Knowing the signs of pregnancy is essential if you have a female cat. If your cat is not spayed and has access outside or lives with an unneutered male cat, then it is likely to become pregnant. Here is everything you need to know about the process and the signs of pregnancy in cats.
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When Does Pregnancy Occur in Cats?
Cats can become pregnant at an age as early as 4 months. Like 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 challenging to know when the gestation started. However, after 2-3 weeks of pregnancy, there are some physical signs that you will notice. If you are expecting a pregnancy, 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.
✔️ 7 Signs That Your Cat is Pregnant
Initially, the cat will not display specific signs of pregnancy. However, as mentioned above, the early signs a cat is pregnant can be seen starting in 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 somewhat difficult to see when it is not pregnant, this sign should be pretty easy to spot.
During the first stage of pregnancy, the cat will display symptoms similar to morning sickness in women. If you notice your cat vomiting a few days in a row, it might signify pregnancy.
It is also an excellent time to take it to the vet. After a pregnant cat vomits, she will feel better. However, if you notice other symptoms like apathy, fever, or prolonged loss of appetite, then you must take the cat to the vet.
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 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, there are others, 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 their constitution and size and the number of kittens inside. 1-2 kg is a noticeable weight gain for a cat, so this sign is relatively easy to notice.
6 - Behavior Change
Being pregnant comes with hormonal fluctuations in cats, which means that the cat's behavior will change. Pregnant cats display maternal behavior. They seek more attention from their owners, purr more, and are more vocal. So, if your cat is suddenly more affectionate than usual, has gained weight, and has enlarged pink nipples, it is most likely pregnant.
7 - Nesting
Also, due to hormonal fluctuations, the cat begins nesting toward the end of the pregnancy. That means 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
You must take the cat to the vet to confirm the pregnancy. 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 unreliable tests if you want to find out the number of kittens 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 than the number visible. The litter can differ quite a lot in size. While most cats give birth to 4 kittens, the litter size can vary from 1 to 12 kittens.
✔️ Signs that the Cat is Entering Labor
If you have a pregnant cat, you must monitor her closely towards the end of the pregnancy. This is because 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 refuses to eat. If you notice that the cat is not eating and 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 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 average temperature for cats is 38.5 °C, before going into labor, her temperature will drop to around 37.8°C. So if you take the cat's temperature, be extremely gentle.
4- Constant Washing
Right before going into labor, the cat will continuously wash herself. This continuous washing usually signifies that she will go into labor soon after.
5 - Vaginal Discharge
When the cat goes into labor, she first has abdominal contractions, followed by liquid discharge 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. However, you must follow the cat closely as she gives birth and be ready to intervene if you have to. It would be best to alert the vet that the cat is about to go into labor and update them on what is happening 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 instruct you on what 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. After that, the kittens typically come out at 30-45 minutes intervals. Still, 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 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 the cat will expel one placenta for each kitten. Therefore, it is vital to count the placentas and ensure one for each kitten. Also, make sure the cat has expelled the placentas and is not stuck inside 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
Suppose the vaginal discharge is dark red, bright red, or brown. In this case, the cat is experiencing complications and will need assistance to give birth.
If you notice this, contact your vet immediately and let them know. The doctor will walk you through the next steps and advise you to either come in or wait for them 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 if this happens, it is an emergency, and your cat needs medical assistance as soon as possible. Please do not attempt to get the kittens out yourself because you can hurt them and the cat.
3 - The Cat is Not Taking the Kittens Out of the Sacks
Sometimes, the cat expels the kittens so fast that there isn't enough time to take each one out of the birthing sacks. If you notice that the cat is not taking the kittens out of the birthing sacks, you have to intervene as quickly as possible.
Please note that this is an emergency and that you must act immediately. There is no time to take the kittens to the vet. Instead, call your vet to talk you through the steps, but be ready to intervene.
First, you must gently remove the kitten from 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 an essential step because the kitten's airway might be blocked by various artifacts. It is up to you if its mother does not clean it.
Follow the cat's behavior closely and ensure that all the kittens can 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.
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 walk around trying to get to their mom's teats. So if you notice that one or more of the kittens are not moving, you have to ensure they can breathe.
2- All the Kittens Are Feeding
It is crucial for the kitten's development to have access to colostrum - this is the first milk from the cat, which is especially rich in nutrients and antibodies. You must ensure that each kitten has managed to eat during the first hour after birth. Keep in mind that the newborn kittens can't see and might need guidance from their mother's teats. Pay extra attention to larger litters.
3- Mom is Alright
After the kittens and the placentas are out, you must monitor the cat. First, make sure there is no other vaginal discharge - if you notice blood or other discharge, call the vet immediately. Then, make sure the cat does not have a fever and 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, cat parents must be aware of plenty of things 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.
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