When the birthing process is done and all the kittens have arrived, first order of business is to see to it that each kitten is dry and able to feed immediately. This is important because mom’s first milk is what is called colostrum, a substance rich in antibodies which will help protect the newborns from infection while their own immune systems are still developing.
The next thing to do is to feed the mom! Bring some food and water to your queen and place them near her nest because she is unlikely to want to leave her kittens and go far from them to eat. Some queens do not want to eat immediately after giving birth. This is not a cause for concern at this point and just leave the food and water near her or remove it and offer them again to her a little later.
A new mother cat needs about three more times the energy requirement from food compared to a non-pregnant female. She must consume more food to be able to produce adequate milk for her kittens. As mentioned above, a lack of interest in food immediately after giving birth is normal but appetite should return within the next 24 hours and it should gradually increase as the mother peaks toward milk production. When a cat is not eating more than 24 hours after giving birth then this is a sign that there is something wrong especially when it is coupled with fever and lack of interest in taking care of her kittens.
Why Is My Cat Not Eating?
Lack of interest for food within 24 hours from giving birth may be due to either stress from the birth, the mother still feeling “full” from eating the placenta of the newborn kittens as some mother cats do, or she may be feeling a general unease from the mild inflammation of the uterus associated with the birthing process. An inflammatory process going on anywhere in the body causes chemicals to be released into the blood which cause fever and suppress appetite. With mild inflammatory conditions, these symptoms should go away in a day and the queen should be back to her normal self by then. Some queens, especially those with the overly protective personalities, may choose to not eat when they feel threatened and upset by too many people and presence of other pets near them and their kittens.
When it has been more than 24 hours from birthing and your cat is still not eating, this may be a sign of a more serious problem. The following are the most common post birth complications encountered and the signs to look out for. All these complications can cause the mother to not want to eat after giving birth.
Hemorrhage. Some bleeding coming from the uterus after birth is normal. The discharge should be reddish brown and have no foul odor. Bloody discharge that is excessive and colored bright red indicates a problem in the uterus or in the queen’s blood clotting system. When left unchecked, hemorrhage can lead to anemia making the cat feel weak and not inclined to either move nor eat.
Problems Related to the Uterus. The sac that surrounded the kittens while they were still growing inside their mother’s uterus is called the placenta or afterbirth. This should be expelled during the birth of the kittens or shortly thereafter. If it remains in the mother’s womb, the condition is called Retained Placenta. This presents a problem because this afterbirth is a good place for bacteria to grow and lead to an inflammation of the womb called metritis. Suspect this condition, or even retained kittens, when you still see a foul smelling greenish or blackish discharge from the queen’s vulva several days after she had given birth. Metritis can also result when the womb becomes contaminated during obstetrical manipulations during difficult labor. A bigger problem is rupture of the uterus which may occur when the womb is stretched too much with large litters and difficult labor. If there is rupture there will inevitably be an inflammation of the abdominal cavity. As has been mentioned above, inflammatory conditions can cause the queen to feel generally ill, feel pain, have fever and appetite suppression.
Mastitis. This is an inflammation of the mammary glands. While this condition more often happens later on in lactation when the kittens have become bigger, more rowdy and have teeth already, it is sometimes possible for it to occur immediately after giving birth possibly from an infection from somewhere else, like in the uterus, and carried to the mammary glands via the bloodstream. This can also happen when milk ducts become blocked and milk pools in the teat giving bacteria a rich environment to thrive and multiply. The teats can be observed as swollen and milk is yellow or green, thick and sometimes bloody.
Hypocalcemia. This condition develops when the amount of calcium in the queen’s blood drops below normal level frequently in the first three to four weeks after giving birth when she is in the height of producing milk for her kittens. Watch out for the signs of hypocalcemia like fast breathing and restlessness, tremors, stiff limbs and difficulty standing or walking.
Conditions Resulting From Not Eating
Any cat who is not eating for more than 24 hours will start to feel weak and develop a condition called hepatic lipidosis which creates a rather serious problem in the liver. With no food intake to use for energy, the body will reach a point wherein it will start to use the fat reserves and these fatty substances are processed in the liver. This significantly increases the workload of the liver and interferes with its normal function. Inadequate nutrition coupled with stress likewise causes a weakened immune system resulting lessened ability of the body to fight off infections.
A lactating mother cat who is not eating faces additional challenges to those mentioned above. She becomes weak, depressed and loses interest in nursing her kittens resulting to poor mothering. The energy deficiency and malnutrition causes her milk production to drop, she will eventually not be able to produce enough milk for her kittens and may even suffer from hypocalcemia. The kittens will be constantly crying and later on become weak, sickly and may even die.
How To Help
At home, make sure the area where your queen is raising her kittens is peaceful, quiet, and free from human or other animal traffic. Keep her food, water, and litterbox nearby so that she can still see her kittens even if she has to leave them for a little while. To stimulate a cat’s appetite it is often helpful to warm their food to release its pleasant smell which may pique her interest. Wet food is often more appetizing than dry kibbles. Offer the new mother her favorite food. High energy nutritional supplements are helpful too.
If the above methods don’t work to make mother cat start eating again, you may need to feed her small amounts of wet food every few hours her using a syringe. When doing this always be careful that you are doing it properly to avoid food getting into her lungs causing pneumonia. Be ready also to bottle feed the kittens as the mother may not be producing enough milk at this point.
Take your queen to see her veterinarian so that the underlying cause of the appetite loss can be identified and treated. The veterinarian will take her history, conduct a physical examination and may need to perform blood tests and diagnostic imaging procedures to determine what is wrong with her. The queen may need to be placed on intravenous fluid or tube feeding to supplement her energy and water needs while she is recovering and medicines may be given as determined by her veterinarian.