Cat Pregnancy Guide
- by Rufus and Coco
If your cat has recently become pregnant and you don’t know anything about cat pregnancy or how to care for your pet during this time of her life, this article will answer some of your most common questions.
We’ll go through how often cats can get pregnant, how long the pregnancy lasts, what is necessary in terms of nutrition and grooming, and what you should avoid as a responsible cat owner. Read on to find out more!
How to Care for Your Pregnant Cat
When Do Cats Become Pregnant?
In theory, intact female cats experience estrus at least a couple of times per year. A cat’s ovaries are largely influenced by solar radiation, which means that at least one of these reproductive cycles will happen at the beginning of spring.
However, given the fact that some cat owners give their pets birth control pills or take them to the vet for injections to prevent pregnancies, there are no set rules as to when these heat periods happen anymore.
What is important to note about this species is that ovulation happens momentarily after copulation. Therefore, if a cat is mated and she is in heat, the chances of her becoming pregnant are close to 100%. Unless the male or female cat has some sort of pathology that prevents this outcome, the queen will become pregnant.
How Long Does a Cat’s Pregnancy Last?
Gestation can last anything between 60 to 67 days, but the average is somewhere around 63. Consequently, you can expect your cat to deliver her kittens around two months after the mating has taken place.
Knowing this duration can help you better prepare and can assist you in making sure you’re taking good care of your pet.
What Should Pregnant Cats Eat?
During the first part of the pregnancy, meaning for the first one to four weeks, your cat can eat her regular diet. However, in the second part of the pregnancy, it is highly recommended that you switch your pet’s diet to a higher-calorie, more nutritious alternative, such as one developed for kittens.
Changing your cat’s food isn’t only necessary to make sure that the litter is born healthy but also because your pet’s stomach can’t hold as much food as it used to. The uterus increases in size as the kittens grow inside it, which means that your cat will only be able to eat smaller portions.
The same goes for at least a month after your cat has given birth. While she is lactating, she needs nutrients not just for herself but also for her kittens. Make sure you give your cat vet-recommended supplements and some nutritious snacks, such as our Reel Fish Crunchers.
If you have the option of switching your cat’s diet to one that does not contain any artificial colours or preservatives, that would be best.
Should Pregnant Cats Be Vaccinated?
A general rule when it comes to pregnancies in animals is that all treatments and prevention methods are best used judiciously.
This means that if you got your cat vaccinated last year and she’s been getting her shots regularly for the past few years, your vet will recommend that you hold off on vaccinating her until about 3-4 months after she has become pregnant.
Vaccines are biological products that might impact the development of the foetuses or the pregnancy itself.
Highly synthetic wormers and flea and tick products are a no-go, too, so you may need to look for natural remedies. Our Flea Flee treatment shampoo might be a good idea if your cat doesn’t have anything against taking baths.
Just because your cat became pregnant doesn’t mean that you can now skip grooming them regularly If they are a long-haired breed, you will need to tend to your grooming routine as usual.
What to Expect During Labour
The entire labour can last anything from 36 to 48 hours, depending on a few different factors. If this is your cat’s first pregnancy, she might have a harder time; however, if she has experienced this before, things might run a bit more smoothly.
The labour can be split into two main stages, with the initial one lasting between 12 and 36 hours. This is the time when the cat’s body receives signals from hormones that lead to contractions and dilatations. Your pet will seek out a calm and comfortable place.
The second stage typically lasts less than 5-6 hours depending on the number of kittens that your cat has to give birth to. Right at the end of the whole process, the cat will release the placenta and other membranes, along with some fluid. Some cats eat the placenta, while others show no interest in it at all.
It's important to minimise handling the kittens as much as possible during the immediate aftermath of their birth. Typically, within the second stage of labor, the mother will engage in the vital task of cleaning her newborns and establishing her bond with them. This process occurs approximately every 30 to 60 minutes. By allowing the mother to carry out this instinctual behavior undisturbed, she can effectively mark the kittens as her own.
The only situation where touching the kittens is allowed is if you see that their respiratory tract is blocked by mucus or tissue remnants - in that case, cover your hand with a towel and try to dry clean the area as best as possible.
Possible Birth Complications
If your cat is straining to give birth and she has already reached the second part of the labour, you should contact the vet as soon as possible. Sometimes, a kitten might be stuck in an awkward position, and the cat might not be able to give birth to it normally.
This can lead to serious complications, especially if you wait for hours. Also, depending on their health status, some cats might develop hypocalcaemia while giving birth. First-time pregnancies are riskier for the cat’s health, so we recommend keeping in touch with your vet.
Make sure that the placenta has been released and that there is no discharge coming out of your cat’s vulva. If the placenta remains inside, your pet could develop pyometra. Some cats no longer have the right oxytocin concentration, so occasionally, there could be not just the placenta left inside but also a deceased kitten. As you can imagine, this can lead to septic shock when left untreated.
Possible Lactation Complications
The most common lactation complication is mastitis. This, essentially, is an inflammatory condition that affects the mammary gland when the release of milk is somehow blocked.
For example, if your cat has given birth to just one kitten but her milk production is enough to feed six, as much as she nurses the offspring, she does have a risk of developing mastitis in at least one of her mammary glands.
A lack of or complete absence of milk production can be another complication that occurs after birth. Unfortunately, kittens need to be fed once every couple of hours, so you have to take over and give them commercial kitten milk to ensure their survival.
A lack of milk production can sometimes be associated with poor mothering, where the cat behaves as her normal self, but doesn’t act as if she has any kittens to take care of. Once again, it will be your responsibility to feed the kittens on the mother's behalf.
If you intend to allow your cat to become pregnant, we strongly advise you to contact your vet. Giving birth is natural to most cats, and while the complications we mentioned may not be as common as you think, it's best to be well prepared for when they do happen.
If you intend on allowing your cat to give birth and then spay her, depending on her health and whether or not this is her first pregnancy, a C-section followed by a hysterectomy could be a good option.
Clinical Management of Pregnancy in Cats, Margaret V. Root Kustritz, Theriogenology, 2006, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7103129/
Feline Breeding and Pregnancy Management: What is Normal and When to Intervene, Bodil Ström Holst, J. Feline Med. Surg., 2022, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9099157/Energy and Protein Needs of Cats for Maintenance, Gestation, and Lactation, B. Wichert, L. Schade, S. Gebert et al, J. Feline Med. Surg, 2009, https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19564126/