Understanding cat pregnancy may be a little challenging for you if you are new to know about cats. But, if you have a keen interest to know about it, it will be easy for you to understand.
This ultimate guide is helpful for both newbies and experts to know some profound insights about cat pregnancy.
Let’s start step by step phenomenon that cats experience during their pregnancy!
At what age cat becomes pregnant?
When a cat is about four months old, she can become pregnant if mated. It’s why it’s crucial to spay her during this early age. Usually, a female cat might experience heat around this time.
However, cats don’t go through menopause as humans do. Instead, they can continue to get pregnant until the end of their lives. So a cat that is not spayed may become pregnant very young or very old age in life.
What is the Gestation Period in Cats?
The gestation period is usually 65 days in cats, but you can expect 61 to 72 days.
Signs of Cat Pregnancy
The signs of pregnancy vary depending on the stages of pregnancy;
- The nipples become red and enlarged after two weeks of conceiving.
- There is an enlargement and redness in the teats after three to four weeks of pregnancy.
- Your cat’s weight may increase from 1 to 2 kg, depending on the number of kittens—the abdominal area increases in size.
- A pregnant cat may refuse the food to eat, and the body temperature may be dropped to 37.8 C during labor.
Caring for Pregnant Cat
Once you have confirmed that your cat is pregnant, you should take care of her to ensure her health and safety.
Don’t tease her belly:
According to Animal Planet (http://www.animalplanet.com/pets/care-for-a-pregnant-cat/), any pressing or squeezing moment on the belly of a pregnant cat may result in uncomfortable conditions and even miscarriage.
Maintain a Healthy Diet
The nutritional requirements of a pregnant cat are different from an average cat. According to Cat Protection National Cat Center (https://www.cats.org.uk/help-and-advice/pregnancy-and-kitten-care/caring-for-your-pregnant-cat), pregnant cats need 25 % of more food in the last few weeks (probably three to four weeks) of pregnancy than average cats. So, you should consult a veteran to plan an energy-enriched diet for your cat to keep your cat and her kittens healthy.
Also, ensure your cat has an easy reach to the water during birth, pregnancy, and lactation.
Precaution: don’t force your cat to overeat the meals unless you feel that she is starving or is looking weak. These extra calories can result in fat deposits or weight gaining that may cause health problems for both cats and kittens.
Also, make small meals frequently in a day (let’s say six times in a day) rather than big meals as too much eating at one time may result in pressure on her stomach.
Make a separate area for Nesting.
According to Veterinary Partner (https://veterinarypartner.vin.com/default.aspx?pid=19239&catId=102902&id=4952101), cats herself find an area for labor and give birth in the last stages of pregnancy. This usually happens two days before giving birth.
However, if you want, you can specify an area with some privacy from humans and other pets in your home for this purpose. You should also restrict her outdoor access as if she finds a place outside of the house to give birth; it will be difficult for you to find her.
Diagnosis for Cat Pregnancy
If you suspect that your queen may be pregnant, it is crucial to have a veterinary examination. Diagnosis of cat pregnancy is easy after three to four weeks of pregnancy. After that, you can get her ultrasound report or take her to the vet to diagnose abdominal palpation. These are some methods to diagnose pregnancy:
- Day 18: Enlargement and pinking of the mammary glands and teats
- From day 18: Ultrasound
- From 20-30 days: Abdominal palpation of the uterus and individual fetuses and fetus membranes.
- From 30 days: Ultrasonic detection fetus heartbeat and placenta
- From 40 days: Abdominal x-ray
Medication for Cat Pregnancy
It is essential to give your cat a health exam early in pregnancy. Check here for lice, fleas, or ticks. Ask your vet for a stool sample to check for signs and symptoms of worms. You should discuss any medication with your vet you are considering during pregnancy. Some medicines can be harmful to kittens’ health.
