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11 Best Cat Foods for Nursing Mother Cats in 2024 – Reviews & Top Picks

Written by: Elizabeth Gray

Last Updated on July 5, 2024 by Catster Editorial Team

Gray mother cat feeding kittens while taking a nap

11 Best Cat Foods for Nursing Mother Cats in 2024 – Reviews & Top Picks

Gray mother cat feeding kittens while taking a nap Motherhood is a tough job for humans and animals. One of the hardest parts of the job is pregnancy and nursing. Not only is the mother responsible for feeding her babies, but she must feed herself enough to make milk for them. Nursing mother cats require up to 2.5 times as many calories per day as a healthy, non-nursing adult cat.1 They also need a higher amount of protein and fat each day during milk production.

To ensure nursing mother cats produce enough milk, they should eat high-quality, easily digestible kitten food, as kitten formulas are usually packed with more nutrients and calories than adult cat recipes. With multiple kitten foods available, how do you decide which is best for your cat? We’ve collected reviews of the best cat foods for nursing mother cats, complete with nutrition information. You can use the reviews as a buying guide, but ultimately, your cat’s taste buds will have the final say!

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A Quick Comparison of Our Favorites of 2024

Image Product Details
Best Overall
Winner
Smalls Other Bird Recipe (Fresh Cat Food Subscription) Smalls Other Bird Recipe (Fresh Cat Food Subscription)
  • Vitamins support milk production
  • High protein and fat content
  • High-quality, nutritious ingredients
  • Budget Buy
    Second place
    Purina One Healthy Kitten Purina One Healthy Kitten
  • Reasonable cost
  • Widely available and convenient to buy
  • Most cats like the taste
  • Third place
    Royal Canin Mother & Babycat Can Royal Canin Mother & Babycat Can
  • Easy to feed to mother cat and kittens too
  • Helps ensure mother cat gets enough water
  • Ideal texture for tiny kittens
  • Wellness Turkey Canned Kitten Food Wellness Turkey Canned Kitten Food
  • All-natural ingredients
  • High protein from real meat sources
  • Free from Carrageenan food additive
  • Hill’s Science Diet Kitten Dry Food Hill’s Science Diet Kitten Dry Food
  • High-calorie count per cup
  • Made in the USA
  • No preservatives or artificial colors or flavors
  • The 11 Best Cat Food For Nursing Mother Cats

     1. Smalls Other Bird Recipe (Fresh Cat Food Subscription) – Best Overall

    Smalls Bird Recipe

    Protein: 49% min
    Fat: 48% min
    Calories: 1514 kcal/kg
    Top 3 Ingredients: Turkey thigh, chicken liver, green beans

    If you’re looking for the best cat food for nursing cats, look no further than Smalls Human Grade Fresh: Pulled Other Bird Recipe. We liked this recipe more than the rest since it has the highest levels of calcium and phosphorus, which are essential for the milk supply of nursing cats and the bone development of kittens. The ratio of 1.1:1 is very close to the optimal 1.2:1 ratio of these nutrients.

    The food’s high metabolizable protein (49.5%) and fat (48%) content fuel the high energy requirements of a lactating mother cat. The excellent ingredient quality makes for a highly digestible food, so your cat and her kittens can get all they need from a smaller amount. The downside to Smalls is that it is more expensive than some of the other brands on the market. However, we think it’s worth the price tag.

    It is also only available on a subscription basis, which is a pro or a con depending on how you view it. Subscriptions are convenient but may be more of a commitment than most owners want. However, Smalls offers a trial period and is easy to customize and cancel anytime.

    Pros
    • High levels of calcium and phosphorus support milk production
    • Made with high-quality, nutritious ingredients
    • Highly digestible for high energy needs
    • High protein and fat content
    Cons
    • More expensive than some other brands

    2. Purina One Healthy Kitten – Budget Buy

    Purina One +Plus Healthy Kitten Formula new

    Protein: 40% min
    Fat: 18% min
    Calories: 462 kcal/cup
    Top 3 Ingredients: Chicken, chicken by-product meal, corn gluten meal

    Our choice for the best cat food for nursing mother cats for the money is Purina One Healthy Kitten Formula. It has slightly less protein and fat than our best overall choice but at about half the cost. It is widely available, which is helpful when your mother cat finishes off a bag quicker than you thought and you need to make an emergency trip to the closest store!

