If you have a female cat, you should spay her before she enters her first heat. However, if you have taken in a pregnant stray or are caring for a pregnant foster cat, then you might consider reading about how to care for her during pregnancy.
How to Tell if Your Cat is Pregnant?
Several things can indicate that your unspayed cat is pregnant. Here are a couple indicators you’re going to want to be on the lookout for.
- Physical Changes: Pregnant cats can suffer from episodes of morning sickness, and will also tend to eat more as the pregnancy progresses. Also, after approximately five weeks, you’ll no doubt notice your cat’s stomach growing, and it will keep expanding until she gives birth. Furthermore, her nipples may appear swollen and/or take on a darker red color.
- Behavioral Changes: A previously friendly and loving cat may go into hiding after becoming pregnant, or a normally apathetic cat may suddenly become a snuggler. Odd behavior changes such as these might indicate she is pregnant.
- Increased Appetite: Since your cat is not only feeding herself, she will likely want more food. Typically about 1.5 times her normal diet
- Nesting Behavior: To prepare for birth, cats seek out secluded, quiet areas to give birth. You may even see your cat arranging blankets or being feisty with other animals.
- Weigh Gain: Owners often notice that their cats gain two to four pounds during the gestation period.
It’s important to remember that there are many factors at play. Weight gain can sometimes be considered normal, and hunger alone could point to other issues. Additionally, it can be difficult to determine whether an obese cat with dark fur is pregnant. To be sure, an owner might want to consult a veterinarian.
What to Feed Your Pregnant Cat?
If you notice your cat may be pregnant and your veterinarian has confirmed it, you should discuss nutritional needs with your veterinarian. As your cat now eats for two (or three, or four, or five…), she will need additional nutrients – and more of them!
A veterinarian may suggest that you switch your cat back to kitten food so that her kittens can get the proper nutrition, too. As your cat approaches term, she will need more calories to sustain her kittens, so you may want to increase the amount of food she eats. In addition, as the kittens grow, there will also be less room in her stomach, so feed her smaller portions over a longer period of time.
Your pregnant cat will need plenty of water to stay hydrated, so you might want to place several water bowls around your home in easily accessible areas.
Preparing For Her To Give Birth
In order to ensure that your cat is fit for giving birth, you will want to keep her active during pregnancy. However, your cat shouldn’t engage in excessively rowdy behavior near the end of her pregnancy. She will need to stay calm as she approaches her due date, as too much activity could stress her out. Be sure to monitor her appetite and comfort levels throughout the pregnancy.
For the cat to give birth to her kittens, it is essential that she has a warm, cozy and quiet place to give birth. You should offer this during the last two to three weeks, or when it appears that she is looking for an appropriate nesting place. Provide her with a large, strong box lining it with blankets or towels.
So that she has privacy and security, the box should be placed in a quiet corner away from the noise in the house. If your cat refuses to use the box, it could be that she would prefer another location entirely. Having more than one potential nest is also natural for your cat before labor begins.
What to Do When Your Cat Goes Into Labor
The cat is usually quite restless during the hours leading up to labor, going in and out of the nesting box, rearranging the bedding and purring. Several times she may stop eating and visit the litter box. During the first stage of labor, she may experience a slight discharge from the vulva.
During the second stage of labor, the cat may begin panting, purring, and occasionally meowing. As the first kitten moves down the birth canal, there are strong abdominal contractions. In addition to repeatedly licking the entrance to the vagina the cat may cry out and appear distressed. Let nature do its thing and keep your distance, for now.
After the second stage of labor begins, the first kitten normally appears within 30 minutes. An amniotic sac surrounds the kitten and these membranes rupture during its passage down the birth canal, so that its birth is preceded by a clear gush of fluid.
When the kitten’s presenting part appears at the vulva, the sac may still be intact. Mother cats often sever their membranes during this time when they are vigorously licking. Some kittens are born within the sac and its fluid, looking like they are encased in a dull grey balloon.
As soon as the kitten is born, contractions begin again after about five minutes or longer, marking the third stage of labor, when the placenta, or afterbirth, is delivered. Usually, it happens quite quickly and easily, and the afterbirth is a dark brown color, resembling liver.
Following birth, and after the mother has thoroughly cleaned the kittens, the kittens will start to crawl towards her teats. In general, kittens begin feeding within one or two hours of birth, and suckling should begin within twelve hours for their survival.
Please don’t be surprised if your cat decides to give birth somewhere other than the nest you’ve prepared for her. If this happens, do not be afraid to move the kittens into the box you prepared when the kittens are born. Picking up and handling newborn kittens is perfectly fine; doing so will not cause your cat to abandon them or injure them.
When You Should Call A Vet
Veterinary assistance may be necessary in certain situations. You should should immediately bring you cat to the vet if she is experiencing the following:
- A kitten is stuck in her birth canal, and subsequent contractions are not causing her to expel the kitten.
- The cat has been having contractions and straining for an hour without showing any signs of giving birth. In this case it is likely that a kitten is lying in an awkward position and has become stuck in the birth canal.
- During labor, contractions may become weaker and possibly stop entirely before the remainder are born, after which one or two kittens may already have been born. It is called uterine inertia, and an injection can restart contractions, or kittens can be delivered by Cesarean section if the condition requires one.
- If it appears that the placenta has not been expelled.
How To Care For A Pregnant Cat Final Thoughts
Caring for a cat who is giving birth can be extremely stressful for both you and your furry friend. However, for the most part, a mother cat can cope perfectly well with giving birth on her own. If all is going well, leave her alone, but keep a close eye on her, or give gentle reassurance if this seems to help. However, there are times when it may be necessary to seek help from a veterinarian.
Has your cat ever been pregnant? How did you deal with her pregnancy and how did it go? Let us know in the comment section below and be sure to checkout our other articles on cat health!