Check a Stool Sample
An intestinal parasite (https://www.petmd.com/dog/general-health/evr_dg_intestinal_worms_in_dogs) can spread infection in the womb during pregnancy or nursing in kittens. So, we recommend taking a stool sample and get it checked by a vet.
Do not use any over-the-counter medicine for this purpose; these may cause moderate to severe side effects. Instead, take a prescribed medication from the vet.
If cats are being used for breeding, they should be checked for intestinal parasites before mating. To treat hookworms (all types) and roundworms, they should be wormed at a minimum twice with pyrantel pamoate before they can mat. If the cat has to be wormed after two weeks of pregnancy, the safest ingredient is Fenbendazole (https://www.medicanimal.com/search/?text=panacur/fenbendazole). In addition, your cat must be vaccinated against hookworms and ascarids before she becomes pregnant.
Other Health Safety Consideration for Your Cat
It would be best if you took these safety considerations after your cat is pregnant.
Check the Vaginal Bleeding
Vaginal bleeding is crucial to be observed during the pregnancy stages; regarding this concern if:
- There is any vaginal bleeding during any stage of pregnancy; it is abnormal
- If the vaginal bleeding is in the early stages of pregnancy, it may indicate the miscarriage or abortion of the babies
- And if the vaginal bleeding is at any later stages of pregnancy, it means that the cat is inducing an early labor
In any above case, you must visit the vet to avoid any severe harm.
How to prepare for the delivery day
It would be best if you make your home comfortable for the impending birth. You should stop your cats from letting them outside during labor.
Your cat may start acting differently around two weeks before its due date. This is because they are in nesting mode. It is possible to scan your home to find the best place for delivery. You can find a medium-sized, low-opening box that will fit their needs. Then, cover it with newspaper, old towels, and soft blankets. This will create a peaceful area for both the mother and her future kittens.
Place the nesting container in a quiet place in your house. Your pregnant cat should visit the nesting box often before giving birth so that she becomes familiar with space and feel at ease.
Remember: Your cat will decide what is best. You can guide her as much as you like and help set up the ideal place, but the cat is free to do whatever she wants. You can let her give birth anywhere she likes, including behind the garbage can, in the laundry basket, or your closet.
You should take your cat to the vet if she is in nesting mode. The vet will provide you with more information on preparing for the birth, checking on the mother, and advising you what to do if she has an emergency.
There are usually two crucial indicators that the delivery day is near:
- Cats typically stop eating 24 hrs before giving birth
- Their temperatures drop below 100 F.
What are the Stages of Labor in Cats?
Stage 1: Contractions
The initial stage in cat labor is the relaxation of the cervix and the start of intermittent contractions.
In this stage, your cat may be restless, vocalize, vomit, and even roam around with no purpose.
At this stage, or usually, after 12 to 36 hours, the overall body temperature of the cat will fall to 99 F.
Stage 2: Birth
This is the second stage of labor in cats, where more uterine contractions result in kittens’ birth. At this time, it is recommended not to disturb or distract the cat as it may stop labor.
Usually, there is a gap of 30-60 minutes between the kitten births, and it may take up to six hours to deliver the entire litter.
You can observe the time with the help of a time tracker to ensure if there isn’t any problem.
Stage 3: After Birth
Here the passage of the placenta (a greenish-black mass of fetal membranes) takes place as each kitten passes.
In case you don’t see placenta;
The condition of the retained placenta occurs when the mother cat fails or cannot expel the baby’s placenta. This can lead to infection, failure to care for the kittens, and fever.
If you see this occurring, immediately call the vet!
Birthing Area for Cats:
Two weeks before your cat’s birth, place a litter box in an area where your cat visit frequently. You should ensure that the box is kept warm. The box may contain bedding material, such as shredded papers. After the kittens are born, they will need a blanket.
The most important thing is not to disturb or allow the kittens to give birth outside. Cats give birth naturally. She will be able to rely on her maternal instincts. To monitor the progress of the birthing process, all you need to do is be there. Only intervene when something goes wrong (in such cases call your vet immediately).
