Is your cat expecting? – these are exciting times for you both!
But not to worry – Cats intuitively know how to
manage and are pretty self-sufficient for the most part.
However, you can help the future mum to be as comfortable as possible and help her with the task of delivering healthy kittens into this world.
What is the duration of a cat’s pregnancy? What is a perfect birthing box and what will the event itself look like?
Many questions will come to mind when you have not experienced this before.
This is why we have collected all the necessary information here for you on what a pregnant cat needs and what important factors should be considered – a digital birth preparation so to speak!
There are certain signs telling you that your animal could be pregnant. Many are slightly similar to the ones we know from human beings.
Cravings for particular
foods are an indicator as well as morning sickness and a steadily growing
If your cat suddenly has even more cravings than usual and gets bigger around the waist, that still doesn’t necessarily mean that offspring are in sight!
However, if this is accompanied by morning sickness, if the nipples are swollen and your cat is even more affectionate than usual, the accumulating signs could well mean that you can count on additional kittens in your house soon.
extremely fertile animals.
A non-neutered cat can deliver up to three times a year!
As soon as it is fertile and receptive, it can get pregnant.
The fertile, or “on heat” days are obviously those on which your cat can get pregnant.
Receptive and non-neutered, this can be the case every two to three weeks.
When do cats reach sexual maturity?
Cats can – according to breed – be receptive as of the fourth or fifth month: Abyssinian, Sacred Birman and Siam cats can get pregnant at this age, while Persians need to reach seven to eight months to be able to become mother cats.
The weight also plays a significant role.
A “randy” behaviour of the cat indicates that it is ready to mate. This can occur several times a year and the phase can take between 7 and 10 days, only to start again within 2 or three weeks time.
The phase of a cat’s readiness to mate is called
being “randy” or “on heat”.
Hormones play a significant role here:
During this period, the oestrogen levels are rising, the ovulation is near and the female starts looking for a tom cat – if there are several prospective partners around, things can get pretty exciting!
In the open wild, the cat may accept several mating partners, which is why the kittens often look so different from each other.
Rolling about, setting off distinct fragrances, loud mewing and maybe even tail and bottom pointing upwards all are symptoms to say: “It’s mating season!”
This means the cat is on heat and ready to mate. Some cats even loose their appetite during this period. Normally, this “randy” phase lasts until a suitable mating partner is found, then it’s “back home again”.
Around two months will go by until the offspring are developed enough to enter the world.
The young ones go through different stages of
development until they are ready for birthing.
Depending on the breed, kittens are born after
58 – 67 days of gestation.
Smaller breeds don’t take as long as larger
If nothing has happened around the 70th
day, you should consult a vet who will examine the mother cat thoroughly and
give advice on how to proceed.
Day 6: Transfer of the fertilised eggs to the uterus
Day 12: Settling in the uterine wall
Day 15: Connection of the embryos with the mother cat’s
Day 21: The embryos can now be seen via an ultrasound
Day 28: The embryos are 3-4 cm in size
Day 38: Nerves, sensory organs and muscles are
Day 50: The babies in the making are ca. 7 cm in size
now and the fur is growing
Day 60: “Ready for delivery”
The kittens are preparing
for the big day. They are now complete, tiny cats “with all the trimmings” and
measure ca. 13 cm shortly before delivery.
The number of kittens per litter varies.
One – two – or up to five kittens enter the world at once, sometimes even six!
This depends on the breed as well as on the mating ritual:
When did the female mate and with how many partners?
If the cat decides to mate again during the
first three weeks of the gestation period, further fertilisation is well
For that reason, kittens of the same litter
often vary a lot – from different fur and eye colour through to individual
stages of development at birth.
Is your cat expecting or not?
Directly after the mating, the gestation cannot
yet safely be identified. Only after three weeks, the developing
offspring can be confirmed by way of palpation.
But be careful and let the vet do the examination. A wrong or harsh grip can hurt the kittens a lot!
After three weeks, your cat’s nipples will be swollen, turn pink (“pinking-up”) and protrude more than usual. They are also more exposed because the fur around them thins out a little.
The most obvious sign for your cat’s pregnancy
are swollen nipples.
They are a sure sign which catches the eye
immediately and a safe indicator of growing offspring.
The nipples will not only grow but also change their colour in the following weeks. “Skin-coloured” turns to pink and then to a reddish hue which deepens with time.
When your feline friend is pregnant, her appetite will grow along with the belly!
