Colostrum and kittens’ immunity : tips for a healthy start

Yep, this is a big big world we are living on, and geography – especially when leaving in Canada ! – is often a challenge! For sure, one way to deal with it is to use the great possibilities now offered by Internet (and you guys now know how much I love this !): blogging, social medias, chats (mmm , never tried this one yet, maybe I should think about it !), webinars,… I recently discovered this last one, and since then, must admit I really enjoy using it.

The last webinar we did was in May and focused on the importance of colostrum in kittens. The goals were to teach breeders what they can do 1/ in order to optimize its quality and 2/ when unfortunately colostrum is not available for the kittens. The full video is available below.

Thought it would be good as well to write down the key points of this presentation that all cat breeders should have in mind concerning the colostrum in the feline species.

  • It’s all about timing

Quick definition: colostrum is the first milk of the mother, enriched in antibodies, which will provide the kitten with its first immune system. Proper transmission in kittens is essentially a matter of timing: colostrum is only secreted during the first 24 hours after onset of lactation… and only absorbed in kittens during the first 12-16 hours after birth. They therefore need to drink the colostrum as quickly as possible after birth ! It’s important to keep in mind that certain queens might start their lactation – and therefore colostrum production - sometimes few days before giving birth: in this case, the quality of the colostrum at the time of parturition might be impacted.

 

  • A matter of quality & quantity

 Unlike in horses, we don’t have in-house tests available to evaluate the quality of the colostrum in queens, and the best we can do is to assess its color (colostrum should be yellowish). As discussed during our webinar, vaccination and proper nutrition during pregnancy (see video here) are the best ways to optimize its quality. The quantity the kittens receive at birth is also of importance: in order to ensure proper protection, it was shown that kittens should receive roughly 22mL/kg body weight of colostrum during the absorption phase.

 

  • Know the alternatives

 Sometimes colostrum is not available right after birth, whether the mother is not lactating OR its use in kittens is prevented because of conditions such as feline neonatal erythrolysis (see previous post here). What can be done then? Unfortunately, there are no feline colostrum derivatives available today on the market (at least none that can be considered as an alternative from an immunological point of view). One alternative consists in using adult serum (= part of the blood that contains the adult antibodies), but it might not always be a practical solution (to obtain 5mL of serum, roughly 10mL of blood are often needed). It is important to keep in mind that colostrum also acts as an energy booster: so in order to be prepared, always good to have on hand a dedicated feline milk replacer.Just in case…

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