When should you call the veteran?
For proper vaccination and other treatments (like flea, feeding, and worming), you can call a veteran.
In other cases, you must consult a vet, if;
- Your cat is taking more time to give birth than 60 minutes
- The cat is bringing more than two hours to give birth to the next kitten
- The kitten is remaining in the birth canal for more than one minute without being pushed off
- If you see any vaginal discharge, you must consult the veteran immediately.
How many kittens can you expect in one litter?
- Usually, there is more than one kitten in a litter, but you can expect four to six kittens from one litter. The vet can determine the exact number of kittens by ultrasound or any X-ray technology.
Note: During pregnancy, heat cycles usually stop. But if mating occurs again, there will be the reproduction of more kittens from the different fathers.
After Birth Precautions
Don’t separate the cats and kittens after few days of birth. Make sure to provide proper food and water to the cat and kittens. After six weeks of age, ask a vet to check the health of both cats and kittens.
The cat will nurse the kittens after each 1 to 2 hours.
In almost all cases, the cat will probably know how to take care of her kittens, so you won’t need to worry much after you have provided sufficient space and nutrition for them.
Till how many days should vaginal discharge last?
The vaginal discharge may last till three weeks after kittens are born. Usually, this discharge should be reddish-black, and if it is looking like pus or overly bloody, you should contact the vet.
Caring for newborn kittens
Before considering the care for kittens, you must know the natural bonding between cats and kittens, which is described below!
The female encourages her kittens to suck and wraps them in her side. The scent of the cat’s nipples guides the kittens to her breasts, where they will find colostrum. This is the first type of milk that will be produced and rich in antibodies. It protects them from diseases in the early weeks of their lives.
So, anything you can do is to,
Check their Natural Compatibility to Feed:
The mother cat purrs, and the kittens suck – they cannot hear the sound of the mother cat when they get born but can feel vibrations that cause them to move towards her. They have behavior to root or nuzzle, which allows them to locate the nipple and latch on to the milk. They then feed by using their sucking reflex. Kittens will often return to the same nipple for their food, possibly to stop them from squabbling or to ensure there is milk to go around.
Check the Feeding Stages of Kittens:
The kittens’ birth weight is 100g, but this can double in a week and triple in three weeks. Cat milk is rich in both fat and protein, essential nutrients for their rapid growth. The kittens feed for several hours each day at first and continue to knead their mother’s stomachs with their paws.
- Two to three weeks after birth, kittens will be dependent on their mother for all things, including feeding, cleaning, defecation, and warmth.
- Four weeks later, they are using litter and copying the mother’s tray.
- Six weeks later, they are grooming and building bonds with each other
- After six weeks, their mother will start to wean them off milk and put them on solid food. She would also teach them how to hunt and what prey they should be hunting to be as self-sufficient as possible.
If everything goes according to the realistic plan (described above), you won’t need to do much during the first few weeks. However, make sure the mother cat has all the necessary facilities and food. It would benefit the kittens and cat to start feeding a growth-type diet as soon as the cat is pregnant. You can continue this diet until the kittens are weaned.
Consider Hand-rearing if Cat is Unable to Feed;
Sometimes, queens become sick or are unable to feed their kittens. In these cases, owners may consider hand-rearing. However, if the kittens are tiny, this can be quite an arduous task and should be considered carefully.
Sometimes kittens reject because they are sick or have a problem. Hand-rearing them can prolong their suffering. So, It is not always an option and requires expertise and time. Kittens can be very fragile, and raising them can be difficult and time-consuming.
What can you do after a kitten is born?
The protective fetal membrane is placed on kittens at birth and usually removed by their mother cat shortly after they are born. Fetal membranes are typically reddish-yellow and surround the fetus floating in amniotic liquid.