Even if your cat is not constantly ravenous – the tummy will grow and the bodyweight will steadily increase.
Depending on the number of embryos, the female can gain up to 2 kilos in weight.
Pregnant cats with their constantly changing body often develop a so-called mule look: The bulging belly and developing swayback are indicators for the increasing bodyweight they are carrying around. The growing embryos in their tummy produce a ball shape which in turn causes the spine to bend. The result is a sunken back.
This is referred to as “mule figure”.
Your cat will show typical signs during the
gestation period that are often comparative to those indicating human
pregnancy, such as frequent sickness and mood swings.
Just a minute ago your cat may have looked for attention and cuddles – in the next it will suddenly retreat and wants to be left alone. For this, the cat will seek out a place where no one has access. Respect her oasis of peace and tranquillity!
Adjusting to the physical changes is as challenging for your pregnant cat as for a human mother-to-be.
Keep in mind: A visit to the vet’s is never a piece of cake and should only be undertaken in case of real need – but better to be safe than sorry!
Your cat’s body is changing a lot during
pregnancy and the needs therefore are different from those of a non-pregnant
What should you be aware of?
What could potentially be harming for mother and offspring? How can you make the gestation period as pleasant as possible for our animal?
Provide enough light and airfor the
Exercise in moderation is always a good idea.
However, high jumps are to be avoided as well as cat fights, which can not only cause stress but are potentially dangerous for your cat as well.
No need to pamper your cat or treat it like a porcelain doll, but try to avoid stressful and unfamiliar situations.
Pregnant cat – what is the right food?
Nutrition is a major factor during pregnancy as your cat’s body changes massively and needs a lot more energy than usual.
For example, an increased daily calories-intake by 50% is recommended.
Make sure that the future mum has access to enough
high-quality food and fluids with all the necessary minerals and vitamins
needed during pregnancy.
The food required for pregnant and mother cats
can be obtained from any specialist shop. If you like to prepare it yourself,
please make sure to include all the necessary elements – such as protein and
vitamins – that your cat needs now.
Best to compose a food plan, so that the nutrition for your pregnant cat is
By the way, the future mum should enjoy the same
kind of food also during the nursing period, when the little ones still
get all of their nutrition from her.
During the last phase of the pregnancy, you will
be able to observe your cat looking for the perfect spot for giving birth,
undisturbed and in peace.
You can help by providing a comfortable
birthing box – it should be big enough for the future mum and their kittens
to freely move around.
A lidded box, nice and warm but not too hot,
placed in a quiet corner free of drafts would be perfect.
Vaccinations should be done prior to the gestation period, so that antibodies are already present and can be passed on to the kittens via the mother’s milk. The same goes for de-worming: This should also be done before the mating season, so that the little ones don’t get infested through the mother’s milk. De-worming therapies and medications: Ideally, a cat should be de-wormed prior to a pregnancy. If not, this should happen during gestation at the latest, so that the milk is worm free and there is no danger of infestation of the kittens via the mother. Never medicate or treat your cat without consulting the vet – who will be able to advise you on the correct medication suited for pregnant animals.
As the big day nears, your cat will become more
affectionate and clingy.
Young cats are often specifically anxious, especially during their first pregnancy.
Don’t leave them alone too much. Spend a lot of time with them and spoil them rotten, even if to them giving birth is a natural process and may be able to do it all by themselves in the end. Yes, they prefer to be alone and without the help of a human “midwife” on their big day, but there is no harm in showing them upfront that we are there for them if needed. We receive so much affection from them – now is the time to give something back.
The delivery of the
little kittens into this world is a very special event.
The wonder of life – and you are right there when the little ones draw their first independent breath! You can support the mum and kids and be right by their side!
Giving birth is a natural process and your cat
will – usually – know exactly what to do.
You can support your cat by preparing the environment, peace and quiet needed for giving birth but during the actual act, your cat will need her concentration and her space.
Only interfere in case of complications.
The birthing will be conducted in three phases.
During the opening phase, the contractions begin. Then, the cervix opens. Then,
during the expulsion phase, the kittens are born.
When exactly will it start?
What are the signs for your cat entering the birthing phase?
Shortly before start, the kittens have grown quite a bit within their mum’s belly – and may have even been seen moving around!
As soon as your cat starts looking for a safe delivery spot, you can be sure that things will start soon.
The mum-to-be walks around and examines everything, from wardrobes to drawers to laundry basket. All the favourite spots will subjected to a thorough inspection.
