Cat Giving Birth

Photo by Melanie Cook (Flickr)

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Photo by Melanie Cook (Flickr)

I am pleased to say that I have a video of a cat giving birth. It happens to be a wildcat, a serval called "Dea" and she gives birth to three kittens at the A1 Savannahs cattery/farm. I made the video with material provided by Kathrin Stucki of A1 Savannahs. Thank you Kathrin.

A serval may not demonstrate the exact same behaviour as described below because she is a wildcat but the principles are the same, of course. I have decided, therefore to present that video here and add a some details taken from the much respected, Cat Owner's Home Veterinary Handbook, Fully Revised and Updated. But first a little diagram showing the three stages of labor.

cat birth labor diagram

1. The first stage: - this may last 12 hours plus. It begins with the mother panting with purring which might increase towards the moment of birth. The mother becomes more active and moves around. She may turn (and/or snap) to her rear and strain. She may pant and the uterus contracts. This is noticeable in the video. The body moves when a contraction takes place and the straining tells on Dea's face.

With the onset of labor the uterine horn contracts. This pushes the kitten "down into the central cavity"1. The cervix dilates because of the pressure against it. The kitten then slides into the vagina on maximum dilation. If the water bag surrounding the kitten ruptures before birth it passes out and in less than 30 minutes the kitten follows and is born. Most often the kitten comes out head first - the "diving" position.

2. Kittens Delivered: - At the moment of birth you can see Dea lick her kitten and she removes the foetal membrane (the rough tongue achieves this). The umbilical cord is severed. The mother continues to lick the kitten clearing the nose and mouth to aid breathing.

3. Afterbirth Delivered: - A placenta follows after the kitten. You can see Dea eating the placenta. It is thought that this instinctive behaviour is to remove evidence of birth as a protective measure. This many not happen, however. A placenta that is not delivered can "cause a serious postnatal infection"1.

When born the kittens are drawn to their mother's nipples for feeding, their sucking helps bring on the production of mother's milk (colostrum). Colostrum is high in mother's antibodies. The total elapsed time might be 2-6 hours. A mother can go into labor, out of labor and return to labor, extending the entire process by up to about 24 hours.

What we can do:

  • A large kitten may get stuck at the vaginal opening. This can usually be sorted out by lubricating the birth canal with K-Y Jelly. For more difficult cases where assisting birth is required I would advise that you read the book, which is linked to above.
  • Default position: do nothing and leave mother alone.
  • Remove some or all of the placenta from the nest.
  • May need to clamp the severed cord and tie it off and disinfect the stump - antiseptic or iodine.
  • Remove the amniotic sac if the mother fails to do so to allow the kitten to breath.


1. Cat Owner's Home Veterinary Handbook by Drs Carlson and Giffin page 305.

Associated Pages:

Cat Pregnancy

Cat Heat Behavior

Cats Mating

Neutering Cats

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From cat giving birth to Cat Health Problems

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Cat Giving Birth

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Jul 22, 2011 My cat Suzi.
by: Keith

I think watching your cat give birth is a wonderful experience,I missed Suzzies 1st litter being born but felt the new born kittens on a Sunday morning around my toes,Suzi had given birth to 4 great kittens in my bed that morning.
The 2nd and last litter I did not miss and we still have 1 of the kittens now.
If your she cat trusts you,she will give birth to her kittens with you very close to her with no distressing signs from her and will even help her go ahead more easily with the birth.

Feb 01, 2011 Thank you
by: Petra Stephenson

I've just seen this video, I've never seen kittens (or any animal) being born before and I think it was beautiful, so much more dignified than my experience of human birth. Thank you so much.

Jan 31, 2011 Thanks
by: Michael

Thanks for the comments. It is quite rare video material and my thanks to Kathrin Stucki for giving me the job of making the video.

Michael Avatar

Jan 27, 2011 Really good video
by: Barbara

That was wonderful to watch, thanks Michael for sharing it. I can't get over how clever animals are, they just know what to do and get on with the job. That first kitten was everywhere, I thought he was going to get trampled. Bless her she was hungry when she'd finished her labours.

Barbara avatar

Jan 27, 2011 Beautiful video
by: Anonymous

The birth of any living creature is beautiful. Thank you for sharing

Jan 27, 2011 The miracle of birth
by: Ruth

That is such a very good video Michael, thank you so much for sharing it. It is so tastefully filmed that a child could watch it and learn gently about the miracle of birth.
It shows the true wonder of it and how very clever Mother Nature is to ensure the mother cat knows exactly what to do.
We human females struggle having and caring for one baby yet cats take any number of babies in their stride and just get on with the job and coping.
Dea and her kittens are absolutely beautiful !

Kattaddorra signature Ruth

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