If the mother cat does not remove the fetal membrane within a minute of birth, you can break the sac and clean the kitten’s nose. Next, open the mouth and place the head down. Then, gently stroke the kitten’s body with a towel.
You will need to cut the connection if the umbilical cord was not damaged during birth or if the mother cat has not torn it. You should aim to cut the cord approximately one inch from the kitten’s body. It can be ripped with your thumb and first two fingers. However, be careful not to pull the cord because it could cause injury to the kitten’s internal organs.
Birth Complications in a Cat
Eclampsia is a condition where the bloodstream has a reduced level of calcium. This can be life-threatening and can occur when the kittens are between one and five weeks old.
Symptoms of Eclampsia among Pregnant Cats are;
- Restlessness, pacing, and panting are all signs of irritability (Behavioral Symptoms)
- Stiffness, loss of coordination, pain when walking, muscle spasms, seizure-like activity (Physical Symptoms)
Eclampsia can be a severe veterinary emergency, and the cat should be seen by a veterinarian immediately upon showing any symptoms.
Sometimes, mammary gland inflammation or mastitis can occur during early lactation. It usually affects one gland. It will cause the affected gland to become hot, painful, and large.
Congestion can be treated by gentle heat and gentle massage. Regular milk will flow out of the teat orifice if the condition is mild. However, an infection can cause pain and swelling, as well as nipple color change. The cat may experience anorexia, lethargicness, and fever. Mastitis needs immediate medical attention.
A poor health condition or infection may lead to malformed fetuses. The fetuses will usually be resorbed naturally by their mother, and no symptoms are experienced. Or, the fetus could be stillborn, with no signs or symptoms. These symptoms may include fever, bleeding vagina, inappetence, and depression in pregnant cats.
All signs of abortion should immediately be considered a medical emergency, and the pregnant cat must be examined. (https://www.charlestonvrc.com/miscarriage-cats)
If the cat can retain any fetuses, alive or deceased, she will need an examination.
Resorption is a phenomenon where the queen’s body fully absorbs a dead fetus. (https://www.londonvetclinic.co.uk/advice.aspx?a=1097&clientId=20138)
Any visible symptoms rarely accompany resorption. You may not be able to tell if there are multiple kittens in a litter. The birth of the other kittens will continue as usual. A veterinary visit is necessary if there are fewer kittens born than expected. A vet should ensure that the queen has no remaining fetuses.
How many times can a cat get pregnant in life?
According to the ASPCA, a cat can have four to six kittens per litter on average and up to two litters per annum (http://www.aspca.org/animal-homelessness/shelter-intake-and-surrender/pet-statistics). However, the lifetime of cats varies from 2-16 years, so the total number of kittens will depend on the cat’s age.
All across America, shelters are overflowing with kittens and cats. Talk to your vet about spaying and neutering your cat. This will help reduce the severe problem of overpopulation.
It would be best if you also consider the possibility of Pyometra (https://www.petmd.com/cat/conditions/reproductive/c_ct_pyometra_hyperplasia) (infection within the uterus), which can be fatal in cats that are not spayed.
Spaying your cat is the best way to avoid this severe and expensive medical condition. In addition, spaying your cat before the first heat cycle, which can happen as early as four months old, can reduce the likelihood of mammary carcinoma (https://www.petmd.com/cat/conditions/cancer/c_ct_mammary_gland_tumor) in your feline friend.
How to Avoid Pregnancy in Cats?
A good way to prevent your cat from getting pregnant is to keep him indoors. Pet Health Network suggests that indoor cats have a lower risk of developing other health problems, such as shorter lives, injuries from fighting with other animals, traffic accidents, and infections from pesticides and viruses (such as feline Leukemia). (http://www.pethealthnetwork.com/cat-health/cat-checkups-preventive-care/why-your-cat-should-stay-indoors-part-i).
So, this ultimate guide explained all possible aspects of cat pregnancy. Still, if you have suggestions, more questions, or concerns, please let us know in the comments section below; we’d love to hear!