Cat Pregnancy

Pregnant cat
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Pregnant cat – photo ©fofurasfelinas

Diagnosis

What are the symptoms of cat pregnancy? It takes approximately three weeks before there are any noticeable signs of pregnancy. Cat owners everywhere will be able to recognize their cat’s pregnancy symptoms. If you have an idea that your cat might be pregnant, check her nipples. After approximately three weeks, they become pink (see the picture below, which is very illustrative of this cat pregnancy symptom). She will show progressive abdominal extension and possible mammary gland enlargement.

If this is a first time pregnancy for your cat, this is the most accurate sign. After six weeks your cat’s nipples will grow a great deal. From that period on, the nipples are filled with milk. It will then take about six weeks until the kittens arrive.

There are also other signs of cat pregnancy. She will become quieter and will appear to be more loving. A veterinarian can carry out a diagnosis, which is relatively straightforward. Beyond 30 days of her pregnancy your vet will be able to feel your cat’s uterus through the abdominal wall. The foetal swellings can be felt. This test should only be carried out by a vet as it is possible to damage the foetus. The gestation period is about 66 days.

From as early as 15 days pregnant a vet can use ultrasound to detect cat pregnancy. Ultrasound can be used to monitor progress. X-Rays are not necessary (X-Rays can damage in overdose anyway). The ideal litter size is about 4 kittens.

Update: feline gestation period (and some more on signs and testing for pregnancy)

Care

Your pregnant female will naturally want to sleep more, and they couldn’t care less about any male cats! The heat cycles stop. If your cat is used to being outside, she will want to spend more time in the house during the gestation period.

Keeping your pregnant cat inside is preferable. If she manages to get out, it might be useful that your feline is wearing a collar and cat tag (but collars can be dangerous).

You should also try to have your pregnant female cat checked out by your veterinarian. Do this before she becomes pregnant, if possible. Pregnancy is an energy sapping experience. Therefore, you should make sure that your pregnant queen stays as healthy as possible through the gestation periods. Your cat should not be given any medication during this time unless there is an emergency.

Don’t get worried if your pregnant cat starts to sleep more and more. Inactivity and rest are perfectly normal during feline gestation.

How should you take care of your pregnant cat? First of all, she should be fed a kitten formulation of cat food. We have always used Purina Kitten Chow (USA) which seems to work very well. This should be given to your female during the entire pregnancy and while she is nursing her little ones.

Pregnant cat
Cat pregnancy – Pregnant cat – photo Alice J-T

During pregnancy the female cat’s food consumption increases and will reach approximately 1.5 times her level than before she was pregnant. When you come to the end of the nursing period, her food consumption may exceed twice her pre-pregnancy amount. Do not withhold any food from your pregnant feline. You should probably increase the number of feedings each day during cat pregnancy. This allows her to satisfy her needs as well as those of her unborn kittens.

During cat pregnancy she may find that it is hard to clean herself. Groom her quite regularly and if she doesn’t mind it clean her bottom with a damp cloth that is soft.

Giving birth is a natural process, and it is no different for cats. She will rely on her maternal instincts. All you have to do is stay by her side during the birthing process to monitor what happens. Only intervene if something goes awry.

Approximately two weeks before your cat gives birth, put a box in a location that your cat can visit frequently. Make sure that the box is in a warm room. The box should contain a shredded material such as paper. Once the kittens are born, a blanket will be needed. It would be an even better idea if you placed a few boxes in strategic locations. However, don’t be surprised if at the last moment she disappears under your bed or gets into your wardrobe! The important thing is not to disturb her.

One thing you want to make sure that you do is to keep the doors closed. You definitely do not want your cat to give birth outside.

Prevention

How do you prevent cat pregnancy? There is only one way that this can be accomplished. It is to have your cat spayed. Spaying is a surgical procedure whereby the female reproductive organs are removed. It is usually performed at about six months although now the procedure is being done on younger kittens. This will not only stop your cat from getting pregnant, but there will be no more annoying heat cycles that you will have to go through! Spaying also helps prevent certain kinds of cancer later on in your cat’s life.

