queen has a reproductive cycle that lasts about 20 weeks.
Oestrus (when the queen is in heat) usually lasts 2-4 days,
it is characterised by changes in her behaviour such as rolling
on the ground, rubbing, calling and restlessness.
The normal average gestation of a queen is
65 days (about 9 weeks). However, unlike bitches who gain
the most weight in the last third of pregnancy, a cat will
have a steady weight increase. Over the 9 weeks the queen
may gain between 1 and 2 Kg.
Again, the queen differs from the bitch because
after birth the queen does not immediately loose all her extra
body weight after giving birth. The queen may retain 60% which
she will lose during lactation. Lactation lasts 6-8 weeks.
Nutritional deficiencies in the queen may
lead to malformed kittens and according to research one of
most important nutritional factors is the calcium:phosphorus
ratio. If this ratio is incorrect then it can affect bone
development of the kittens.
The lactating queen needs 2-3 times more dietary
energy than she did for maintenance, and thus more food. During
the first few weeks a maintenance diet should be sufficient,
however in the later stages, without adequate extra nutrients
her milk supply will be decreased. Because of the growing
kittens, her stomach capacity will be smaller and small frequent
meals of an energy dense food is suggested. A food intended
for kittens should be suitable.
Kittens not receiving adequate milk cry and
become restless, their abdomens contract and they fail to
gain the normal 10-15 g/day. If the kittens are not getting
enough milk from their mother, supplement their diet by feeding
a kitten milk replacer.
The energy value of the queen’s milk
is about 106Kcals/100g, however, cow’s milk is nutritionally
inadequate as a substitute as it only has 65Kcals/100g. (Baines,
During lactation the queen should have access
to extra sources of water. This is because the milk she produces
has a high water content.
The average kitten at birth will weigh about
100 grams. However, this obviously depends on the number of
kittens in the litter, the nutrition of the queen and breed.
There can be between 1 and 10 kittens in a litter.
Female kittens reach sexual maturity from
about 7 months old, whereas male kittens are sexually mature
from around 10 months old.