amount is okay if there is nothing else, but this can cause malnourishment and gastrointestinal problems, which would cause crucial problems so early in a kitten’s life.

The Mother’s Diet is Crucial Right Now

As the mother cat nurses her kittens, it’s important that you offer a healthy diet for her. If she is refusing to feed her kittens or isn’t able to produce enough milk, or any milk at all, the proper diet can actually make a difference here.

While in labor and after the first day or two after birth, the mother cat may not be totally invested in feeding herself, so make things a bit enticing for her.

Always have fresh, clean water available and some food at all times. Wet food can help get some extra nutrients into her in a pinch if she isn’t eating her regular food or just isn’t interested in it anymore.

Try not to stick to your regular feeding schedule. Momma can eat as much as four times the regular amount of calories she normally eats during this time, so make sure she has all she can eat.

Your local pet store may have a food option that is for specifically for mother cats, so make sure you take a look ahead of time.

Why the Mother Cat May Not Be Feeding Her Kittens

It can be scary to find out that the mother cat isn’t feeding her kittens as she should be, so it’s important to know why this can happen, regardless of whether or not she is producing enough milk.

Deformed or Sick Kittens

Mother cats can detect a problem in a kitten immediately, which can make them refuse to nurse it. Unfortunately, the deformed or sick kitten may be kicked out of the bunch, but this isn’t something she’s doing to be mean.

The mother cat has a natural instinct to protect and preserve her babies, so she will do this to keep the deformed or sick kitten away from the healthy ones.

Unfortunately, this can happen even if the kitten isn’t actually deformed or sick.

Whatever happens, don’t try to put the kitten back with the litter. This can cause her to reject more than one kitten due to direct contact. She may even abandon the entire litter.

Instead, take the rejected kitten and nurse it yourself. That’s about all you can do.

She is Ill

A sick mother cat will not be able to properly care for her kittens and may not be willing to nurse her kittens.

Some illnesses, such as mastitis, can cause the mother cat to stop producing milk for her litter.

If the mother cat is acting strangely, isn’t taking to her kittens, or is visibly ill, take over with the kitten care and get her to the vet straight away.

She is Not Mature Enough

Younger cats, and older kittens themselves, are not mature enough to properly mother a litter of kittens, especially where physical capabilities are concerned.

Cats can get pregnant from as young as four months, which can be scary for the cat involved. She’s barely been alive long enough to figure the world out, never mind take care of numerous kittens.

If your mother cat isn’t old enough to know what to do, you need to help her out.

If she becomes overwhelmed, she will abandon the litter, refuse to feed her kittens, etc.

Make sure you keep a close eye on what goes on. Mother cats who aren’t mature enough can be known to harm kittens, whether they mean to do it or not.

What to Do With Leftover KMR

Don’t throw away any leftover KMR – instead, wait and use it when the kittens are a little bit older.

Kittens can be weaned from nursing after approximately 3 weeks of age, which is where the leftover KMR will come into play.

You can add small amounts to kitten food once they are old enough to have the solid food for a bit of a health boost.

Preparing for the Kitten’s Future

As a pet parent, it’s your job to prepare for this, too. Mother cats birth and nurse with usually no need for human intervention, but that doesn’t always mean you won’t be needed.

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