How To Take Care of Your Pregnant Cat

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pregnant cat on stair wondering how long is a cat pregnant

Cats are incredibly adept at reproducing. Some female cats will have their first heat as early as 4 months. If you do not spay your kitten early enough, you might have a pregnant cat on your hands! What do you need to know about your pregnant cat? Read on to find out more about how you can care for your cat through this time.

First Things First: How to Tell if Your Cat is Pregnant

If your cat is pregnant, you should start to notice some changes in the third week of pregnancy. These changes are both in her behavior and her physical appearance.

  1. Darkened Nipples – At about the three-week mark, you should notice that your female cat’s nipples will become enlarged and darker in color.
  2. Swollen Belly – Irrespective of her starting weight, a pregnant cat will likely still gain weight during her pregnancy. This will usually present with a rounded and swollen abdomen.
  3. Morning Sickness – Just like humans, some pregnant cats also experience a period of ‘morning sickness’. If your cat is one of the few that does, it is important to keep a close eye on her overall health. Contact your veterinarian if she vomits too frequently or doesn’t look well.
  4. Nesting Behavior – With two weeks left of her pregnancy, your cat might start to display “nesting” behaviors. These include searching for a safe and quiet place to birth her babies. She might also become more maternal. For example, try and groom you or other household pets. She could also become more affectionate towards you.
  5. Positive X-ray or Ultrasound. An X-ray or ultrasound is the most sure-fire way of confirming your cat’s pregnancy.

What is the Cat Pregnancy Timeline

The gestation period for cats can be between 58 and 70 days. However, the average cat pregnancy is usually 63 – 65 days long.

cat pregnancy cat lying on table

5 Ways to Care for Your Pregnant Cat 

You want your cat to have a healthy pregnancy. And give her the best chance at birthing a litter of healthy kittens. Here are a few pointers to help you do just that.

Take Mittens to the Vet

First on the cards is to take your feline friend to the veterinarian as soon as you think that she is pregnant. The best time for your pregnant cat’s first visit to the vet is at about 3 weeks into the pregnancy. At this point, your cat is far enough along in her pregnancy for the vet to confirm the pregnancy.

To verify the pregnancy, your veterinarian will palpate Mittens’ abdomen. If the veterinary clinic has ultrasound equipment, they could use ultrasound to check the pregnancy.

At about 6 weeks (42 days) into the cat’s pregnancy, you might want to take your pregnant cat to the vet for an X-ray. A radiograph will tell you how many kittens your fluffy friend is carrying. This is very important to know when the birthing time comes around. Knowing how many fetuses she is carrying; you will know when your cat has finished giving birth. Alternatively, if she is having trouble in between birthing kittens.

Adapt Her Food Allowance Throughout the Pregnancy

For your cat’s health both during and after pregnancy, as well as for the health of the unborn kittens your pregnant cat must eat high-quality food. This diet should be formulated for the growth of the kittens and support for the mama during her pregnancy. Most often good quality, vet-recommended kitten formula food will be a good option. Wet food is usually your best choice.

As your female cat progresses through her pregnancy, she will need increasing amounts of calories. 

However, do not overfeed her during the first few weeks of pregnancy. Excessive food intake could lead to her becoming overweight. This could be problematic for the birthing process and for her kittens.

At the 6-week mark, the size of the kittens in your cat’s abdomen will start making it uncomfortable for her to consume normal-sized portions of food. Rather offer your cat smaller portions more often during the day. For example, four to six times a day rather than just twice a day.

pregnant ginger cat wondering how long is a cat pregnant

Make Sure She Can Use Her Litter Box

Provide your pregnant pet with a large litter box. The sides should be low enough for her to use the litter box without difficulty once she has gained all her pregnancy weight. Keep the cat’s litter box meticulously clean.

Make Sure She Has a Spot to Nest

Being a cat, your pregnant pet will probably select her own place to give birth. However, there is no harm in trying to create a nice nest for her to have her babies in. Choose a queening or birthing box that is large enough for your cat to move around freely. The sides should be low enough that she can see out. To absorb all the birthing fluids, line the box with newspapers or an absorbent pad. Make it cozy with some old towels or blankets.

Place the queening box in a quiet part of the house, away from drafts, noise, children, and other household pets. Your pregnant cat should feel safe and at ease in this space.

Be Prepared for Your Cat Giving Birth

Your pregnant cat is not likely to require any assistance during the birth process. You might even wake up one morning and see that Mittens has had her kittens and is peacefully nursing them in her nest! However, it is good to be around and to be vigilant, so that you can call for professional help should your cat need assistance. Make sure that you have the veterinarian’s number on hand.

When to Seek Veterinary Care

  • If your cat has been in active labor for 15 – 20 minutes without passing the first kitten, seek help.
  • It is normal for a cat to rest in between birthing kittens. But, if more than two hours have passed since the previous kitten was birthed, contact your veterinarian.
  • If you can see a portion of the fetus or placenta protruding from your cat’s vulva and she does not pass the kitten within the next two minutes. The kitten might be stuck in the birth canal. Call your vet immediately.
  • Depending on the size of the litter, kittens usually arrive within three-to-four hours. If it seems as if your cat is taking much longer than that, call your vet for guidance.
  • A bit of vaginal discharge after birthing her kittens is normal. However, if the discharge becomes malodorous, call your vet.

When the Kittens have Arrived

Allow your mama cat and her new babies some peace and quiet for the first four days. Your pet is perfectly capable of looking after her newborns all on her own. She will nurse them and clean them and keep them warm. Only go to pick up the kittens once you can see that your feline is comfortable with you doing so.

Once her kittens are born, Mittens might become quite distracted and not eat as often as she should. Make sure that her food and fresh water are close by so that she doesn’t have to feel anxious about leaving her kittens to eat and drink.

pregnant cat lying in cat bed

5 Pregnant Cat Facts on Your Female Cat!

What is a Female Cat Called?

The term queen is used to refer to un-spayed female cats of reproductive age.

How to Tell if a Cat is Pregnant

Look out for physical signs such as darkened nipples and a distended belly. Your pet’s behavior might change slightly. Look for nesting behaviors, nausea, and tiredness. For the most accurate result, take your queen to the vet for an X-ray.

Gestation Period for Cats: How Long is a Cat Pregnant?

The average cat gestation period ranges between 63 and 65 days, roughly nine weeks. A feline pregnancy can be as short as 58 days or as long as 70 days.

How Many Nipples Do Cats Have?

Cats most often have an even number of nipples. Usually six to eight nipples. However, they can have an uneven number of nipples.

How Many Kittens Can a Cat Have?

A litter of kittens can range from one to eight kittens. Perhaps even more. On average, though, a pregnant cat will usually have a litter of two to five kittens.

Common Questions About Caring for a Pregnant Cat

Do cats experience morning sickness like pregnant women? 

What should a pregnant cat be eating during her pregnancy?

How long does it take for a cat to give birth?

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