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.