Hopefully, you have found this article very informative. We have witnessed our cats giving birth three times already and each is a miracle in itself. They needed no help from any human outsiders but we were always standing by to help. Do the same for your pregnant cat. She will love you for it!

Heat cycles

Sexual maturity in the female cat begins at about aged 7-12 months (males are sexually mature about 1-2 months later in life). Females stop reproducing at about 14 years of age or less. Males can go on for several years longer.

A non-altered female has repeated heat (oestrous or estrous or in fact estrus) cycles for a part of the year and for the remainder of the year she is sexually inactive. An estrus cyle is one in which the female is receptive to the male advances. The length of time she is on heat is variable being between 5 days to 3 weeks. The amount of time between being on heat is about 12-22 days (src: Robinson’s Genetics).

The signs of oestrus are: vocalization, rubbing head and neck against things, rolling around and “treading” (leg movements).

Females generally begin the heat cycles in January or February. This ends in June to November. The period of sexual inactivity is between October and December. The peak period is between February and March. 

The reason why the process is seasonal is because daylight affects the production of pituitary gland hormones. If cats are kept indoors, with more artificial light it can change the heat cycles. Apparently long haired cat breeds are less dependent on the amount of daylight.

Click on the link to see and expanded discussion about cat heat behavior. And you might like to see what led up to the pregnancy: see cats mating (warning over 16 year olds only please).

Resources

  • Cat Pregnancy Report
  • Veterinary Notes for Cat Lovers by Trevor Turner DVM and Jean Turner VN
  • The Veterinarians’ Guide to Your Cat’s Symptoms
  • Robinson’s Genetics for Cat Breeders and Veterinarians

Note: this article was written by a person who has experienced at first had her cat’s pregnancy and birth. The article was added to by Michael at Pictures of Cats.org.

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37 thoughts on “Cat Pregnancy”

  1. My cat is nearly 8 months old. She stays indoors and never goes out as she hasn’t yet been spayed. I took her to a vet recently as her glands had swollen quite considerably within a week. She believed that she was pregnant even though I said she doesn’t go outside. She shows some signs of pregnancy but could there be another explanation?

    Reply
    • What about a false pregnancy? Pseudocyesis. Symptoms are: rarely signs of a true pregnancy, weight gain, nesting behavior. Milk production can happen although rare.

      The condition is caused by progesterone.

      Treatment: No treatment necessary. Signs disappear in up to 40 days after estrus.

      Is she showing signs of being ill? It seems not.

      I have guessed big time. Good luck to you both.

      Reply
  2. If your cat’s belly is rounded and you can clearly see and feel her nipples without trying then YES! She is pregnant!

    In the beginning early stages of pregnancy, your cat will eat more like she hasn’t eaten in a few days.

    In the middle trimester of her pregnancy your cat will sleep more and her feeding will decrease due to her kittens making her feel full,

    At the end of your cat’s trimester, she will show a lot more decrease in energy and will sleep more hours in a day than normal as she is going to need all the energy she is building up for when it’s time to go into labor.

    You never want to pick your pregnant queen up, if there for any reason you must pick her up ALWAYS place 1 under her belly as close to her back legs as possible while using the other hand to support her as you pick her up.

    Any other questions you have please feel to ask me.

    Reply
    • Many many thanks, Tina, for commenting on this page and adding your experience to it. It is most welcome. If you would like to write an article on any subject in relation to cat pregnancy then please leave another comment and I will converted into an article.

      Reply
  3. We brought in a stray momma and two kittens. The kittens were about 2.5-3 months. We were told the mom was more than likely pregnant so it’s been over a month and a half, the kittens 4.5-5months just spayed. And no signs of mom being anywhere near she should be in her gestation period no pink nipples she is pulling her hair

    Reply

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