During the gestation period, the belly has grown
more and more. In the end, it sinks down which gives your cat a pear-shaped
Shortly before delivery, the nipples are swollen even more. They now look like small funnels, sometimes already leaking drops of mother’s milk.
There will be some discharge from the vagina and a mucus plug will be released.
One day prior to giving birth, your cat may eat
less or will stop eating altogether.
However, she will be thirsty and drink a lot more than usual.
Some may be sick, others dig in as usual.
Neglecting food will not be the case with all cats and thus is not a certain sign that the start of labour is imminent.
Prior the start of labour, many cats will become
restless, will look for their birthing spot or go to the litter box repeatedly.
They will wander about looking for a place for giving birth, even if this has been chosen already.
Some will breathe harder, or their mewing may get loud and piercing.
Premature contractions can already announce themselves in this phase - the belly contracts now more often.
No two cats are the same when giving birth and
may react differently.
Before beginning of labour, some may wash themselves constantly, especially after the vaginal discharge and the release of the mucus plug.
Others will go to the litter tray repeatedly, because they feel the pressure of the oncoming labour activity. But at this point they will not be able to release urine or faeces – both can be a sign for the big event starting soon.
“Do not disturb!”
You will know by the way your cat is acting that
she needs to retreat and be alone now. In case of giving birth in nature, she
would now look for a secure, secluded place.
After giving birth, a wild cat even changes the nursery often, so that natural enemies can’t track down the little ones by their smell.
Shortly prior to giving birth, your cat will therefore retreat to a quiet hiding place within the flat; favourites are wardrobes and drawers, as they provide a safe space where no one can observe them.
Kittens need a special cat toilet, which is smaller and easier to access. It must have a lower rim and an entry aid.
Exchange the litter tray after a maximum of two years at the latest. The constant scratching on the surface causes it to crack after a while and the plastic is then not hygienicilet should be filled with non-clumping litter that is well tolerated.
On realising that labour may start soon, you should make sure that the birthing box is set up in a warm, quiet place. But don’t overdo it – tropical temperatures are not wished for.
A room temperature of 21-22 degrees is ideal.
This is important because the kittens depend on a constant room temperature during their first days. Just like human babies, they are not able to keep their own body temperature on a constant level in the beginning.
Apart from a cosy birthing
place, the following items should be at hand:
Prior to the expected delivery date, the birthing box should be ready. Here is an example:
However, those with a knack for crafts are free
to design their own.
Post delivery, you should install a heat lamp, so that the little ones will
feel warm and cosy at all times.
The entry should be elevated, so that the mum cat can enter and leave at her leisure, but tte for a day – that is no problem as yet.
However, if a baby suddenly doesn’t gain weight for two days or even loses some, you should monitor it more closely and consult the vet.
Sometimes, a kitten is neglected or not looked after by the mother cat, or there is simply not enough milk for all.
Then, you need to jump in and feed the little one every two hours. Do not forget to lightly massage belly and butt after the meal to trigger digestion.
TIP: Start to collect newspapers early on, you will need a lot them!
When the birthing box is safely installed and fitted, the aspiring mother can take some test naps in it. That way, she can get used to the box and make it hers because it smells like her already. Make sure she will find her litter tray, her food and fresh water nearby.
The distances to litter tray and food should be
kept short so that the kittens are not left on their own for too long. They
will stay warm with the help of the heat lamp, but there is no replacement for
the natural warmth of their mum’s body. By the way, it might still happen that
your cat chooses another spot for delivery at the last minute – don’t be cross
with her if that happens.
As you know, cats follow their own mind –
especially when it comes to their offspring!
Keep a protocol of the birthing process.
Write down both order and weight of the kittens at delivery.
Give them names. Take a picture (camera or smartphone), so that you can match the data more easily later on.
In case the kittens all look alike, recording the data can be hard lateron, while a variety in appearance makes things a lot easier.
To weigh the tiny new kittens, a digital scale works best.
On delivering the babies, they are covered with
a membrane which the mother usually cuts with her teeth, just like the
umbilical cord. She will then lick the newborn to make sure it starts breathing.
If your feline friend becomes tired or irritable, you can help her: Take a clean towel and gently wrap the little ones dry – thus the membrane will be opened automatically and you will trigger both the breathing and the circulation.
If the mother fails to bite through the umbilical cord, you can also be of help: Clamp the cord at a distance of ca. 1 cm from the belly and use the sanitised scissors to cut it above the clamp.
