A mother cat’s first milk causes the newborn kittens to build an immune system. How exactly does it work? What if a kitten does not have first milk?
The first milk is produced by the mother cat immediately after birth. It is creamy white to yellow and a little thicker than normal milk. Colostrum, as this milk is also called, is rich in energy, fats, and proteins, which strengthens the immune system (formation of antibodies).
The first or first milk is crucial for the further development of kittens. If they cannot be supplied with it, however, there is an emergency solution.
How Important is First Milk to Kittens?
Kittens are born with incomplete immune systems, which means they are unable to fight off infection yet. The little kittens need the protection that their mother’s first milk provides them with after birth. When the kittens drink their first milk in the first hours of their lives, the antibodies begin to work directly in the small cats’ intestines – for example against germs that they ingest. The antibodies enter the bloodstream of the small balls of fur through the intestinal walls. The mother cat’s antibodies strengthen the kitten’s immune system and make them immune to certain infectious diseases. It is therefore very important that the little ones get enough first milk after they are born so that they can survive. If a kitten is not getting enough colostrum, there is a greater risk of infection, blood poisoning, and fading kitten syndrome.
Colostrum is also an important source of energy for newborn kittens, preventing blood sugar levels from falling too low. It is rich in nutrients that will help the kittens grow. The first milk also contains proteins (hormones and growth factors) that help the kitten’s organs to develop.
Do Kittens Need First Milk?
Having first milk from their mother is very important for the survival of newborn kittens. The little ones need colostrum to build their immune system and as a source of energy and nutrients. This is how they can survive and grow. If kittens are not given sufficient first milk, they are at greater risk of infection, blood poisoning, and fading kitten syndrome.
Kittens who are not getting colostrum from their own mother can get first milk from another mother cat that has just given birth. In this case, however, you must first check the blood group of the foreign mother cat to ensure that the kittens do not develop anemia (Feline Neonatal Isoerythrolysis).
Is First Milk Safe for Kittens?
First milk from your own mother cat is safe for kittens. It is important that they are adequately supplied with it so that their immune systems become strong enough and they can survive. The greatest risk of giving any food orally to newborn animals is that they can accidentally inhale it. It is, therefore, best if the kittens can suckle their mother’s teats and not need to be fed with a syringe unless there is really no other choice.
How Long Do Kittens Need Colostrum?
A kitten needs colostrum within the first 24 hours of birth so that the kittens can begin passive immunization. In the case of orphaned kittens, there is hope that they received some first milk from their mother immediately after birth. If this is not the case, they can be suckled on the first day of their life by another mother cat that has just had offspring. If there is no other mother cat on-site, there is an emergency solution: a serum that is obtained from the blood of a healthy, adult cat and can be injected into a kitten to get its immune system going. If you would like to find out more about using this serum for kittens, you can seek advice from a veterinarian.
After 24-48 hours, the kitten’s intestinal walls “close” and can no longer absorb antibodies. After this period of time, the kittens can use a syringe to get normal baby milk for kittens, which is made from milk powder.
Which Topics Around Colostrum Should You Discuss with a Veterinarian?
If you believe your kitten did not have an opportunity to be nursed by its mother, it is important that you get a veterinary opinion. You can talk to your veterinarian about the possibility of giving the kitten a vaccination with serum from the blood of a strange, healthy, adult cat to improve the kitten’s immune system. If you are concerned about your kitten’s immune system, you can also get more detailed information about this from a veterinarian.
Another point that is better to discuss with a veterinarian is what is the best time to vaccinate the mother cat before mating. This not only protects the cat itself but also ensures that the colostrum is of the best possible quality. So your kittens are also protected. The mother cat’s diet is also an interesting topic to ask your veterinarian about, as this also makes it possible to ensure that the first milk is of good quality.