    Purina One Healthy Kitten has fewer calories per cup than our top choice, so your mother cat may need to eat more of this food. However, a large bag’s lower cost and availability may help offset the higher amount consumed. Purina One contains chicken by-products as a protein source, which some owners prefer not to feed, even though they are safe and still nutritious.

    Pros
    • Reasonable cost
    • Widely available and convenient to buy
    • Most cats like the taste
    Cons
    • Uses some lower-quality ingredients
    • Lower calorie/cup

    3. Royal Canin Mother and Babycat Wet Food

    Royal Canin Mother and Babycat Wet Food

    Protein: 9% min
    Fat: 4% min
    Calories: 133 kcal/5.1-oz can
    Top 3 Ingredients: Water sufficient for processing, chicken, chicken liver

    Our third choice for nursing mothers is the Royal Canin Mother and Babycat Wet Food. It is designed with nursing mothers and weaning kittens in mind. The soft texture of this food is ideal for tiny kitten mouths to handle as they transition from nursing to eating. Canned food contains a large amount of water, which can help your mother cat stay hydrated as she nurses.

    Because of the high water volume, comparing nutritional content between dry and wet food takes a little more effort but can be done. Some cats prefer eating wet food to dry food; if yours is one of them, Royal Canin Mother and Babycat is an excellent option. Canned food is not as cost-effective as dry food, which is another point to consider as you try to keep your ravenous mother cat fed.

    Pros
    • Easy to feed to mother cat and kittens too
    • Helps ensure mother cat gets enough water
    • Ideal texture for tiny kittens
    Cons
    • Expensive
    • Messier than dry food, especially for kittens

    4. Wellness CORE Natural Grain Free Turkey Canned Kitten Food

    Wellness CORE Natural Grain Free Turkey Canned Kitten Food

    Protein: 12% min
    Fat: 5% min
    Calories: 108 kcal/5.5-oz can
    Top 3 Ingredients: Turkey, chicken liver, turkey broth

    Wellness CORE Grain-Free Canned Kitten Food is a high protein yet expensive choice for nursing mother cats. It appeals to those who prioritize food with all-natural ingredients for their cats. Wellness CORE is also free of a food additive called carrageenan, which is controversial among some pet owners and experts.

    The science regarding the actual danger of this product is unclear, and it remains an approved ingredient in pet food. If you prefer to avoid carrageenan out of caution, Wellness CORE is ideal. Reportedly, some cats don’t like the taste of Wellness CORE, so it may be worth buying a can or two to see how your cat feels before purchasing an entire case due to the cost.

    Pros
    • All-natural ingredients
    • High protein from real meat sources
    • Free from Carrageenan food additive
    Cons
    • Expensive
    • Some cats don’t like the taste

    5. Hill’s Science Diet Kitten Dry Food

    Hill’s Science Diet Kitten Dry Food

    Protein: 33% min
    Fat: 19% min
    Calories: 568 kcal/cup
    Top 3 Ingredients: Chicken, brown rice, wheat gluten

    Hill’s Science Diet is likely a familiar brand to most cat owners, and veterinarians often recommend it. The Hills Science Kitten Dry Food has a lower protein content than some other brands on this list but is very nutrient-dense, with several calories per cup. It is highly digestible and free of artificial ingredients and flavors to ensure your nursing mother cat gets as much nutrition as possible.

    Hill’s Science Diet food is usually only available from pet stores, veterinarians, or online retailers, making it less convenient to purchase than other diets. The shape of the kibble isn’t particularly exciting, but that doesn’t seem to matter to most cats that eat this food.

    Pros
    • High-calorie count per cup
    • Made in the USA
    • No preservatives, artificial colors, or flavors
    Cons
    • Expensive
    • Not as convenient to buy
    • Lower protein than some other kitten foods

    6. Purina Pro Plan Kitten Chicken and Rice

    Purina Pro Plan Kitten Chicken and Rice

    Protein: 42% min
    Fat: 19% min
    Calories: 534 kcal/cup
    Top 3 Ingredients: Chicken, rice, corn gluten meal

    Another great cat food for nursing cats is Purina Pro Plan Kitten Chicken and Rice. It packs a high volume of calories into each cup, which is ideal for a nursing mother cat trying to cram as much nutrition as possible into each meal. Pro Plan Kitten also has a higher protein content than other kitten foods.

    This food contains probiotics that may improve digestion, helping the mother cat absorb as much nutrition as possible from her food. Most cats seem to love the taste of Pro Plan Kitten, which is helpful if your cat is normally a picky eater.

