Our cats may still have the instincts of a hunter in the wilderness, but they’re not really predators anymore. Cats are supposed to lurk, pry, and chase to put food in their bellies, but now that they receive ready meals in their bowels regularly, all they do now is just eat and play.
However, there seems to be a common misconception amongst cat owners that house cats can handle their pregnancy on their own, which couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, it has been proven that dystocia, or simply difficulty of birth, is very common in purebred cats.
For you to be there for your queen, you first have to know the physical and personality changes that indicate that your cat is pregnant. These changes might be subtle initially, but they become more and more evident after around three weeks from breeding.
Pregnancy In Cats:
- The pregnancy period of a cat lasts for 58-67 days and the heat cycle takes place every 10-14 days
- A pregnant cat can have 4-6 kittens/litter and a fertile cat can have 1-2 litters/year
- Physical pregnancy indicators include the cease of heat cycles, an increased appetite, added weight, swollen pinkish nipples, and vomiting
- Personality changes that indicate pregnancy include increased affection, longer sleeping cycles, and nesting inclinations
- Clinical pregnancy diagnosis can take place using palpation techniques, ultrasounds, and radiographs
- Signs of labor include nesting behavior, temperature fall, loss of appetite, an increase in the size of the mammary glands, and behavioral changes such as restlessness
Physical Indicators of Cat Pregnancy
The first sign your cat might be pregnant is if her regular heat cycles suddenly cease. Cats often get their heat cycles every 10-14 days. If the cycle doesn’t take place around that period, reckon that your cat might be pregnant.
While most cats are used to a specific feeding schedule set by their owners, pregnant cats tend to show a little more interest in food. This is one of the reasons it’s important to be there for your cat during pregnancy, mainly because she’s not eating to feed herself alone.
Obviously, a pregnant cat will gain a few extra pounds over the course of her pregnancy as she might be having an average of 4-6 kittens inside of her. Weight gain is also a product of the cat’s sudden increased interest in food.
Another visual sign that may indicate pregnancy in a cat is when the nipples swell and turn a bit rosier in color than they usually are. This is a process that a lot of breeders call “pinking”. It’s not easy to observe a cat’s nipples between all of that fur if she’s on and about, so do it intentionally if you suspect pregnancy.
Nipples aren’t the only thing that’s going to swell. Yes, you’ve guessed it. The cat’s abdomen will begin to swell around the fifth week of her pregnancy. The swelling will continue to grow until it’s time for the cat to give birth.
Just as pregnant women go through intense phases of morning sickness, pregnant cats are also prone to possible vomiting (but here are the best cat foods to prevent vomiting) every now and then. However, if your cat’s vomiting starts happening frequently and continuously, we’d advise visiting your veterinarian to check up on your cat.
Personality Indicators of Cat Pregnancy
There are a few changes in a cat’s personality that take place during pregnancy. The very first indicator is that your cat becomes more affectionate all of a sudden. She’ll start to seek out your attention more frequently, which should be easy to notice since cats seem like they don’t want to be bothered most of the time.
Additionally, your cat’s sleeping cycles will increase significantly. Those all of those hours of play that you’re used to seeing from your cat will likely be replaced by long hours of sleep.
Lastly, a pregnant cat will show nesting inclinations as parturition approaches. You’ll always find her laying in private, quiet places waiting for the birth to take place. During that phase, try not to bother her at all. Just leave her alone and observe from afar to see if she needs anything.
Clinical Diagnosis of Cat Pregnancy
If a few of the above-mentioned indicators check out but you’re still not sure whether your cat is pregnant or not, it would be the soundest decision to visit your veterinarian to run a diagnosis. A few things that your veterinarian can do to check for your cat’s pregnancy include:
- Palpation of the Abdomen – This is basically when the veterinarian uses his hands and fingers to run a physical examination on your cat’s abdomen. This should typically happen around the third week of pregnancy. This is a useful method, but it’s not always accurate.
- Ultrasound – With the aid of an ultrasound scan on your cat’s abdominal region, the vet will be able to figure out the number of fetuses occupying your cat’s abdomen during the second week of pregnancy. And during the third week, heartbeats could be detected. It’s not always accurate, however.
- Radiographs – This is the most common approach that veterinarians use to check up on pregnant cats as they approach the final stages of pregnancy. It’s the most effective way to find out the number of kittens that a pregnant cat is carrying as the physical frames of kitten become visible on radiographs around day 42 of the pregnancy.
How Long Do Cat Pregnancies Last?
A cat’s pregnancy period will last anywhere 58-67 days. This may not seem like a very long time considering the 9 months that a female human takes to conceive, but when you put into account the age ratio between cats and humans, you realize that this is a lengthy time period.
