There's nothing more exciting than anticipating the birth of a litter of kittens. Knowing that your cat is pregnant and will soon be bringing kittens into the world can keep your whole family on alert and crossing off the days on the calendar. Just how long will you have to wait? Understanding cat pregnancy length and the changes that you'll see in your cat as her pregnancy progresses can help you to monitor her health and be ready when the big day arrives.
Cat pregnancy length
According to PetMD, a typical cat gestation period lasts between 65 and 69 days. Cats can have between four and six kittens per litter, and an average mature cat can have one to two litters per year. The number of kittens per litter and per cat can vary, though. This is one of the reasons it's important to prevent unwanted litters since they can quickly contribute to cat overpopulation.
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Feline heat cycles
Your cat's pregnancy will start with fertilization, and your cat can only get pregnant while she's in heat. Catster explains that cats can become sexually mature at just six months of age, though Oriental breeds typically reach sexual maturity earlier than other breeds.
It's also important to realize that your cat can come into heat quite frequently. Purina states that cats go into heat roughly once every three weeks. This means that if you have an intact female cat, she will have plenty of chances to get pregnant, especially if she goes outside or lives with male cats.
How to detect feline pregnancy
According to Purina, your cat won't show signs of pregnancy for the first few weeks. However, there are a number of signs that will emerge in time. After 15 to 18 days, your cat's nipples may become more enlarged and turn redder in color.
Additionally, you may notice that your cat's stomach starts to swell as the kittens begin to grow. She may have an increased appetite, gain weight, and start to seek extra attention from you.
If you suspect that your cat may be pregnant, your vet should be able to ultrasound her belly to confirm. Your vet may also be able to tell you how many kittens your cat is going to have. It's a good idea to get your cat in to see the vet early since your vet can give you some advice on how to care for your cat throughout her pregnancy.
The first cat pregnancy stages
Once you've confirmed that your cat is pregnant, you will be able to track your cat's pregnancy stages. According to Catster, your cat may get morning sickness much like humans during the first few weeks of her pregnancy. Because of nausea, your cat may eat a bit less. However, the morning sickness should pass by your cat's third week of pregnancy, at which point her appetite should return and she will start to gain weight.
By the third week of pregnancy, you may be able to feel small lumps in your cat's stomach as the kittens start to develop. Only touch your cat's stomach gently, though, since it is possible to harm the kittens with too much force.
As your cat moves into the middle stage of pregnancy, she will start to gain significant weight. The kittens will continue to grow in size, and your cat's belly will be noticeably larger, especially if she's carrying many kittens.
The pre-labor stage
When your cat gets closer to being ready to give birth, she'll enter a pre-labor stage that begins about a week before labor. Catster notes that your cat will display a new set of symptoms.
During this stage, your cat's nipples will become larger and more visible, and milk drops may also appear. Your cat will start to seek out a warm, quiet, safe place to have her kittens. About two days before she goes into labor, she will stop eating.
When your cat goes into labor, Catster states that she will start to make some noises of discomfort. She may pace and act anxious, and she will lick her genitals. She should give birth to her first kitten within about an hour after her labor begins. Once the first kitten is born, your cat should give birth to a kitten every 15 to 20 minutes.
After giving birth, your cat should lick and clean the kittens. She will also eat the placentas, which will give her extra nutrition. When your cat goes into labor, you should keep an eye on her to make sure that things are progressing, but there's generally no need to intervene. Try to monitor your cat without disrupting her or stressing her, and keep the house quiet so your cat can give birth in peace.
If the labor stops or does not progress, then you may need to take your cat to the vet for help. If you know your cat is pregnant, it's a good idea to have a list of emergency veterinary facilities ready just in case you need help after business hours.
Caring for your pregnant cat
As your cat progresses through the feline gestation stages, you will need to provide her with a bit of extra care. Catster recommends that you do not give your pregnant cat any vaccines or use treatments for fleas or worms without consulting your vet. You'll need to make sure that any products you do use are safe for both your pregnant cat and her unborn kittens.
Next, feed your cat plenty of food. PetMD advises that you feed your cat her regular food, but you should start incorporating protein into her meals to fulfill her increased nutritional needs. When your cat is later along in her pregnancy, you can transfer her over to a kitten food made for growing cats. While your cat is nursing she can continue with that diet, though you can also supplement it with a quality canned food.
Because the kittens will take up so much space in your cat's belly, her stomach won't be able to accommodate large meals, so feed your cat smaller, more frequent meals throughout the day. Your cat should always have access to food when she's hungry while pregnant, and you should also make sure that she always has plenty of water.
Preparing for labor
Lastly, you will need to create a nesting box so your cat has a soft, safe place to give birth. You can line a cardboard box or laundry basket with blankets, newspapers, and sheets so your cat can make a nest. Be sure that you use items that you won't mind throwing away. Once you've created the box, look for a quiet, secluded, and warm place to put it.
Your cat may or may not decide to use the box that you've created. With enough soft nesting materials, you may be able to persuade her to use the box, but some cats seem determined to seek out their own places to give birth.
Always check with your veterinarian before changing your pet’s diet, medication, or physical activity routines. This information is not a substitute for a vet’s opinion.