The average cat pregnancy lasts 63 to 67 days. As soon as you suspect cat pregnancy take your cat to the vet for confirmation and a cat health check-up. Cat pregnancy can only occur when the female cat is on heat which happens several times a year from spring to autumn.
Spot the signs of cat pregnancy
There are some obvious signs to look out for if you think your cat is pregnant:
- Enlarged nipples, they can become red and are more obvious to see. This tends to happen 15–18 days into cat pregnancy
- Morning sickness, cats have their own version and are occasionally sick
- Weight gain, cats can gain up to 2kg while they are pregnant
- Your cat’s behaviour may become ‘maternal’. She may start to purr a lot more than usual and become more affectionate
- Her appetite will increase
During the last few weeks of cat pregnancy it is recommended that you change a cat’s diet from adult to kitten food. Kitten food provides extra nutrients a cat will need for her kittens.
Preparing for cat labour
There isn’t much you can do to prepare your cat for birth; you have to ensure she is getting a good healthy diet and water through her pregnancy.
You could prepare a small area for her to give birth e.g. lay some old towels in a box in a quiet area in the house. This may encourage her to go there but don’t be disappointed if she doesn’t use it. She will find a place where she feels safe and secure.
Signs of cat labour
- She may start to refuse food and act unsettled or agitated
- She will start to find somewhere suitable to give birth e.g. corners of a room, under the stairs, somewhere quiet
- A drop in body temperature to 37c
- To begin with the abdomen will start to contract and she will start to purr heavily
Labour can be a quick or slow process, as with any labour. A cat will pause between every kitten’s birth. This can be from 10 minutes to 1 hour. A litter is between 2 to 5 kittens.
Cats are able to go through the labour without any help so don’t feel you have to become involved. If you are concerned at any point during the labour consult your vet.
When the kitten is born the mother will lick the kitten to stimulate breathing. If the mother is too tired or is giving birth to another kitten you will have to rub the kitten gently with a towel and then place the kitten face down to clear any fluid from its airways.
With each kitten born there should be a placenta and umbilical cord, the mother should eat it, this is normal behaviour. If you feel there hasn’t been a placenta with every kitten there is a chance it is retained in the mother, you will need to take her to the vet as soon as possible as this could cause infection if left.
Once the kittens have been delivered and cleaned, the kittens should crawl to their mother and suckle.