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What is False Pregnancy?

False pregnancies in cats are rare. The only way to determine if a cat is pregnant or is experiencing a false pregnancy is to visit the veterinarian. Because false pregnancies can sometimes mimic serious conditions, it's important to see the veterinarian right away if pregnancy symptoms are displayed by a cat who wasn't around a male cat during her heat cycle.

A false pregnancy — also known as a phantom pregnancy, pseudocyesis, or pseudopregnancy — occurs when a fully matured female cat displays all of the signs and symptoms of pregnancy without actually being pregnant. False pregnancy typically occurs between six to 12 weeks after the cat has been in estrus, also known as “heat”. False pregnancy does not affect a cat's future ability to breed in subsequent pregnancies.

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False Pregnancy Average Cost

From 349 quotes ranging from $100 - $500

Average Cost

$150

Symptoms of False Pregnancy in Cats

Symptoms appear six to 12 weeks after the cat has been in heat and may continue for several months after a false pregnancy has been diagnosed. These symptoms include:

  • Enlarged mammary glands
  • Brown-tinged fluid or water secretion from the mammary glands
  • Self-nursing
  • Pink nipples
  • Displaying nesting behaviors, such as using blankets and papers to make a nest
  • Mothering inanimate objects, such as toys, stuffed animals, and shoes
  • Behavioral changes, such as being extremely affectionate, depressed, or guarded
  • Swollen abdomen
  • Vomiting
  • Weight gain
  • Mucoid vaginal discharge
  • Loss of appetite
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Causes of False Pregnancy in Cats

The exact cause of false pregnancy is unknown. Hormonal imbalances of the hormones prolactin and progesterone are thought to play a role in its development. During the cat's heat cycle, if she is bred with an infertile male cat, her body will ovulate and produce a corpus luteum. It is believed that once the corpus luteum is produced, the cat's body can no longer distinguish between a real and false pregnancy. Other conditions can cause the same symptoms as a false pregnancy in cats and will need to be ruled out by a veterinarian. These conditions include:

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Diagnosis of False Pregnancy in Cats

The veterinarian will need to know the cat's complete health history, the dates of the cat's previous heat cycle, when symptoms first began, and the nature of the symptoms. The veterinarian will examine the cat and look for swollen mammary glands and signs of nipple discharge, and will feel the abdomen for the presence of kittens.

Blood tests and labs, such as a complete blood count, biochemical profile, thyroid function tests, and a urinalysis will be done. These tests will look for symptoms of more serious conditions that could be causing the symptoms, such as hypothyroidism. A false pregnancy should present with labs that are normal. An abdominal ultrasound or x-ray may also be done. These tests can look for fluid accumulation in the abdomen or uterus, detect a true pregnancy, determine if a uterine infection is present, and look for organ enlargement.

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Treatment of False Pregnancy in Cats

No treatment is necessary if this is the first false pregnancy that the cat has experienced. Signs and symptoms typically go away within two to three weeks but can last several months. If the cat has experienced recurrent false pregnancies, the veterinarian may recommend the following treatment options:

Hormonal Supplementation

More than one false pregnancy is indicative of a hormonal imbalance. Hormonal supplements can be prescribed by the veterinarian to correct these imbalances and prevent future false pregnancies from occurring.

Surgery

An ovariohysterectomy may be recommended for recurrent false pregnancies. During an ovariohysterectomy, the veterinarian will remove both ovaries and the uterus from the cat. This is done while the cat is under general anesthesia. The veterinarian will make a small incision into the abdominal wall. The two ovaries are tied off and removed along with the uterus. The cat's incision will then be closed with sutures.

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Recovery of False Pregnancy in Cats

Cats who have begun to lactate or have swollen mammary glands should have cold or warm compresses placed on their glands. The compress will help to reduce these secretions. An Elizabethan cone, or “e-collar”, may need to be worn in order to prevent the cat from licking or self-nursing, which will cause lactation to occur. Under the veterinarian's advice, food may also need to be reduced to prevent or stop lactation from occurring. It's important to never remove the milk from the cat, as this will continue lactation rather than ending it.

Cats who have an underlying condition that caused the false pregnancy symptoms will need to follow up with the veterinarian for additional care. Hormonal supplements will also need to be monitored. If the cat had an ovariohysterectomy, an Elizabethan cone will need to be worn to prevent the cat from licking or biting its sutures.

