News of the Duh: Cats Eat More Fat When Nursing Kittens


Researchers at the Waltham Centre for Pet Nutrition, the science arm of Mars PetCare, recently released the findings of a study on the nutritional intake of pregnant and lactating cats. Their chief finding was that when they’re pregnant, mom cats don’t just increase the number of calories they eat; they also eat more protein and fat.

Oh, and once the kittens are born, their fat intake rises even further. If they have large litters, they eat a lot more fat. Fat intake tripled for cats with four or more kittens and doubled in cats with smaller litters.

Um, yeah. And that’s news how?

I didn’t need a Ph.D. and a big salary to figure that out. All I had to do was watch my cat, Iris, as she gestated, nursed and weaned a few litters of kittens. (Put your rage-faces away, folks: the kitten-having happened a long, long time ago. I’m a staunch advocate of spay/neuter and have been for almost 20 years.)

Had these people ever been anywhere near a pregnant or nursing cat before?

Of course cats who are nursing eat a lot more fat! How do you think they manage to maintain a decent weight and energy level while meeting the nutritional demands of growing kittens?

The part of this news I found to be the most interesting was more or less buried as a footnote: "The research … shows that cats’ ‘carbohydrate ceiling’ still applies during the increased physiological demands of gestation and lactation," a Science Codex story read.

What? "Carbohydrate ceiling," you said?

Why yes, that’s exactly what they said. Apparently a 2011 report, "Geometric analysis of macronutrient selection in the adult domestic cat, Felis catus," by Hewson-Hughes AK,, showed that non-reproducing adult cats with normal energy needs won’t eat more than 20 grams of carbohydrates per day. And according to the latest research, it seems that even when trying to meet the demands of pregnancy and nursing, this carbohydrate ceiling still holds.

These findings should go a long way to helping us understand that our feline friends are not designed to eat a high-carbohydrate diet. Cats know they’re obligate carnivores, even if pet food manufacturers (and not a few vets) try to tell us that our cats will be just fine if they eat "kitty crackers" for their whole lives.

About JaneA Kelley: Punk-rock cat mom, science nerd, animal shelter volunteer, professional cat sitter, and all-around geek with a passion for bad puns, intelligent conversation, and role-play adventure games. She gratefully and gracefully accepts her status as chief cat slave for her family of feline bloggers, who have been writing their award-winning cat advice blog, Paws and Effect, since 2003.

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