If the towels are soiled with fluids and blood after birthing, exchange them with clean ones so that the “cradle” stays dry, clean and warm.
The newborns must be snug and warm at all times.
Additional warmth can be generated by heat lamps.
These should however not be flooding the entire box, but only a certain part. Otherwise, it can get too warm and the little ones could loose too much body fluid through the constant radiation.
Heat cushions are also a good idea. They should be wrapped in a towel to protect both cushion and kittens and to avoid giving off too much heat at once.
If the best heating source – the mum – is not around, you can help keeping the kittens warm in various ways. Especially efficient are grain pillows which can be warmed up. Hot water bottles are not ideal as they may fall victim to growing teeth and claws which need to be tested...
Every newborn kitten should be weighed.
If you do this regularly, you have the necessary control on their development. Kittens of the same litter can vary in size and weight and develop in different ways.
Not all of them search and find their mum’s nipples at the same speed – there are the “go-getters” that are always first at the source; others may take their time or are more reticent in general.
Temperaments vary, also with kittens! If one does not gain enough weight and or grow sufficiently over the weeks, you should consult your vet.
Most newborn kittens weigh between 80 and 120 g.
The kittens should grow by 5-10% in weight daily.
Within one week, they should have doubled in weight.
On delivering the newborn, the cat mum licks its fur dry and eats up the placenta.
One placenta per kitten should thus be taken care of by the mother.
Watch for each placenta to appear and be dealt with.
In the case of placentas remaining in the womb, they must be removed by the vet to avoid infection.
Sometimes, birthing can
Young and inexperienced cats especially can be prone to complications.
If the aspiring mother suffers labour for too long and nothing happens, or if the kittens are positioned in a problematic way, things can get dangerous for both mother and offspring.
In that case, call the vet, who will be able to help.
Sometimes, there is not enough mother’s milk
and the cat is not able to feed her offspring sufficiently.
In this case, you need substitute formula with colostrum – that is what the newborn kittens need in the beginning.
As soon as the kittens are busy with their first
meal, the mother starts cleaning herself. The little ones have searched – and
hopefully found – the nipples and are happily drinking away. Often, they just
fall asleep afterwards, in the same position. Or their mum starts washing them
to trigger metabolism and digestion.
The first mother’s milk entails
colostrum, which the little ones must not miss out on, because it strengthens their immune system
and protects them from infections.
Many mother cats instinctively transfer their kittens to a different place after giving birth, to protect them from predators who could smell both the blood and the newborns from far away. Perfect therefore for the new mother: A second clean and warm nursing box, ready to move in to.
At first, the cat mother will not leave the box at all, except for a meal or going to the cat toilet.
Place both toilet and food nearby to keep the distances short and allow her to return to her kittens quickly.
The little ones don’t need their own toilet at first because their mother takes care of cleaning them up.
Only by the time that you give them extra food
parallel to the mother’s milk, an extra litter tray should be placed in a
corner of the nursing box.
The kitten tolat; favourites are wardrobes and drawers, as they provide a safe space where no one can observe them.
If your cat prefers other spaces instead of the
birthing box, you can also place a big box or basket with towels near her
chosen spot to give her the option to deliver her kittens there.
Cats enjoy to eat various small portions throughout the day.
This equals their habits in the wild, where they would eat from their freshly caught prey immediately. Provided that they are good hunters, of course.
Having food available three times a day is ideal for a grown cat, while kittens need to be fed five times a day.
The mother cat needs high-quality food after giving birth as well.
You may increase the usual amount and add small portions of cream and egg yolk now.
Always take very fresh eggs and skip the egg white.
Feed your cat the egg yolk only, after having separated it from the egg white.
De-worming is possible at three weeks of age.
At birth, the kittens are still protected by
their mother’s antibodies which they take in with the milk.
However, the protection weakens over time and at
8 weeks, they can be vaccinated for the first time.
A second vaccination can be conducted after an additional four weeks.
Vaccination means that the organism is confronted with pathogens.
In case of a future infection, these are
identified by the immune system as “hostile” and can be fended off. The minimal
dosage of pathogens transmitted during vaccination should cause no harm.
Load down the Cat’sBest Vaccination Calendar here. It will support your cat over the whole lifespan and remind you always when it is time for the next vaccination.
The little rascals will learn how to conquer the world while they are growing up.
The first weeks are the most important ones – when they learn everything a cat needs to know through play and interaction with their mum and siblings and their two-legged friends.
We wish all the kittens a happy, long life, filled with everything that cats love and