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The 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, 1981).

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.


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©2006 Burns Pet Nutrition Ltd. No part of this website can be reproduced in any form without the express permission of Burns Pet Nutrition Ltd. The advice of Burns Pet Nutrition or a qualified veterinary surgeon should always be sought before changes are made to the diet in the nutritional management of health problems.

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