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What is Early Contractions and Labor?

While a kitten born on or after the 61st day of gestation has good survival odds, contractions and labor before then can endanger both the kitten and its mother.

Pregnancy in cats usually goes smoothly, but premature contractions and labor do happen from time to time. In an ideal situation, a cat would give birth after 63 days of pregnancy. However, factors ranging from stress to bacterial infections can cause a pregnant cat to go into labor too early.

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Early Contractions and Labor Average Cost

From 460 quotes ranging from $400 - $1,000

Average Cost

$650

Symptoms of Early Contractions and Labor in Cats

Before a cat fully goes into labor, there are a few tell-tale signs. If a cat is showing these signs before the 61st day of pregnancy, it is likely that the cat is going into premature labor:

  • Bloody vaginal discharge
  • Lack of appetite
  • Loud and frequent vocalizing
  • Hiding
  • Unexplained affection
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Causes of Early Contractions and Labor in Cats

The causes of early labor in cats are particularly varied, but can be put into two different categories: stress-related and medical.

Medical

  • Bacterial or viral infections
  • Genetic disorders
  • Ovarian cysts
  • Malnutrition
  • Death of a fetus
  • Hormonal imbalances, specifically a sudden drop in progesterone
  • Lyme disease

Stress-Related

  • Loud noises
  • Emotional disturbances like screaming or fighting owners
  • Excessively cold temperatures
  • A recent move
  • Receiving vaccinations while pregnant
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Diagnosis of Early Contractions and Labor in Cats

If a cat starts displaying symptoms of early contractions, it is vital that it is brought to a veterinarian as soon as possible. The veterinarian will require a complete medical history of the cat, as well as some information regarding the pregnancy. This includes things like the cat's general health before and during the pregnancy, information about the symptoms being displayed and any stressful incidents that could have contributed to premature labor.

Once the veterinarian has this information, they will begin a physical examination of the cat, while being careful not to cause further stress. Depending upon the results of the physical examination, the veterinarian may need to run any of the following tests: a blood chemical profile, an electrolyte panel or urinalysis.

The blood profile will reveal any issues with progesterone levels, while the urinalysis will show any disorders or diseases that may be causing the early labor. After these tests have been performed, the veterinarian will perform an ultrasound to see if fetal death or abnormal positioning of the fetus could be causing the early labor.

If the kittens are stillborn or die shortly after birth, they may need to be necropsied by the veterinarian to identify the cause of death. This will help determine if the issue could affect the cat later in life as well as ensure the viability of any future pregnancies.

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Treatment of Early Contractions and Labor in Cats

At this stage, the cat will most likely require medical treatment either for the underlying disease causing the problem or the stillborn kittens.

Stillborn Kittens: Stillborn kittens will typically need to be surgically removed. The procedure is quite low-risk for the cat, but if other undamaged fetuses are still in the womb, it may prove dangerous for them. 

Other Treatments: Unfortunately, there is little that can be done to stop early labor once it has started. The veterinarian will likely give the cat and any surviving kittens medical attention for any complications, but may not be able to halt the process of the early labor.

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Recovery of Early Contractions and Labor in Cats

After the delivery, it is important to keep the cat isolated from other animals for a period of three weeks, with exceptions being made for any surviving kittens, of course. Even animals that live in the home and that the cat knows should be kept at a distance, as the cat will need time to recover from going through labor. As much as possible, the cat should be kept in a warm and quiet room by itself.

After a cat has gone through early labor, it is important to bring it in for a checkup after the three week period. At this point, the cat should be returning to normal, and it can be a sign of other diseases if the cat is still weak or sick after the first three weeks. 

While a cat is nursing its kittens, it is important not to give it any medication without approval from a veterinarian. Many medications can affect the cat's milk and be harmful to kittens.

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Early Contractions and Labor Average Cost

From 460 quotes ranging from $400 - $1,000

Average Cost

$650

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Early Contractions and Labor Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Need pet health advice? Ask a vet

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Ask a Vet

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Domestic short hair cat

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One Year

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Unknown severity

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8 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Labor

My barn cat went into labor last night or early this morning. I found one kitten laying on the cement in the barn, it was cleaned and breathing but sack still attached and cold. We put the cat in an enclosed area. She seems to have no interest in the kitten. She is not currently contracting but has some bloody discharge. Should we be concerned about her right now or just wait and see. The first kitten we are keeping warm and are getting kitten formula until mom is ready for it because it is cool outside

Sept. 26, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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8 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. . Cats will often not nurse a kitten if they know that something is wrong with the kitten, and that may be the case with this kitten. If they are still having problems, It would be best to have your pet seen by a veterinarian, as they can examine them, see what might be going on, and get treatment for them.

Oct. 17, 2020

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Cat

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About 15-16 months

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Unknown severity

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12 found helpful

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Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Spotting Blood

My cat, Baby, is a little over a year old and having her first litter of kittens. Apparently she has had a little bit of a bloody discharge today. Aug. 11th mark's day 63 for her pregnancy, so really close. Is her spotting a sign of trouble or is this normal for cats...? I'm a little worried as I've never witnessed an animal of any kind give birth...

Aug. 6, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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12 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. She should be having kittens very soon, and the spotting may be normal. It would probably be a good idea to do a little research to prepare your self for what to expect. If this is something that you are not comfortable with, it may be a good idea to have her spayed after she has these kittens. This is one website that I found with fairly accurate information: https://icatcare.org/advice/cat-birth/, there are many others. I hope that all goes well for her!

Aug. 8, 2020

Was this experience helpful?

Early Contractions and Labor Average Cost

From 460 quotes ranging from $400 - $1,000

Average Cost

$650

Vet bills can sneak up on you.

Plan ahead. Get the pawfect insurance plan for your pup.

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