How Can You Tell If Your Cat Is Pregnant?

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If you have a female cat, then knowing the signs of pregnancy is important. If your cat is not spayed and it has access outside or lives with an unneutered male cat, then the chances of it becoming pregnant are high. Here is everything you need to know about the process and the signs of pregnancy in cats.

Seal Mitted Ragdoll Cat Charlie as a Kitten and as an Adult
Seal Mitted Ragdoll Cat Charlie as a Kitten and as an Adult

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When Does Pregnancy Occur in Cats?

Cats can become pregnant at an age as early as 4 months. Similar to humans, cats display periods of peak fertility, when they can get pregnant. This is commonly known as being in heat. This occurs about once every three weeks. During this time, the cat’s behavior is noticeably different.

How Long Does Cat Pregnancy Last?

The gestation period for cats varies between 61 and 72 days, but the typical pregnancy lasts 63-67 days. Keep in mind that the signs of pregnancy do not occur as soon as it starts.

It might be difficult to know when the gestation started. After 2-3 weeks of pregnancy, there are some physical signs that you will notice. If you are expecting a pregnancy, then you can take your cat to the veterinarian and get confirmation earlier than 2-3 weeks.

The gestation period for cats varies between 61 and 72 days, but the typical pregnancy lasts 63-67 days. Click To Tweet

Which Cats Can Become Pregnant?

To become pregnant, female cats must be at least 4 months old. They must reach sexual maturity and they must be in season. The ideal time to neuter a cat is before its first season. If the owners decide to wait longer before neutering, the cat will be in heat. During this time, it is paramount that the cat does not have access to unneutered male cats because there is a high chance it will become pregnant.

Charlie as a Ragdoll Kitten

✔️ 7 Signs That Your Cat is Pregnant

In the very beginning, the cat will not display specific signs of pregnancy. As mentioned above, the early signs a cat is pregnant can be seen starting the second or even third week of pregnancy.

1 – The Nipples Are Enlarged

When the cat is 15-18 days into the pregnancy, its nipples become enlarged and red. This sign is commonly referred to as “pinking-up”. Considering that a cat’s nipples are rather difficult to see when it is not pregnant, this sign should be quite easy to spot.

2- Vomiting

During the first stage of pregnancy, the cat will display symptoms similar to morning sickness in women. If you notice your cat is vomiting, a few days in a row, it might be a sign of pregnancy. It is also a good time to take it to the vet. After a pregnant cat vomits, she will feel better. If you notice other symptoms like apathy, fever, or prolonged loss of appetite, then you must take the cat to the vet.

Bluedreamer Ragdoll Kittens Kansas City IMG_9079

3 -Tummy Swelling

As the pregnancy settles in, the cat’s tummy will begin to swell. If you notice that your cat’s abdomen is suddenly enlarged, then pregnancy might be one of the reasons why. However, make sure to be very delicate when you touch its abdomen to avoid hurting the kittens. It is best to take the cat to the vet to confirm the pregnancy and also to rule out other reasons for the swelling of the abdomen.

4 – Increased Appetite

Later on in the pregnancy, the cat develops an increased appetite. It will eat more to sustain the pregnancy and the energy requirements that come with it. If you notice that your cat is eating more than usual, then pregnancy might be one of the reasons why. However, it is not the only one, so it is best to check with your vet.

5 – Weight Gain

Due to the increased appetite and the development of the kittens in the womb, the cat will gain weight. During the pregnancy, cats typically gain 1-2 kg, depending on its constitution and size, but also on the number of kittens inside. 1-2 kg is a noticeable weight gain for a cat, so this sign is quite easy to notice.

Trigg as a Ragdoll Kitten

6 – Behavior Change

Being pregnant comes with hormonal fluctuations in cats as well, which means that the cat’s behavior will change. Pregnant cats display maternal behavior. They seek more attention from their owners, they purr more, and they are more vocal. So, if your cat is suddenly more affectionate than usual, has gained weight, and has pink enlarged nipples, then it is most likely pregnant.

