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Mastitis And Other Related Problems

nursing kittens

Mastitis can be the last thing on your mind when you get that promising litter of kittens delivered. Sometimes it’s a lack of milk and sometimes there’s milk but she gets infections, resulting in milk that is not advised by most professionals to have the kittens nurse.

What to do? Any time you suspect infection it’s time for veterinary care. While dairy cattle have infusions that can be done that isn’t usually the case with small animals like cats or even dogs. Milk infection can turn deadly and can affect any lactating female.

Mastitis is an infection that is caused from heavy milk production and the milk being retained. For example, in dairy animals if there is a power outage that delays milking for several hours it’s not uncommon for infection to occur. With cats heavy milk production is a relative thing. 

  • Perhaps she’s producing more than the kittens can consume, or a couple of kittens die. 
  • The teats become swollen and painful to the point often the mother won’t allow the kittens to nurse. This is something that needs veterinary attention.

Although it isn’t common in cats hypocalcemia or ‘milk fever’ has occurred if calcium levels during pregnancy and lactation are low. Seizures, staggering, muscle tremors, collapse and restlessness with panting can all indicate this medical emergency.

Endrometitis is a uterine infection that is a veterinary emergency also. While there will be normal vaginal drainage after having kittens if it is foul smelling don’t waste time.

  • Although queens normally don’t have major problems it pays to be aware that it *can* happen and know the signs to look for if it does. 
  • This is also why it pays to have a plan. Any of these cases means you will have to hand feed the kittens until she has recovered. 
  • This means having fresh milk replacement on hand when a litter is due or if there’s another queen with a litter, fostering the kitten(s) onto her.

With exceptional mothers you can take a tip from rabbit breeders – if a doe is lost and a foster doe can’t handle another litter some breeders have two nest boxes…12 hours her own litter is in there and the other 12 hours is the foster litter. Of course kittens nurse more and will need supplemental milk even in the best of situations.

Any queen with a litter should be on top quality food and plenty of water for milk production. If concerned about mastitis as the kittens are weaned, decreasing the amount of food for a couple weeks means less nutrition and naturally less milk. The nearly weaned kittens will keep the milk from building up and as it drops they can be safely weaned with a reduced chance of mastitis in the queen.

Having a good quality feed and management program, with attention to health concerns, means more often than not this information is a “just in case” warning of what can happen, not what will happen. However, if it happens to you then you will be happy to know what to do to save the kittens and the queen! 

Need any advice now? Ask a vet online! 

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