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There are many things that you need to consider when caring for kittens and a lactating mother. The following information addresses some of the most important issues however, the RSPCA strongly recommends that you seek veterinary advice to ensure that your cat and her kittens receive the best care possible.
Milk production requires a lot of energy and it is therefore necessary to increase the amount of food that you give your cat while she is lactating. Lactating cats should be fed free choice with appropriate food that is designed for lactation.
Where possible allow the kittens to wean naturally from their mother. This generally occurs by the time the kitten is about 8 weeks of age. It is important for them to receive their mother's milk up until this age as it contains substances that are vital to their health and immunity. Consult your vet for advice on how to slowly introduce your kittens onto solid food once it is time to begin weaning them. Please see the article titled "What should I feed my kitten?" for more information about kitten nutrition.
Socialisation is also an important aspect of a kitten’s development and it is important that your kittens have had plenty of time to socialise with their siblings and mother as well as humans before sending them off to their new loving homes. Gentle handling and patting by humans is important during this phase. Calmly and positively introducing kittens to different objects (such as vacuum cleaners, umbrellas etc) that they will likely encounter in their home as they grow older is also important. The more socialisation a kitten receives, the easier the transition to a new home and environment will be.
Talk to your vet about kitten vaccinations, desexing, microchipping and health care such as worming and flea prevention. RSPCA Australia advocates the desexing of all pet cats (which are kept as companion animals) to reduce the population of unwanted cats and kittens in the community. Consult your vet for more information about cat desexing and please consider having your cat desexed after she has weaned her kittens. Kittens should be desexed before 16 weeks of age as they can mate and become pregnant at this age.
Legislation is changing in different states regarding microchipping, registration, desexing and breeding of cats. The legal requirements can either be State based specific to cats as for Western Australia; under Dog and Cat or Companion Animal legislation or part of local government bylaws. Currently, several States are in the process of introducing compulsory breeder registration and microchipping to prevent overbreeding and cats being bred in poor conditions.
Restrictions on the sale and transfer of kittens and cats is also being controlled by legislation in some States. It is best to check both State and local government legal requirements. In Western Australia, the Cat Act 2011 requires all cats to be microchipped, registered and desexed by 6 months of age, and all cat breeders to have a government permit. These laws were announced in 2011 but were not enacted until 2013 to allow cat owners to prepare for the changes. The following links will help you find information relevant to your State. However, it is also recommended to check with your local council as there may be additional legal requirements.
Please note: specific requirements are often contained within associated Regulations so best to check these too. Your local council can give advice on current requirements.