Cats evolved to get pregnant very easily. While a female can only get pregnant while in heat, the odds of them getting pregnant after mating while in heat are very high.
Usually, the average feline pregnancy takes about 60 to 65 days. However, unless you know exactly when your cat mated, it is difficult to figure out exactly how far along she is.
Cats can usually get pregnant as young as 4 months old. However, it is recommended to wait until they are closer to full maturity for the mother’s safety and her kittens. It is recommended to spay your cat before they hit 4 months to prevent unwanted pregnancies – unless you’re planning on breeding her.
If you do decide to breed your feline, there are a few things you need to know. We’ll take a look at the signs of pregnancy, as well as helping your cat prepare for the big day.
Signs of Pregnancy
Luckily, many pregnancy signs show up reasonably early in cats. The earliest one involves her nipples becoming enlarged and red. This is known as pinking-up and usually occurs around the 2-week mark. This is the earliest sign, though it can be difficult to notice if you’ve never bred a cat before.
Your cat may go through a stage of morning sickness, just like people. This sickness can occur at any time of the day, not just in the morning.
The abdomen will start to swell at some point, depending on how many kittens your cat has. She will gain weight, though the bulk of the weight gain will not occur until late in the pregnancy.
Do’s and Don’ts While Your Cat is Pregnant
Cat Pregnancy: Week-to-Week Breakdown
This is the week when your cat went into heat and then mated. Your cat isn’t technically pregnant yet, as the eggs have not been implanted into the uterus. It can take up to 10 days for the sperm to fertilize the eggs after mating, depending on when they are released.
Your feline will not be acting any different at this point.
During this week, the eggs will implant into your feline’s uterus. Her hormones will begin changing to pregnancy-level. However, she will likely not act much differently. As her hormones increase, you may notice that her nipples are red and enlarged. This is the first sign of pregnancy.
Usually, this symptom occurs near the end of this week or the beginning of next week, depending on exactly when the eggs implant.
This is the first week that the kittens are seriously developing. They have attached to the uterus, and your cat is truly pregnant. Your cat’s hormones will continue to rise, and she may even gain a bit of weight at this point.
Overall, it can be difficult to notice any differences, however.
This is a week that is usually packed with new symptoms. Your cat’s hormones have reached an all-time high, which means she’s likely to develop a few new pregnancy signs. Your cat may suffer from morning sickness. But your cat might be sick all day.
The sickness should not cause your feline to lose weight, however. If this happens, you should take her to see your vet. Instead, her body weight should continue to increase, though you may not notice her bigger size unless you get her on a scale.
You should stop picking her up at this point, as this can potentially hurt her and the babies.
This is the perfect week to take your feline to the vet if you haven’t already. At this point, the kittens are big enough for your vet to feel, so they may be able to tell you the number of kittens. However, this isn’t always super accurate, as kittens can easily hide behind each other.
Your cat’s appetite should be exploding by now. She will likely be eating more than she used to, as all the kittens are starting to get pretty big. She’s also bulking up on calories to feed the kittens after birth. The extra nutrition is essential, so ensure she’s receiving enough food.
Kitten food is particularly vital at this stage, though we recommend switching as soon as you know your feline is pregnant. Kitten formulas contain extra food that your cat needs to thrive and develop kittens appropriately.
By week seven, your cat will have a pregnant stomach. We’re in the home stretch now, and it’ll be undeniable that your feline will soon give birth. Your cat may begin nesting, so now is a good time to introduce a nesting box, though she won’t need it for a few more weeks.
Instead of eating a bunch, your cat’s appetite may decrease as her stomach has less room. Offer meals often to help counteract this.
During this week, you may be able to notice the kittens moving in your feline’s stomach. Their rolls and kicks should be quite evident, especially if she lets you get up close to her belly. Your cat’s nipples will swell more as they prepare to feed the kittens after birth. She will begin grooming herself a lot, which is mostly due to the hormones. Her stomach hair will begin to fall out as well. Again, this is due to the hormones and allows the kittens to nurse easier after birth.
Her appetite may still not be what it was a few weeks earlier. You should continue to offer food frequently or allow her to graze as she wants to.
She may begin producing milk this week, especially if she has already had a litter previously. Otherwise, it’ll happen next week.
Some cats will deliver their kittens during week nine. During this week, your cat may act anxious and pace. She will begin nesting if she hasn’t already. Her appetite will be at an all-time low as her kittens reduce the amount of stomach room she has. Meowing, painting, and other symptoms are common and usually a sign that labor is close.
Some cats will carry their kittens into week ten. Some will not. This may be related to breed and the size of the litter. Sometimes, cats are just wired to carry their kittens longer, though. Your cat should go into labor by the end of this week. If she hasn’t, it is time to call your vet.
Usually, this isn’t an indication that something is wrong. Instead, it is possible that the eggs took longer to implant than usual, which would result in a later due date. Or, if you don’t know exactly when your cat mated, it could be that you calculated the dates wrong.
How to Best Prepare for Labor
Truthfully, when it comes to your feline giving birth, there isn’t much you can do. This will largely rest on your cat’s shoulders. However, you will need to prepare a birthing area for your cat. This should be done around week 7 to give your cat lots of time to nest in the box and prepare it to her liking.
The box should be in a warm, quiet room where the cat is unlikely to be disturbed. It shouldn’t be near other animals or in a high-traffic area. Otherwise, your cat probably won’t use it. The box should be packed with newspaper or shredded paper. If you don’t shred the paper, the mother cat will likely shred it slightly as she feels the need.
You should have towels and blankets on hand during the birth, but you should interfere as little as possible. The cat will likely know what to do, and you don’t want to distract her.
Usually, the entire delivery will be between 2 and 5 hours, depending on the number of kittens. Litters are usually around four to six kittens, which leaves you at about two kittens an hour. Once the kittens are born, the mother cat should settle down and feed them. You shouldn’t interfere as long as all the kittens seem to be eating. If one gets turned around, you may want to move it closer to the mother’s stomach.
If there are more kittens than can feed at once, you may have to switch them out at this early stage until they learn how to take turns. You want to ensure that all kittens get equal time.
The only time you want to interfere in any considerable way is if the mother doesn’t appear to be taking care of the kittens. The mother cat will not stay with the kittens all the time, but she should be coming back to feed regularly. If she isn’t feeding or grooming the kittens, call your vet right away. Hand-rearing may be necessary, though this is very rare with a healthy mother.
- Related Read: Pet Hoarding: How Many Cats Can You Own?
In many ways, a cat pregnancy resembles a human pregnancy, just at a much faster speed. Your cat will begin gaining weight about halfway through their pregnancy and may experience morning sickness as well. When it comes to labor time, you won’t need to help your cat out all that much. Most felines know exactly what to do and won’t need any assistance unless something goes wrong.
Afterward, all that’s left to be done is celebrate the arrival of your kittens!
Featured Image Credit: Pixabay