What if a cat does not breastfeed her kittens?

If your cat has been pregnant and has given birth to her kittens, it may happen that for some reason the cat does not want to breastfeed . You find that he has completely rejected one or more kittens or you are just not sure that he is suckling properly. What should a concerned cat owner do?

During their first four weeks of life, kittens need their mother’s milk. If the mother cat and her kittens are healthy and well cared for, there should be no problems; In most cases, female cats raise and care for their kittens with little or no human intervention. However, there are times when nature doesn’t take over. That’s when humans need to step in and offer their help.

Next, I’ll tell you what happens if a cat does not breastfeed.

Why doesn’t a cat nurse her kittens?

Several situations can arise in which a mother cat does not breastfeed her kittens. In some cases, the mother cat will start nursing and then stop. It may also happen that the cat has never started to breastfeed. The cat may reject some or all of the kittens. You can also ignore them act aggressively when a kitten approaches you.

If something like this happens, the first thing to do is get the mother and kittens to the vet as soon as possible. If you find the reason why a cat is not feeding her kittens, you have a better chance of getting her to start nursing. Or, you may need to step in and take care of the kittens yourself.

Here are possible reasons why you are not breastfeeding properly.

  1. Mother cat disease 

If the cat has a health problem, she may not be able or willing to breastfeed her kittens. In some cases, she will not make enough milk for her kittens. Or, a problem like mastitis may be making you uncomfortable breastfeeding.

The mastitis is a medical condition that can sometimes affect a nursing mother. It is the result of a bacterial infection of your mammary glands, so you cannot breastfeed. If you notice that your cat’s nipples appear swollen, red, or irritated, or that they are emitting a colored discharge, take her to a vet for treatment.

  1. Malnutrition of the cat

Nutrition for a nursing cat is an important part of keeping her healthy and able to nurse her kittens. If a cat does not receive proper nutrition, she will not be able to produce enough milk to feed her litter and will refuse to feed her .

To maintain their weight and strength, lactating cats need an average of 2 to 2.5 times the amount of calories per day that the average adult cat needs.

The energy requirements of the lactating female depend on the number of suckling kittens and their age, this determines the amount of milk that must be produced

During lactation , the cat should consume food suitable for lactating cats,  rich in protein and fat, at least between the first five and seven weeks of the kittens’ life.

It is important that you do not forget to supply the necessary water so that it does not become dehydrated, keep in mind that in order for it to produce milk, it is necessary to supply water to the body.

  1. Sick or deformed kittens

The cat may detect or suspect a health problem in one or more kittens, others are born with congenital defects and do not develop properly. If the mother cat feels that a baby is weak or unable to thrive, she will also refuse to breastfeed that kitten or other affected kittens.

As a consequence, he may remove the sick kitten from the nest in an instinctive attempt to protect the others. Don’t try to put the rejected kitten back in the nest. This is unlikely to be successful and may stress the mother possibly leading her to reject more kittens, perhaps even the entire litter. Instead, bottle feed and keep the rejected kitten warm while you try to get them to the mother’s vet as soon as possible.

  1. Human intervention

During the first week after birth, it is vital that the mother cat spends time with her young in a safe, warm and secluded place: her nest. Keep interaction with her and the kittens to a minimum on those days.

Constantly choking the cat or her kittens for the first seven days after birth will stress her out, which can cause her to stop breastfeeding. Just keep an eye on her health and keep the baby’s nest clean, but don’t cuddle the kittens excessively, especially if you see that it bothers the cat. After the first week, you will be able to handle them so that you can socialize them with people.

  1. Very large litter of kittens

When kitten litters are very large and there are not enough nipples for all kittens to suckle, the strongest and largest kittens can push the smaller ones out of the way to milk.

It is possible that the cat does not produce enough milk to feed everyone, being able to favor the strongest and reject the smallest and weakest. The mother and kittens should see the vet as soon as possible. Rejected kittens should be bottle fed and kept warm in the meantime.

  1. Mature kittens

Once the kittens reach between 3 weeks and 4 weeks of age, the mother cat will begin to wean them, and so on for four more weeks. During this time, she will refuse to breastfeed them as often, if at all, because their teeth are growing, which makes it very uncomfortable for her.

This is completely normal behavior and is because the kittens are growing. Help her by providing solid food, the same food you’ve been feeding Mom, mixed with kitten’s milk replacement formula in a plate.

  1. Immature mother cat

Very young female cats often lack the maturity to be good mothers. They may also be lacking in energy reserves to produce milk, as they are still growing. A cat can become pregnant from four months of age . In most cases, this is a low age for her and her kittens to develop. If you have a young cat who has rejected some or all of her kittens, you will need to step in and help.

Finally, some female cats are not very motherly or good mothers and create kitten abandonment problems during lactation.

How to bottle feed kittens

If the cat does not feed her newborn kittens, it is important to take the mother and kittens to a vet as soon as possible. In the meantime, you must find a way to feed the kittens, as they need to eat every few hours with a certain frequency depending on their age. This is usually done with a bottle of kitten formula.

These kittens, who do not have access to breast milk, should be bottle fed with a commercial milk substitute that is specifically formulated for young kittens. The manufacturer’s instructions allow to know both the amounts to be administered, preparation and conservation.

Avoid cow’s milk or human baby formula, as they are not nutritionally appropriate for kittens and can lead to health problems and even death if fed for a long period of time.

Replacement milk must be as close to the composition of cat’s milk as possible. You should choose a milk that is as poor in starch as possible, since kittens do not have well developed enzymes that allow their digestion. Breast milk contains a variety of fatty acids, among which are EPA and DHA from the omega 3 series. Milk must contain a balanced supply of minerals and vitamins, without forgetting essential amino acids such as tryptophan, arginine, taurine and essential fatty acids.

How to properly feed bottle milk

Formula milk is generally in powder form to dilute with water, allowing the concentration of prepared milk to be tailored. The dose administered will be that indicated by the manufacturer, to avoid diarrhea the milk can be further diluted in the following feedings. The milk intake is provided at a temperature of 35-38 ºC.

Kittens can be bottle fed in the decubitus position with their heads raised. The kitten must be able to suckle from the bottle at will, without forcing it due to the risk of false swallowing. Weaker kittens may need tube feeding, diameter adapted to kitten size. Wash the bottles well, it is convenient to sterilize them regularly.

The intakes should be divided, the more the smaller the kitten is and taking into account that the maximum capacity of a kitten’s stomach is approximately 4 ml / 100 g of body weight.

During the first week of life , kittens should be fed every 2-4 hours, including at night, and less frequently thereafter.

Help them urinate and defecate. Before 3 weeks of age they lack the evacuation reflex and it is necessary to stimulate their perineum with a soft, moist and warm cloth during milk intake. This simulates the action of the mother when breastfeeding her litter and stimulates urination and defecation.

At 3-4 weeks of age, kitten food mixed with water or milk can be introduced and the mixture placed in a bowl. Once the kitten has learned to eat from a bowl, the amount of water or milk used can be slowly reduced until only solid food is ingested.

Weaning usually occurs around 6-8 weeks of age.


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