7 – Nesting

Also due to the hormonal fluctuations, towards the end of the pregnancy, the cat begins nesting. That means that she will start looking for the ideal spot to give birth to its kittens. Cats usually choose blankets or other soft surfaces. You can see them kneading the blankets and purring.

Confirming the Pregnancy

To confirm the pregnancy, you have to take the cat to the vet. The most common way to determine if a cat is pregnant is by giving it an ultrasound. It is a noninvasive diagnostic technique that provides the doctor with plenty of information on the stage of the pregnancy.

Keep in mind, though, that ultrasounds are not reliable tests if you want to find out the number of kittens that the cat is carrying. X-rays provide more accurate information on the number of kittens, but these should be avoided, if possible.

Determining the exact number of kittens is extremely difficult, so you should expect to get more kittens than the number that was visible. The litter can differ quite a lot in size. While most cats give birth to 4 kittens, the size of the litter can vary as much as 1 to 12 kittens.

✔️ Signs that the Cat is Entering Labor

If you have a pregnant cat, then you have to monitor her closely towards the end of the pregnancy. You have to be ready for when she goes into labor. Here are the key signs that you should be familiar with:

1 – It Refuses Food

The cat is agitated before going into labor and she refuses to eat. If you notice that the cat is not eating and that she refuses food when you offer it to her, then she is most likely going into labor.

2 – Behavior

Before going into labor, the pregnant cat is agitated. She is vocal and fidgety and does not want to be petted, and does not want to play. She appears to be searching for something – she is looking for a quiet secluded spot to go give birth. Keep in mind that she will go into labor soon after this.

If you have a pregnant cat, then you have to monitor her closely towards the end of the pregnancy. Click To Tweet

3 – Temperature Drop

12-24 hours before the cat gives birth, its temperature drops. While the normal temperature for cats is 38.5 °C, before going into labor, her temperature will drop to around 37.8°C. If you take the cat’s temperature, make sure to be extremely gentle.

4- Constant Washing

Right before going into labor, the cat will continuously wash herself. This is usually the sign that she will go into labor soon after.

5 – Vaginal Discharge

When the cat goes into labor, she first has abdominal contractions, which are followed by the discharge of liquid through the vagina. Keep in mind that this liquid should be clear. After this, she will have more contractions and begin expelling the kittens, one by one.

What to Do When the Cat Goes Into Labor

The cat is equipped to give birth all by herself and it is best to not interfere unless there are complications. You have to follow the cat closely as she gives birth and be ready to intervene if you have to. You must alert the vet that the cat is about to go into labor and keep him or her updated with what happens with the cat.

It is best to talk to the vet beforehand, as the cat enters the last stage of pregnancy. This way, you have somebody to talk to when the cat goes into labor and, if necessary, bring her to the vet’s office for an emergency intervention. The vet will also tell you what to expect and will instruct you on the things you need to observe, and when and how to intervene.

It can take the cat 2 to 24 hours to give birth, depending on the number of kittens, and many other factors. The kittens normally come out at 30-45 minutes intervals, but this period can be extended to 1 hour or even longer in some cases. In most cases, the kittens come out head-first, but some of them come out rear-paws-first, which is absolutely normal.

It can take the cat 2 to 24 hours to give birth, depending on the number of kittens, and many other factors. Click To Tweet

When the cat gives birth to the kittens, they are covered in a thin membrane called a birthing sack or an amniotic sack. After each kitten is expelled, the cat rips the birthing sack with its teeth and takes the kitten out. Then, she washes the kitten, particularly its nose and mouth for it to be able to breathe. She will do this for each kitten, one by one.

Then, after each kitten is expelled, the cat also expels a placenta. Keep in mind that for each kitten, the cat will expel one placenta. It is very important to count the placentas and make sure that for each kitten, the cat has also expelled the placenta, and that they are not stuck inside of the cat because this could cause complications. If you notice this, let the vet know as soon as possible.

