7 min read

How Do I Care for a Pregnant Cat?

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Overview

So, you've decided to let your female feline go into heat and have a litter of lovable kittens. But before you let your tiny tiger go into heat, ensure you're fully prepared for caring for a pregnant cat and her kittens. While queens are instinctual critters who are well-prepared for motherhood, pet parents still need to provide adequate care.

You'll want to consider her diet, environment, and daily activities once you know she's having kittens. You'll also want to be familiar with the signs your tiny tiger is pregnant and when it's time to have kittens.


How do I tell if my cat is pregnant?

Once your queen is about 4 months old, she'll be able to go into heat. It's fairly easy to tell when a cat goes into heat — she'll start yowling distinctly, rubbing up against furniture, and assuming a mating position.

Cat pregnancies last anywhere from 58 to 67 days. Once your cat becomes pregnant, you'll notice some telltale signs:

  • Your cat's behavior and personality may change drastically. For example, your usual lovey cat may become distant, and vice versa. 
  • Your cat may sleep more and beg for extra food. 
  • Your cat may display signs of "morning sickness," similar to humans. 
  • By the third week, your cat's nipples will become larger and swell up. This change is known as "pinking up".
  • By the fourth week, your cat's appearance will change. Your queen will begin gaining weight, especially around her stomach. 
  • By the fourth week, you should be able to feel the outline of kittens inside your cat's abdomen.


What vet care does my pregnant cat need?

Vaccines

You should fully vaccinate your cat with core and non-core vaccines before allowing her to go into heat. Certain diseases, such as feline herpesvirus, can be passed from mother to kitten. 

Vaccines prevent the transmission of several potentially deadly diseases. And, thanks to their mother's milk, the kittens will have antibodies to fight these diseases during the first 8 weeks of their lives. 

You should avoid getting your cat vaccinated during pregnancy as it could have an adverse effect on the kittens. Certain rabies vaccinations may be fine to administer as long as your vet gives the go-ahead. 

Deworming

You should deworm your queen during pregnancy. Deworming is important as it prevents kittens from getting worms, like roundworms, which can be passed from mother to kitten in utero. Kittens can also contract worms from their mother's milk. 

Some dewormers may contain chemicals that are harmful to pregnant and nursing cats. Always speak to your vet before administering a dewormer to ensure it's safe for a pregnant cat. 

Check-ups

If you think your cat might be pregnant, take her to the vet. Even if she's not pregnant, strange behavior could be signs of a different medical condition. 

After three weeks, your vet should be able to say for certain whether your cat is pregnant by gently pressing on her abdomen. An ultrasound can confirm the pregnancy if it's unclear due to your cat's weight or a medical condition. 

About mid-way through your cat's pregnancy, your vet may advise you to start looking for homes for the kittens, and may give advice on spaying your cat after they give birth. To control cat populations, it's a good idea to get your queen spayed. 

A week or two before your cat is due to give birth, your vet might recommend an ultrasound or x-ray to estimate the number of kittens so you can plan ahead. (Note that x-rays and ultrasounds don't always accurately predict the number of kittens in a litter.)


What should I feed my pregnant cat?

Pregnant cats require more nutrients — after all, they're eating for the whole litter! Talk to your vet about the best diet for your pregnant cat. In general, you'll want to feed your cat a high-quality diet with lots of calcium and protein. Many vets recommend kitten food for pregnant cats, as it has extra nutrients and calories. 

You won't want to increase the amount you feed your cat by much at first. She could become overweight, which could cause complications for her kittens. That said, if your cat is losing weight, you can feed her more food than usual. 

If you decide to change your pregnant cat onto kitten food, transition them slowly. Otherwise, your queen might be put off her food or become sick. 

During the last 3 or 4 weeks of pregnancy, feed your cat approximately 25% more food than you usually would. You'll also want to feed her small meals more frequently. 

By this stage, the kittens are putting pressure on your queen's stomach, meaning she can't eat as much in one go. Try to provide around 5 small meals a day at the end of the pregnancy. 

Water is also essential. As usual, you should ensure your cat has access to clean water.


How much activity does my pregnant cat need?