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False Pregnancy Average Cost

From 349 quotes ranging from $100 - $500

Average Cost

$150

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False Pregnancy Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Need pet health advice? Ask a vet

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Ask a Vet

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Wispa

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Birman

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Four Years

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Moderate severity

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0 found helpful

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

Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Weight Gain
No Season
Hiding Away
Behaviour Changes
No Swollen Nipples

Hi i have a four year old birman female she snuck out 7 weeks ago before this she had seen the vet who said she was in her prime not one ounce of fat on her all muscle was his words,she began getting fatter and had 2 occasions of vomiting water nothing else seemed well .her personality has changed completley shes gone from being a gung ho ninja cat swinging off the doors to eating everything hiding away and wanting to be cuddled by me or snuggled up to the dogs previously she hated me ,in a more obscure event shes begun attacking our 1 year old when she crys not just a smack but a unrelenting continous attack so i have to lift her off my child she shows no aggresion to anyone else,she hasnt come into season and just had a few vovalisations shes so big now her sides stick out and shes waddling and feeling her tummy it isnt soft and very bumpy its not fat everything points to a pregnancy but heres the thing her nipples are not swollen, some hair is gone from around them or flattened making them slightly more obvious in her fluffy fur however they are small and white i dont know what to make of it under her fur something physical has happened to her tummy i dont feel movement but i do feel lots of lumps what could easily be little paws and im afraid to pick her up now as i ahve to support the belly shes a small cat so im guessing if shes pregnant its only a few but im worried we have a tom that we got in october same breed and he is massive we have seen them mating 3-4 times but hes suppose to be neutered i looked it up and i know its unusual if hes neutered he was a breeding cat but had cowhock kegs so the breeder had him neutered supposidly my worry is he is the size of a cavalier dog so with my girl being small is she in trouble? and is she infact pregnant

June 1, 2018

Wispa's Owner

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0 Recommendations

Without examining Wispa I cannot say whether or not she is pregnant or if she has another conditions like false pregnancy (rare in cats) or a hormonal condition (may cause fat accumulation in the abdomen). You should visit your Veterinarian regardless for an examination to determine whether Wipsa is pregnant or if there is another cause for these symptoms. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

June 2, 2018

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Sparkle

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Domestic shorthair

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5 Years

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Serious severity

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0 found helpful

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

Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Extreme Large Belly

I have rescued a feral cat and her 4 kittens in my neighborhood. The kittens were born prox Sept 1, 2017. On December 18, 2017, I had the mom spayed. All seemed to go well, but after awhile I noticed the mom getting bigger and bigger. I thought she was pregnant (again) but she had been housebound with all 4 kittens since that time (couldn't figure out how she could have gotten pregnant) but subsequently never delivered any kittens. I have never seen a cat this round and I have had cats for 50 years. She is huge and I suspect something is seriously wrong although she acts normal;y. She eats normally and cleans and plays with the other cats. I read an article somewhere that said if a cat is spayed some of the tissue can be left behind in the cat during the surgery which can cause a false pregnancy. It also said that if the tissue is not removed, the cat will have serious and even fatal problems down the road. So that is what I am worried about. It has been 5 months now since her spaying surgery and she has been "fat" at least 4 of those months. She does not look like a normal fat cat and I cannot touch her as she is still feral. Her nipples and underside seem be be ok. I read on here that false pregnancies usually resolve by themselves but I don't see that happening in this case. Can you give me some advice on whether I need to do anything? BTW, I did worm her 6 times since Nov. 2017 with no change in her size afterward. They all had worms and mites and fleas when I rescued them and the humane society said they all needed long-term worming, so that is what I did. But her size was normal up until she was spayed. Also, there has been no vomiting. There was diarrhea but it cleared up with worming.

June 1, 2018

Sparkle's Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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0 Recommendations

If Sparkle is otherwise acting normally, she may just be gaining weight. Without seeing her, I can't comment on what might be going on with her, but a false pregnancy is uncommon in a spayed cat. If you are able to have her examined, that would be best, as they can look at her and see what might be going on.

June 1, 2018

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False Pregnancy Average Cost

From 349 quotes ranging from $100 - $500

Average Cost

$150

Vet bills can sneak up on you.

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

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