Practical feline behaviour understanding cat behaviour and improving welfare

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Advice for Breeders 121

behavioural and physical development of the unborn kittens (Weinstock, 2008). It is
therefore very important to minimize stressors for a pregnant cat.

● Prior to conception and all through pregnancy ensure that the queen is physically,
emotionally and nutritionally healthy. Regular health checks by your veterinary
surgeon or nurse/technician before she is mated and during pregnancy are advis-
able (Fig. 8.1).
● Mothers that are poorly nourished can produce kittens with developmental
abnormalities (Simonson, 1979, cited in Bateson, 2000; Gallo et al., 1980). Poor
health and insufficient nourishment when nursing can also result in the mother
weaning the kittens earlier and increased aggression by the mother towards the
kittens during weaning. Sufficient high-quality nutrition throughout pregnancy
and lactation is therefore very important:
● Ensure that she has easy access to both food and water. Provide additional
bowls and position water dishes away from food.
● Feed little and often – her appetite is likely to increase but she may not be able
or willing to eat too much at one time.
● Feed a diet that meets her increased nutritional requirements, such as a
well-balanced prepared kitten food.
● Research has shown that kittens will have a preference for the same food
eaten by their mother during pregnancy and lactation (Becques et al., 2009;
Hepper et al., 2012), therefore it is advisable to feed her the same food as will
be offered to the kittens during weaning.
● If you are unsure as to the correct diet to feed, ask your vet or nurse/techni-
cian for advice.
● Avoid conflict situations with other pets:
● Reconsider breeding from a queen that is already fighting with another cat or
may feel threatened by another household pet. Do not breed from her until
the situation is resolved.
● Do not introduce new pets to the household, especially other cats, or dogs,
during the pregnancy or while she is nursing her kittens.
● Avoid or reduce any overcrowding or competition for resources (see
Appendix 3).

Fig. 8.1. Poor health can
be a cause of pre-natal
stress. Regular health
checks before conception
and during pregnancy are
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