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It’s extremely important to get female cats spayed, both for health reasons and to help avoid overpopulation. It’s not always that easy though, for example some vets don’t like to operate if your cat’s under a certain weight and if your female cat comes into season before her operation, she’ll be very determined to get out. If your cat does become pregnant, here’s what you can expect.
The Stages of Pregnancy in Cats
Week 1: Fertilisation – you won’t see any signs of pregnancy yet.
Week 2: Implantation – her nipples will ‘pink up’ (become red and enlarged), often the first sign you’ll notice.
Week 3: She might develop morning sickness (yes, cats can suffer from it too!), start to gain weight and her tummy will start to swell.
Week 4 and onwards: The kitten foetuses are developing and there’s no mistaking the fact that she’s pregnant.
Preparing for Your Cat to Give Birth
She’ll need high-quality food, and as much as she wants, because she’s sharing nutrients with her unborn kittens.
When she’s preparing to give birth she’ll look for a nesting place to have the kittens, you can help out and make sure that she gives birth somewhere safe and suitable by preparing a kittening box. Line a clean cardboard box with newspaper and soft material, with a larger box over the top with a hole cut in the side so she can come in and out, and that you can reach into if something goes wrong during the birth. Put it in a quiet, warm and secluded spot so she’ll feel safe.
Care During the Birth
When her contractions start you might notice her panting, and a experiencing a clear discharge or blood spotting. As long as she’s happy with where you’ve placed the kittening box she’ll go there ready for the birth. The initial stage of contractions, when nothing is really happening, can last for a few hours, but the main contractions, when she’s actually giving birth, should only last about half an hour between kittens. If you think that she’s struggling, call your vet (or emergency vet if it’s in the middle of the night) for advice.
As each kitten is born, she should tear open the sac it’s born in and break the umbilical cord. If she isn’t showing any inclination to do this, or does just the first one and then stops, you can step in to help. Be very gentle with the sac, you don’t need scissors, and once you’re sure the kitten is OK and breathing you can tie cotton thread round the cord a few inches from where it joins the kitten, and cut on the other side. With each kitten you do this for, place it immediately on its mother’s belly so it can find a teat and the mother can reach it.
If you’re concerned at any point during the birth, if it seems to be taking a long time, if her discharge is yellow or green or if she seems distressed, call your vet immediately.
Care After the Birth
It’s important that the new kittens feed straight away because mum’s initial supply of milk (colostrum) contains antibodies that help them to thrive. Make sure that both mother and kittens are warm, with food, water and a litter tray nearby. Your cat might not seem to want to eat, drink or use the tray for a couple of days, but do try to encourage her. It’s helpful to arrange a vet check the day after the birth just to make sure all is well.
Enjoy having new kittens in your home, but remember, that kittens are fragile (with developing immune systems and bone structures), so take extra special care in those first few weeks. Mum is likely to be over protective and won’t appreciate other people constantly handling her babies, so let well-meaning friends and family members admire the kittens from a safe distance until they are bigger and stronger.
Has your cat ever been pregnant and had kittens? Please share your experiences in the comments below.
Image: London Looks via Flickr.
I wanted my females to have kittens by my male before I got him fixed. They are both pregnant now and due in two weeks. I have everything together and ready for both of them. Dad has been by their side and all three are a family. Why did I want to mate my cats? I just wanted to carry on his blood line and I believe the kittens will be just beautiful. The females will be fixed as well as soon as the vet says they are ok to do so. My male has beautiful markings, one female is fluffy and all colors, and the other female is black and white with a white mustache. I have most of the kittens spoken for, and I work with sober living houses, so they five of the kittens will be therapy cats.
I would have loved to spayed our kitty, but it costs a lot of money for that and shots all together, so while we were saving up for the appointment, she literally got out of the house for an hour (by company coming over and got out of the door) and got pregnant!!! So we’re now dealing with that right now. I sure wish I could have had the chance to get her spayed before all this.
This is really helpful if any of my cats ever get pregnant?
Liz Armeson says
This is some really helpful information for anyone with an expecting cat. I had absolutely no idea after my vet told me that my cat had gotten pregnant, but this cleared a lot of things up. It’s interesting that cats can suffer from morning sickness just like we can. Thanks so much for writing, this answered all of my questions and I feel much more prepared to take care of my cat!
The Swiss Cats says
Great post ! Spay and neuter is very important : kittens are such a big responsibility ! Purrs
This is a good intro – my human says someday she’d like to foster a pregnant mom, so she could work on having super-socialized kittens for a rescue to adopt out.
Layla Morgan Wilde (Cat Wisdom 101) says
Should a pregnancy occur make sure to spay after so it doesn’t happen again. Have you read Deb’s posts at Zee Zoey about Zoey’s unexpected pregnanancy? It helped turn her into a spay/neuter advocate and launched her blogging career.
Ellen Pilch says
I wish more people would spay and neuter their pets.