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Are you panicking about a cat pregnancy? We have got you covered!
Before we start, I want to say that if you are thinking of breeding your domestic cat and are (responsibly) reading up beforehand, consider the following advice:
Contrary to popular belief, cat pregnancies are NOT cost-effective or a means to make money, the only way this is viable is if you are a breeder with pure or thoroughbred cats looking to keep rare breeds going (which are regulated too!) so you can charge the extra fees and premium prices. A responsible owner will not only probably need to take the pregnant cat to the vets for a check-up, they will also need to feed, house and vet-check the kittens for at least 9-12 weeks, ensuring that they are also wormed and vaccinated before going to their new homes. This doesn’t account for complications, emergency C-sections and any other issues that may arise from your cat pregnancy. So please consider neutering as an option for your cat and instead re-home one of the countless kittens that are on the street, in shelters or being fostered looking for their forever homes right now!
That being said, if you are reading this retrospectively and need help, I am not here to judge as we can all get caught out or you may be caring for a stray or foster kitty in this situation. I just want to provide you with useful information to help you get through this as there are a lot of things to consider with cat pregnancy.
How Long Are Cats Pregnant For?
The gestation period for a cat pregnancy is around 9-10 weeks (63-67 days) – Lucky things!
How Many Kittens Will My Cat Have?
Obviously, the amount will vary according to your circumstances, the health of the cat, if she carries them to full term. An average litter of cats is between 3-5 kittens however it generally varies from 1-10.
The world record for the biggest litter (from domestic cats) is 19, although 4 ended up being stillborn and this was from a Siamese/Burmese cross in 1970.
How To Spot A Cat Pregnancy – The Signs Of A Pregnant Cat:
You should be able to tell if your cat has recently been in heat as they tend to display certain signs including:
- Eating more
- “Calling” behaviours including low meow sounds
- Scratching at doors and windows to go out
- Rolling Around
- Increased affection
If they have behaved in this way recently then there is a chance your cat is pregnant, especially if they have been outside and have any of these other pregnancy indicators:
- Enlarged pink or red nipples (this can also be a sign your cat is in heat.)
- Nesting, particularly if your cat is dragging towels, blankets or other “bedding” to a quiet area.
- Larger abdomen without extra fat on the neck and legs which turns into a “burro” shape.
What To Feed A Pregnant Cat
Your cat can be fed her normal food and diet up until the 5th week of her pregnancy and then will need an adjusted diet to accommodate the extra strain and nutritional needs of pregnancy. During the first 5 weeks don’t try to introduce new or different types of food as the stomach can be more sensitive.
After the first 5 weeks, your cat will need to be put on kitten food, this is because it is easier on the stomach (which is limited during pregnancy) but full of calories and nutrition.
Pregnant Cat Care
Taking care of a pregnant cat can be tricky, particularly if you don’t have experience so here’s some ways to ensure they are well taken care of:
- Get it confirmed – If you suspect your cat is pregnant (even if you are definite) take your cat for a checkup with your vet who can use an ultrasound or examination to confirm. Don’t try to feel your cat’s stomach yourself because aside from the fact you don’t know what you are looking for, you can cause a miscarriage if handled incorrectly. A vet checkup will also allow you to find out if there are any potential complications, give your cat the once over and answer any extra questions you may have.
- Stick With Vet Care – Not only can you track the pregnancy but you also ensure everyone’s health is maintained. At around 6 and a half weeks, the vet will be able to X-ray and count the kittens so you know how big the litter is. Plus, the vet having a record of the pregnancy can be prepared if any complications arise and your cat needs a C-section.
- No Medication – Don’t give your cat over the counter medications, including flea or worming treatments. This can be dangerous to the kittens and cause miscarriage in some cases. So, always make sure anything you give your cat medically, is vet approved (even if they have had it before pregnancy and been fine.)
- Stay Inside – It is best to keep your pregnant cat indoors, particularly in the last few weeks. This avoids accidents or your chunky kitty getting stuck somewhere she doesn’t belong or giving birth outside.
- Make A Nest – Create a small, quiet space that is comfortable, warm and full of blankets so that your cat has somewhere to give birth that she feels safe. Creating this space ahead of time allows her to get accustomed to it and avoid any last minute births in inconvenient places. Make sure her food and water nearby, particularly near the end of the pregnancy and to avoid toileting issues bring the litter tray closer as well. (Don’t be alarmed if your cat chooses somewhere else, but if you can, try to make that comfortable as well.
What To Expect During The Delivery:
Generally, cats can handle things themselves so ensure that you don’t make your cat feel stressed or threatened by being too close. Just observe and intervene if you are needed, otherwise let mama do her thing.
What To Prepare:
Preparing for a cat delivery is very similar to a human one, it’s all about being organised.
- Make sure you have all of your vet details and have your pet carrier nearby in case of any complications or emergencies.
- Prepare towels or old cloth/blankets to help clean off the kittens if they need it. Plus blankets will need to be replaced post-birth in the nest.
- You could also be extra prepared and buy kitten milk, in the event your cat can’t feed properly but as long as you know where to get it from, you can probably wait until you know you need it.
The First Signs of Labour
Your cat could be going into labour if she is exhibiting some (or all) of these signs:
- Excessive Grooming
- Refusal To Eat
*If you notice any bleeding prior to labour, this needs emergency medical attention and could indicate something is wrong.
Length of Labour
Stage 1(the early signs): 12-36 hours
Stage 2 (active Labour): 5-60 minutes – note that some cats can rest during active labour so it may seem longer but this time assumes that your cat is experiencing contractions.
Stage 3 (Placenta delivery): 0-10 minutes after the last kitten
*From stage 2-3 you shouldn’t expect it to take more than 6 hours total.*
How Long Between Kittens?
It can vary from 10-60 minutes between each one, during which your cat should be having contractions. If there is no sign after an hour of the next one, consult your vet.
Complications & When To Seek Help:
- If it takes more than 3-5 minutes to pass a kitten once you have seen part of it protruding, call the vet.
- If your cat is contracting and no kittens are arriving. If 15 minutes have passed and there are no signs of the kittens then seek help. This also counts for in between kittens as well.
- If there are no active contractions your cat may be resting before delivering anymore, however, if you are expecting more and it has been more than 2 hours you should contact a vet. (this is why it is useful to know how many kittens to expect, so you can tell if something is wrong.)
It is highly recommended to take your cat for a check-up post birth, along with the kittens, however, these situations should prompt an immediate response:
- If the kittens (or one in particular) aren’t latching on or your cat has rejected them, they may need to be hand-reared so you should seek veterinary advice. They will also be able to provide you with the kitten milk formula they will need.
- If your cat stops eating or is eating very little this can be signs of a problem.
- Vomiting, seizures, tremors or diarrhoea post birth all require medical attention in your cat.
- If your cat doesn’t clean up her kittens