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How do I care for newborn kittens and their mother?

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.

Veterinary care

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.

State/TerritoryActKey requirements
ACTDomestic Animals Act 2000Mandatory desexing by 12 weeks of age

Must be microchipped before sale/transfer and 12 weeks of age
QueenslandAnimal Management Act 2008Must be microchipped before sale/transfer and by 12 weeks of age

Check local council bylaws regarding registration and desexing
New South WalesCompanion Animal Act 1998Must be identified by 3 months of age

Must be registered by 6 months of age
Northern TerritoryNilNil
South AustraliaDog & Cat Management Act 1995Must be desexed by six months. Must be microchipped by three months or within 28 days of acquiring the animals. Breeders must be registered with Dog and Cat Management Board.

Check council bylaws regarding registration
TasmaniaCat Management Act 2009Mandatory desexing & microchipped by 6 months of age

Must be microchipped and desexed prior to sale or transfer

Breeders must be registered

Check council bylaws regarding registration
VictoriaDomestic Animal Act 1994Must be registered by 3 months of age

Must be permanently identified before sale or transfer

Breeders must be registered

Check council bylaws regarding registration
Western AustraliaCat Act 2011Must be desexed and registered by 6 months of age (check exemptions if registered breeder or exempt through veterinary statement)

Must be microchipped before sale/transfer and by 6 months of age

Breeders must be approved by the local council

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.

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Updated on April 30, 2019
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