    Pros
    • High-calorie content per cup
    • Most cats love the taste
    • Contains probiotics to aid digestion
    Cons
    • Not as affordable as some other options

    7. Nutro Wholesome Essentials Chicken & Rice Dry Kitten Food

    Nutro Wholesome Essentials Chicken & Rice Dry Kitten Food

    Protein: 36% min
    Fat: 19% min
    Calories: 439 kcal/cup
    Top 3 Ingredients: Chicken, chicken meal, pea protein

    Nutro is a lesser-known brand, but it is a reasonably priced formula made with similar quality ingredients as some of the more expensive brands. The Nutro Wholesome Essentials Chicken & Brown Rice Dry Kitten Food is made with only non-GMO ingredients, which will appeal to owners who avoid GMOs in their food.

    Also, like the more expensive brands, Nutro kitten food has real meat as the first ingredient. This dry food has a lower calorie count per cup, so your cat may need to eat larger portions. Some cats don’t care for the kibble’s texture since it’s smaller and harder than other brands.

    Pros
    • High-quality ingredients at a lower price
    • Made with non-GMO ingredients
    • Has real meat as first ingredient
    Cons
    • Unusual kibble shape not all cats enjoy

    8. Purina Pro Plan Kitten Flaked Whitefish & Tuna Canned Food

    Purina Pro Plan Kitten Flaked Whitefish & Tuna Canned Food

    Protein: 13% min
    Fat: 5% min
    Calories: 111 kcal/3 oz can
    Top 3 Ingredients: Water sufficient for processing, ocean whitefish, fish

    The Purina Pro Plan Focus Kitten Flaked Ocean Whitefish and Tuna Canned Food comes in a small can and isn’t the most cost-effective option, but the unusual, flaked texture of the food often appeals to picky cats. The small cans still pack a nutritional punch, with similar calories to the other canned foods we already discussed.

    Thanks to the fish ingredients, Pro Plan Focus is also high in protein. Not every cat likes the taste of fish-based diets. Reportedly, some cats also experience digestive issues and sometimes diarrhea from eating fish foods like this one. Given the cost of the smaller cans, Pro Plan Focus may work best as a supplement to one of the lower-calorie, less expensive dry food brands.

    Pros
    • Unique and appealing texture
    • Lots of nutrition, even in a small portion
    • High in protein
    Cons
    • Not every cat likes or tolerates fish-based food
    • Not very cost-effective due to small can size

    9. Halo Holistic Chicken and Liver Grain-free Dry Kitten Food

    Halo Holistic Chicken and Liver Grain-free Dry Kitten Food

    Protein: 33% min
    Fat: 19% min
    Calories: 426 kcal/cup
    Top 3 Ingredients: Chicken, chicken liver, dried egg product

    Halo Holistic Chicken and Chicken Liver Grain-free Dry Kitten Food is a good choice for owners willing to pay a little more to know they’re feeding their cat food made from cage-free chickens and sustainable ingredients. Many owners also like the idea of feeding grain-free food to their cats, though there is no current research to support the idea that this type of food is healthier for cats.

    Halo Holistic kitten food is reportedly highly digestible, which is good since it has a lower calorie per cup count than the other dry foods we reviewed. This food’s major downside is its price since it is the most expensive dry kitten food on our list.

    Pros
    • Very high-quality ingredients
    • Highly digestible
    • Lower calorie per cup
    Cons
    • Expensive
    • Lower calories per cup

    10. Iams ProActive Health Kitten Dry Food

    Iams ProActive Health Kitten Dry Cat Food

    Protein: 33% min
    Fat: 21% min
    Calories: 484 kcal/cup
    Top 3 Ingredients: Chicken, chicken by-product meal, ground whole grain corn

    There’s nothing fancy about Iams ProActive Health Kitten Food, just a solid, nutritionally balanced diet from a company that’s been making pet food for a long time. Iams is reasonably priced and widely available from various traditional and online retailers. While chicken is the first ingredient, Iams kitten food contains chicken by-products and grains like corn that some owners prefer to avoid.

    Long-time feeders of Iams reported that their cats disliked some of the newer formulas of Iams kitten food. This food is available in large bags, making it a cost-effective option for meeting the increased food consumption needs of nursing mother cats.