A 1-year-old cat is approximately 15 years old in human years and a 2-year-old cat is around 24 years old in human years. From thereon after, every calendar year equates to four cat years in a cat’s life span, meaning that a 5-year-old cat is approximately 36 years of age in human years.
So a 60 day pregnancy for your cat would be about equivalent to about an 8 month pregnancy for a human! 60 days doesn’t seem like a lot to us, but it’s a big deal for your girl.
How Many Kittens Can a Cat Have Per Litter?
Based on pet statistics provided by the ASPCA, a pregnant cat can give birth to an average of 4 to 6 kittens per litter. A fertile cat is able to have an average of 1 or 2 litters per year. Not to state the obvious, but the number of kittens that a cat can have per litter and the number of litters that a cat can have per year varies from one cat to another.
If your cat is pregnant and you’d like to know how many kittens she’s going to give birth to, we’d highly advise visiting your vet to run one of the three above-mentioned diagnoses. This is a good way to prepare for the kittens you’re going to care for. Keep in mind that if you intend on spaying your cat, you should do so as early as possible.
What Are the Signs of Approaching Labor?
How do you know when your cat is approaching or in active labor? Here are a few telling signs that every cat owner should know:
As your cat approaches labor, it will tend to display nesting behavior. There are a few things that you can do to help your cat through this period. The first thing you can do is place a nesting box in a quiet, private, and warm place that’s completely free of draft because kittens don’t have the ability to regulate their body temperature.
Moreover, if you have children or other pets in your household, you need to make sure that the nesting box is completely out of their reach. Cats in labor just want to be left alone and don’t like to be bothered at all. Further, as soon as your cat’s nesting behavior begins to take place, try to encourage your cat to remain in the box even throughout her sleep cycles.
The normal temperature of a cat is between 100º to 102.5º F. As labor approaches, your cat’s temperature will plummet to 99º F, which is completely normal and it shouldn’t alarm you. You can take your cat’s temperature in the armpit, but most cats won’t let you during their nesting phase. This shouldn’t be a problem as there are plenty of other labor indicators.
This is one of the most evident signs to tell if your cat is going into labor, especially considering that your cat’s appetite tends to skyrocket during the last couple of weeks of the pregnancy. This loss of appetite can be caused due to anxiety or the kittens pushing against her abdomen. Don’t try to force-feed your cat at all, just let her be and she’ll be back to normal after labor.
As your cat enters the final week of her pregnancy, the size of her mammary glands is going to increase. Your cat’s mammary glands extend from her groin area and up to the underside of her chest, and they’re arranged along the outside of her body in the form of 2 parallel rows. Around 2 days before giving birth, your cat’s mammary glands are likely to start producing milk.
The produced milk may take the form of thick secretions that are cream-colored. Also, you may notice your cat licking those secretions off, which is totally fine. Other cats tend to leave it until it dries up. You’ll also notice that there are small scabs of whitish color on each nipple.
Apart from the activities displayed during the nesting phase, your cat may become reclusive at the final week of her pregnancy. You can find her hiding in isolated places by herself. Again, just let her be. In addition, your car may become more affectionate than she usually is. This tends to happen if the cat is being cared for by one caregiver that she has a good relationship with.
Your pregnant cat may seem anxious and oddly restless a day or two before labor. You may see her roaming around the house as if she’s pacing. Also, a cat’s vulva may discharge mildly and it will lead your cat to lick around that area. During that phase, expect to see your cat restless and she’s likely going to vocalize it by meowing, howling, and chirping.
How to Make the Pregnancy More Comfortable?
Most cat pregnancies require no interference whatsoever and tend to go smoothly, but it doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t do your best to make the experience more comfortable for your queen. You can start by keeping her active and fit during the early and mid-stages of the pregnancy. Do your best to pay attention to her comfort level and let her choose her sleeping/nesting place.
If your cat is having trouble consuming regular-size meals due to abdomen enlargement, try to offer her smaller ones. Moreover, your cat’s energy level will tend to plummet during pregnancy, so you may want to switch to a calorie-rich food to substitute for that loss of energy. If your cat displays any signs of nausea or anxiousness, it’s time to call the veterinarian for help.
You’re less than likely going to see any vaginal discharge from cats because they’re meticulous groomers. However, vaginal discharge should be white or clear mucus. If you happen to see different colors, we highly recommend visiting your veterinarian.
There you have it, everything you need to know about cat pregnancy. If you have any concerns regarding your cat’s pregnancy, calling your veterinarian should be the first thing to do. Congrats on being a father or father-to-be of a few furry balls of cuteness.