How to Treat a Pregnant Cat
By:Dr. Amanda Jondle
Author: Dr. Amanda Jondle
Dr. Amanda Jondle is an experienced veterinary who helping pets and educating clients through writing and editing articles to inform pet owners on how to best care for their pets. Amanda graduated from Iowa State University College of Veterinary Medicine. She and her husband currently have 4 rescue dogs and 3 cats of their own and are often fostering pets with health issues until they find their forever homes.View all 3 articles Learn about our editorial process
Updated on: 17/04/2020
It may be surprising to know that it is very easy for a female cat to become pregnant. A cat begins her reproductive cycle as early as 4 months of age and can become pregnant that early as well. Cats were designed to give birth in the warm months and so are typically reproductively active in the spring, summer, and fall, although this is not the case 100% of the time. Cats can be sneaky about their heat cycles and can easily become pregnant when in heat. All it takes is for the female cat to escape outside and meet a male or a young pair of male and female cats who live together to mate while you unexpectedly thought they were too young to do so.
Ideally, a cat should be fully vaccinated, dewormed, on regular flea prevention, and tested negative for the feline leukemia virus (FELV) and feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV). In many cases, a young cat will become pregnant before these important details have been addressed. If you find out your cat is pregnant by accident and has not been vaccinated, it is best not to vaccinate until after birth. If the mother cat has not been vaccinated, the kittens are often born more prone to birth defects and illnesses.
What are the signs if your cat is pregnant?
If you didn’t realize your cat became pregnant, you may start to notice that her belly becomes larger and rounder and her nipples are swollen and more noticeable. You might notice that there is milk coming from her nipples (lactating) or that she has an increased appetite. As the cat gets closer to giving birth, she will nest and try to find a secluded, warm, dark place to spend time as she gets reading to give birth. She will typically give birth in this secluded place, out of the way of traffic and noise.
If you suspect your cat is pregnant and want to know for sure, your veterinarian can run some diagnostic tests to confirm the pregnancy. If the cat is about 25-35 days along, an ultrasound can be used to detect fetal heartbeats and see kittens in the uterus. Not every veterinary clinic has an ultrasound and it may be a little more expensive of a test. If the cat is 45 or more days along, a radiograph, or x-ray, can be used to find the fetal skeletons and count roughly how many kittens she will give birth to. Depending on how far along the cat is, and what the body condition is, your veterinarian may be able to palpate kittens.
How long is a cat pregnant?
Cats are pregnant for around 2 months, 60-63 days to be exact. Since their gestation period is so short, a cat can get pregnant more than once in a year.
What should I do for my pregnant cat?
A pregnant cat requires little special care. You will want to make sure she has a warm, dry, and secluded area to give birth in and high quality, nutritious food to eat. Freshwater should be available at all times and she should have at least one, but preferably more, clean litter boxes. It is ideal that your cat is on a flea preventative, as fleas will suck blood from the mother and kittens causing them to become anemic, which if severe, can lead to death.
What is the best thing to feed a pregnant cat?
The best food to feed a pregnant cat is one approved for growth. This is usually a high-quality kitten food. A pregnant and nursing cat will require more nutrients and calories than a regular adult cat. A mother cat should be on the high-quality kitten food until the kittens are weaned and eating that food on their own.
How do you know when a cat is about to give birth?
Signs that your cat is getting ready to give birth include:
- Secluding themselves to a quiet dark place
- Grooming more than normal
- Pacing around
These signs are all part of the first stages of labor, which can last anywhere from several hours to a whole day.
The second stage of labor is when the mother cat starts having contractions and the kittens are born. A kitten is born every 30-60 minutes and usually, the whole litter is born in around 6 hours. However, if the mother cat becomes stressed or distracted during labor, she is able to stop and start again the next day. If there are strong contractions but a kitten isn’t born within an hour, she should be taken to see a veterinarian right away.
The third stage of labor is when the placenta is passed.
Useful sources for further reading
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