You won't need to confine your cat to your home during their pregnancy. Your pregnant queen can still go outside, as they need to stay fit and healthy during pregnancy. Consider providing objects for your cat to jump on so she can get around your yard a bit easier. 

Cats are intuitive and will know their limits while pregnant. That said, your cat will need to be calmer during the last few weeks of her pregnancy as she prepares to give birth. 

Your cat will likely stay close to home, but you can try keeping them in at night if you're worried about them straying too far from home.


How do I know if there are issues with my cat's pregnancy?

Being able to recognize problems with your cat's pregnancy is paramount. Signs of pregnancy complications in cats include:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Distress
  • Excessive licking of the vulva
  • Abnormal vaginal discharge
  • Blood in urine
  • No urine when squatting to pee

Any of these symptoms could mean there's an issue with the kittens. Contact your veterinarian if your cat is showing any of these symptoms.


How do I tell my pregnant cat is ready to give birth?

Knowing when your cat is ready to give birth is essential, as you can monitor your cat's labor to ensure there are no issues. Common signs your cat is about to go into labor include:

  • Lethargy and loss of appetite
  • Body temperature below 102.02° Fahrenheit
  • Actively looking for somewhere to nest
  • Excessive licking of belly and/or genitals
  • Heavy purring/panting
  • Scratching


Do I need to prepare my house for my cat to give birth?

Before labor

If you're worried about your cat having complications, you can notify your vet a few days before your cat goes into labor so they can be on standby. Regular vet check-ups will also reduce the chances of complications.

Other than notifying your vet, you can help your cat by providing secluded spots for her to nest. Just before labor, queens seek a quiet, comfortable place where they can give birth. 

Set up some cardboard boxes lined with old towels or blankets in secluded spots like under the stairs or in a closet. Make sure the walls of the box are high enough that inquisitive kittens can't escape. Don't worry if your cat doesn't use the nests you set up. 

You can also try to keep your cat inside in the run-up to giving birth so they don't have kittens outside. 

During labor

During labor (or "queening"), cats require very little help, and complications are rare, so just let Mother Nature do its job.

That said, you should keep an eye on the delivery to ensure there are no complications that require immediate attention. Difficulties giving birth are known medically as dystocia.

Giving birth to one kitten can take anywhere from 10 minutes to an hour. If it's been longer than 3 hours between kittens, contact your vet.

Stay nearby but do not intrude on your cat while they give birth, as this may cause them undue stress, which could cause complications. However, no two cats are the same, and some can interrupt labor for 24 hours in between births if their human leaves the house.


What are the stages of labor for cats?

Cats give birth in three stages. The first stage of labor lasts for approximately 36 hours but could be shorter if your queen has had kittens before. During this time, your cat will set up her nest and have mild contractions. At the end of the stage, she will begin scratching and panting more frequently. 

In the second stage of labor, stronger contractions will begin. This stage can last anywhere from 5 minutes to 30 minutes. Your cat will begin actively pushing out their kittens. Kittens are usually born head first, with their inner membrane sac covering them for lubricant. Your queen will break the sac and cut the umbilical cord herself. 

In the third and final stage of labor, your cat will pass the fetal membranes and the placenta. Your cat will eat the placenta once it's delivered. Your cat should finish all 3 stages within 4 to 6 hours. 


How do I look after newborn kittens?

Once all the kittens are born, your cat will need little to no assistance at first. That said, you should keep an eye on the situation in case there are complications after birth. You might notice that all the kittens look completely different. This is because it’s possible for cat to have kittens from multiple partners in the same litter.

Queens can reject kittens. If this is the case, you'll need to intervene. If you have to care for one of the kittens, you'll need to keep them warm and rub them gently to dry them. You'll also need to feed them milk. Contact your vet, who will be able to supply you with powdered kitten formula. You should feed kittens every 2 to 4 hours. 

If your cat doesn't reject any of the kittens, she'll require no assistance until the kittens are older. The best thing you can do to care for newborn kittens is give your queen space and watch over them from a distance.




Cat pregnancies can be expensive. Fortunately, some pet insurance companies cover vet costs related to pregnancy in cats. To avoid high vet care expenses, secure pet health insurance today. The sooner you get insurance, the more help you’ll have to care for your pregnant queen.


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