    Pros
    • Affordable
    • Widely available
    • Chicken is the first ingredient
    Cons
    • Some cats dislike new kibble shape
     


    11. Fancy Feast Tender Turkey Feast Canned Cat Food

    Purina Fancy Feast Kitten Tender Turkey Feast Wet Kitten Food Pate

    Protein: 11% min
    Fat: 5% min
    Calories: 95 kcal/3 oz can
    Top 3 Ingredients: Turkey, liver, meat by-products

    Rounding out our list of the best foods for nursing cat mothers is Fancy Feast Tender Turkey Feast Kitten Food. It is an affordable canned food that cats seem to enjoy the taste of. The small cans contain fewer calories than other canned foods of similar size.

    Fancy Feast is generally easy to find for sale at various locations. It’s a good choice for those looking for canned food to mix into a dry diet for added calories, taste, or hydration. One thing to keep in mind when considering Fancy Feast is that it contains milk, which some cats don’t tolerate.

    Pros
    • Affordable and widely available
    • Most cats enjoy the taste
    • Fewer calories than similar kitten food
    Cons
    • Lower calorie content per can
    • Milk ingredients may not be tolerated by all cats

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    Buyer’s Guide: Selecting The Best Cat Food For Nursing Mother Cats

    As you make your decision about which nursing cat food to buy, here are a few factors you should consider:

    • Ingredients in the food
    • Bag size available
    • Your cat’s food allergies/sensitivities
    • How easy the food is to buy

    Ingredients

    To help you accurately compare the benefits of various foods, it’s a good idea to learn how to read a pet food label and which ingredients are found in pet diets. Americans spent over $100 billion on their pets last year, which means the competition for your cat food dollars is fierce.

    Flashy advertising and buzzwords like “grain-free” are meant to appeal to the person with the bank account. As we mentioned, the science behind some of these food trends isn’t yet proven regarding the health impacts on your cat.

    Of course, if you prefer to feed a specific type of food versus another that’s perfectly fine. Just be aware that following the latest cat food trends doesn’t automatically equal better nutrition.

    Hepper 360 Cat Feeder, Stainless Steel, Anti-Chew...
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    Feeding your cat a high-quality diet is important for keeping them healthy and happy. But it goes beyond the food you choose; the dishes they use also matter. The Hepper NomNom Cat Bowl is our favorite for its unique, five-star design that protects from whisker fatigue and promotes good posture which also aids in better digestion. As an added bonus, it’s beautifully crafted and offers a modern take on the traditional cat bowl that fits seamlessly with all home stylings. Learn more about the NomNom by clicking here.

    At Catster, we’ve admired Hepper for many years and decided to take a controlling ownership interest so that we could benefit from the outstanding designs of this cool cat company!

     

     

     

    Bag Size

    If your mother cat is eating 2-3 times the amount of food she usually would, you’re going to be buying a lot of food. Buying larger bags of cat food is usually more cost-effective, but not every brand we reviewed comes in a large bag. Canned food also probably won’t stretch your dollars as far as dry food will.

    If cost is a factor for you, consider which brands will get you the most for your money as you decide.

    Food Allergies/Sensitivities

    Some cats have health concerns surrounding some ingredients commonly used in cat food. Food allergies and food sensitivities should be considered as you make your cat food decision. Some cats get upset stomachs from eating fish-based foods or dairy products.

    If you suspect or know your nursing mother cat has food allergies, consult your veterinarian to decide on the proper diet.

    Hungry cat sitting next to bowl of food at home kitchen and looking at camera
    Image Credit: Jaromir Chalabala, Shutterstock

    Ease of Purchase

    If you lead a hectic, over-scheduled life, you may not have time to make a separate trip to your veterinarian or the pet store to buy cat food. Online pet food delivery is an option, but if shipments are delayed or damaged, you may need to pick up an emergency bag of cat food.

    Some brands we reviewed are easily purchased at grocery stores or big-box chain stores, while others are not. How widely available your chosen brand of food is and whether that matters to you is another point to consider as you choose your nursing cat food brand.

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    Final Thoughts

    As the best overall cat food for nursing mother cats, Smalls Human Grade Fresh: Pulled Other Bird Recipe combines high protein and calories with a tasty, digestible kibble. Our best-value choice, Purina One Healthy Kitten, has a similar nutritional value but at about half the cost.

    We hope that providing these reviews of the top cat foods for nursing mother cats and guidance to keep in mind when buying will help you pick the food that works best for you, your cat, and her kittens!


    Featured Image Credit: Rashid Valitov, Shutterstock

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