Here are a few other things you must pay attention to while the cat is giving birth. If you notice these things, contact the vet immediately:

1 – The Vaginal Discharge is Brown or Red

If the vaginal discharge is dark red, bright red, or brown in color, then the cat is experiencing complications and it will need assistance to give birth.

If you notice this, contact your vet immediately and let him or her know. The doctor will walk you through the next steps and will advise you to either come in or wait for him or her to come to your house to assist the cat.

2 – The Cat is Pushing, but the Kittens are Not Coming Out

Even if the vaginal discharge is normal in color, if the cat appears to be struggling, but the kittens are not coming out, then contact the vet. It means that the cat is unable to give birth by herself.

Please note that this is an emergency and that your cat needs to receive medical assistance as soon as possible. Do not attempt to get the kittens out yourself because you can hurt them, as well as the cat.

3 – The Cat is Not Taking the Kittens Out of the Sacks

In some cases, the cat expels the kittens so fast that there isn’t enough time for it to take each one out of the birthing sacks. For whichever reason, if you notice that the cat is not taking the kittens out of the birthing sacks, then you have to intervene as quickly as possible.

Please note that this is an emergency and that you need to act immediately. There is no time to take the kittens to the vet. Call your vet to talk you through the steps, but be ready to intervene.

First, you have to gently take the kitten out of the birthing sack using your hands. Do not use knives or scissors to avoid hurting the kitten. The sack is easy enough to break.

Then, soak a clean washcloth in lukewarm water, rinse it, and use it to gently wash the kitten’s nose and mouth. This is a very important step because the kitten’s airway might be blocked by various artifacts. If its mother does not clean it, then it is up to you.

Follow the cat’s behavior closely and make sure that all the kittens are able to breathe. As soon as they start breathing, the kittens are agitated and begin fidgeting. If you notice any kittens being very still, check their airways.

Miss Lilly and Maddison – Ragdoll Kittens of the Month

Picture of Lilly & Maddison  

What to Do After the Cat Gives Birth

The normal birthing time is 2-5 hours (up to 24 hours in rare cases) and after all the kittens are out safely, you still have to monitor the cat and the new kittens. Here is what you need to pay attention to:

1 – All the Kittens Are Moving

As mentioned above, newborn kittens are fidgety and they will walk around trying to get to their mom’s teats. If you notice that one or more of the kittens are not moving, then you have to make sure that they are able to breathe.

2- All the Kittens Are Feeding

It is crucial for the development of the kitten that it has access to colostrum – this is the first milk from the cat which is especially rich in nutrients and antibodies. You have to make sure that during the first hour after birth, each of the kittens has managed to eat. Keep in mind that the newborn kittens can’t see and that they might need some guidance to their mother’s teats. Pay extra attention to larger litters.

3- Mom is Alright

After the kittens and the placentas are out, you have to monitor the cat. Make sure there is no additional vaginal discharge – if you notice blood or other discharge, call the vet immediately. Then, make sure the cat does not have a fever, but also that it is not hypothermic. These are both signs of complications. After the cat gives birth, it will be tired, but make sure that the cat is alert. If you notice she is apathetic, contact the vet.

As you can see, there are plenty of things that cat parents must be aware of when it comes to cat pregnancies. Has your cat ever been pregnant? Were you there when she gave birth? Did you help her through it? Tell us all about it in the comments section below.

Caring for your kitten:

A Ragdoll Kitten Care Guide: Bringing Your Ragdoll Kitten Home October 2012

Purchase A Ragdoll Kitten Care Guide here.

Thinking about Adorable Ragdoll Cat Names? 

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  1. WOW! TYSVM for this SUPER PAWESOME & FABULOUS POST, Jenny honey! Great info that I was totally clueless about (as all the kitties in my life, except for our wonderful Miss PSB, have been male)! 🙂 <3

    Big hugs & lots of love & purrs!

    Patti & Miss Pink Sugarbelle 🙂 <3 <3 <3

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