What To Feed A Nursing Cat?

What To Feed A Nursing Cat
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You should feed your nursing cat with kitten food that is rich in proteins, has a high-calorie content, and is energy-dense. It should also be complete and balanced, made of highly-digestible natural ingredients like whole grains, and should have a high moisture content.

Most importantly, a nursing cat should also be provided with food supplements that contain Vitamin C, phosphorus, magnesium, and calcium as well as water and soups for hydration. 

What to feed a nursing cat?

A nursing cat has greater nutritional needs than an average adult cat. She has greater calorie requirements depending on the number of the litter. While her kittens grow, a nursing cat’s calorie requirement will also increase and will peak when the kittens are four weeks old. 

Normally, a 10-pound cat with four kittens needs 600 calories a day and the greater the weight the more required calories it will be for the nursing cat. Mama cats also need two to six times more energy requirements compared to non-nursing cats. 

Nursing cats should be fed with kitten food because it is the ultimate source of calorie-dense and concentrated nutrients. Vets recommend kitten food for pregnant cats and it should be continued after they have given birth and are already nursing their kittens. The only variation is that kitten food should be given in increased portions and with more mealtimes to keep up with a nursing cat’s increased calorie requirements. 

Kitten food is the best choice for nursing cats because it is calorie-dense and satisfies the appetite of the mother cat. It also has enhanced nutrients to nourish the mama cat as well as the kittens. It also helps in the smooth transition to the weaning process since kittens start to eat at around four or five weeks old and will eat what their mama is eating. Check out our earlier article on six months old kitten weight for more information on the ideal weight and feeding tips for kittens. 

What to look for in cat food for nursing cats 

These are the vital components that you should look for in a cat/kitten food for your nursing cat:

It should be rich in high-quality animal protein. 

Lactating cats and kittens should have a minimum of 30% crude protein in their daily diets. Increased protein intake is recommended for nursing cats as long as it is from animal-based sources. 

It should have highly-digestible natural ingredients. 

Look for kitten and cat food that have whole food ingredients like whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. Avoid cat food that only contains fillers and by-products which are hard to digest and do not provide any nutritional value at all. 

It should be energy-dense. 

Your nursing cat’s food should include energy-dense recipes to support her energy requirements. It must have a high-calorie content to support lactation without having to consume large amounts of food. After giving birth, mama cats lose 40% of their body weight, of which the rest will be lost during the lactation phase. Because of this, they should be fed with high-calorie food as it means increased energy for milk production. 

It should have higher moisture content.

Nursing cats need more water compared to non-nursing ones since they are feeding their kittens and their milk content is about 73% water. Make sure that the kitten and cat food of your lactating feline is fresh and canned or if feeding kibble, be sure to add a wet food topper.  Always provide a bowlful of fresh water nearby so the mama cat can drink anytime. 

Nutritional composition of cat milk

  • 10.8% fat 
  • 10.6 % protein
  • 3.7 sugar
  • 1.0% ash 
  • 73% water 

It should be complete and balanced. 

What the mama cat eats will also be passed to the kittens through the milk they suckle from her so her food should always be complete and balanced. Aside from the high-protein and high-calorie requirement, it should have vitamin and mineral supplements to balance the nutritional content such as calcium and phosphorus for the kittens’ bone development. 

What to look for in cat food for nursing cats 
Image: istockphoto.com / anastas_

How often should a nursing cat eat in a day?

She should be fed at least four to five times a day with complete and balanced kitten food.  You may also provide fruit purees, soups, or broths to keep her hydrated along with a steady supply of fresh water. Also, free feed her with dry food throughout the day as nursing cats are almost always hungry. For more information see our article on how much should a nursing cat eat.

What to feed a nursing cat:  Best kitten canned food 

Here are some of our recommended kitten food for nursing cats:

1. Wellness Complete Health Kitten Formula Grain-Free Cat Food 

This nutrient-dense and grain-free kitten food contain protein and omega oil from flaxseeds and fish oil. It also has antioxidants, taurine, vitamins, and minerals that are good for nursing cats. 

These are its key benefits:

  • antioxidant-rich cranberries, vitamins, minerals, omega fatty acids, and taurine
  • 100% grain-free with chicken as the first ingredient
  • moisture from real broth 
  • has no artificial preservatives, color, or flavor

Main ingredients:  chicken, chicken liver, chicken broth, carrots, natural flavor, guar gum, fish oil, beta carotene, riboflavin, and Vitamin A, among others.

Caloric Content:  97 kcal/3 oz. can

2. Instinct Kitten Grain-Free Pate Real Chicken Recipe Natural Wet Canned Cat Food 

This high-animal protein and the grain-free recipe has a mix of poultry, fish, and meat content and has a pate texture. It features natural sources of DHA for healthy brain and eye development.

These are its key benefits:

  • has a balanced content of real chicken, salmon, and beef liver 
  • a recipe made with high animal protein 
  • free of potato, corn, wheat, and artificial colors or preservatives

Main ingredients: chicken, beef liver, chicken broth, salmon, eggs, taurine, dried kelp, Vitamin E supplement, Niacin supplement, Biotin, Vitamin B12 supplement, pumpkin, tomato, cabbage, parsley, and broccoli, among others.

Caloric content: 1,216 kcal/ 1 kg; 190 kcal/5.5 oz can; 103 kcal/3 oz. can

3. Whole Earth Farms Grain-Free Healthy Kitten Pate Recipe 

This is a grain-free recipe of high-quality, de-boned chicken with vitamins and minerals and is suitable both for kittens and nursing cats as well. 

These are its key benefits:

  • made from protein-rich poultry from the USA 
  • has USA-sourced ingredients like chicken liver and eggs 
  • a delicious and healthy meal with the highest quality standards 

Main ingredients:  chicken, chicken broth, chicken liver, dried egg product, calcium carbonate, salmon oil, taurine, riboflavin supplement, biotin, folic acid, and amino acid complex, among others. 

Caloric content:  1,098 kcal/kg,; 86 kcal/2.75 oz.can; 133 kcal/5 oz.can


Nursing cats need all the nutrition and healthy food that they can get since they are nursing their kittens.  They should be fed with kitten food that is high in protein and calories. Their food should be highly digestible, energy-dense, and contain vitamins and minerals like calcium and phosphorus which are important for the kittens’ bone development. Most importantly, they should be free-fed all day with dry food and should have easy access to water to stay hydrated.