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J Nutr. 2000 Jan;130(1):77-82.

Milk intake of suckling kittens remains relatively constant from one to four weeks of age.

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Monogastric Research Centre, Institute of Food, Nutrition and Human Health, Massey University, Palmerston North, New Zealand.


The daily milk intake of 14 domestic short-haired kittens (Felis catus) from five litters was estimated during wk 1-4 postpartum using the isotope dilution technique. Kittens received a single intraperitoneal injection of tritiated water, and blood samples were obtained from the jugular vein for radioactivity measurements at 2 and 96 h after injection. One kitten in each litter was used as a control to allow calculation of recycling of tritiated water. The mean (+/- SEM) biological half-life of tritiated water in the kittens increased from 2.4 +/- 0.1 d in wk 1 to 4.9 +/- 0.2 d in wk 4 postpartum. Recycling of tritiated water accounted for (mean +/- SEM) 5.9 +/- 0.8, 12.0 +/- 0.5, 7.7 +/- 1.3 and 10.0 +/- 1.3% of the kittens' daily water intake during postnatal wk 1-4, respectively. Daily milk intake of the kittens during wk 1-4 postpartum was 47.3 +/- 0.8, 47.4 +/- 1.5, 48.7 +/- 1.6 and 43.7 +/- 2.0 g, respectively. There was no effect of gender on milk intake. The daily metabolizable energy requirement of suckling kittens, estimated by multiple regression analysis, was 356 kJ/kg(0.75), whereas the metabolizable energy required per gram of gain was estimated to be 7. 8 kJ/d. The milk intake of suckling kittens remained relatively constant throughout the first 4 wk of lactation, and during this period, they seemed to have a lower energy requirement for maintenance.

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