When your female cat reaches puberty, usually between 5 and 9 months old, she has the ability to become pregnant and bear a litter of kittens. If she becomes pregnant, she will carry her litter for approximately nine weeks before giving birth. You need to care for your cat during her pregnancy in order to ensure the safety of both her and her kittens.
How Long Do Cats Carry Their Babies?
When a cat becomes pregnant, she will begin to show signs of the pregnancy in both her appearance and behavior. If your cat goes into heat every two weeks but suddenly stops and has swollen nipples, this may indicate she is expecting kittens. During the fourth week of her pregnancy, her abdomen expands with the developing kittens; she gains more weight as her appetite greatly increases. Your cat may also vomit during her pregnancy or show overt signs of affection to both you and other animals in the home. You can actually feel the developing fetuses in your cat's abdomen about 26 to 35 days into the pregnancy.
Once pregnant, a cat will carry a litter of anywhere between two to ten kittens, with the average litter size usually between three and five. The gestation period lasts between 58 to 68 days, the average being 63 days, according to the PetPlace website. A female cat can give birth to up to five litters per year, according to the Sacramento Area Animal Coalition. During this time, feed your cat a diet rich in vitamins, calories and nutrients, formulated for pregnant, nursing cats or kittens, especially during the final half of the pregnancy. Give your cat close to two times as much food as she usually gets, in the last two to three weeks of gestation. Ask your veterinarian about giving your cat vitamin supplements during this period.
Around the 58th day of gestation, start checking your cat's temperature with a rectal thermometer twice daily. Normal cat temperatures range between 100.5 and 102 degrees Fahrenheit. When the temperature drops about two degrees, labor will usually start within 24 hours. Your cat may also stop eating for 24 hours prior to the birth. Prepare for the birth of the kittens by putting together a cardboard box lined with blankets or newspapers that your cat can give birth in and nest with the kittens. Place the box in a quiet area of your home that the cat has free access to. Allow her to go to the box when ready and monitor her labor, which usually lasts about six hours, Do not disturb or move her during this time.
If your cat experiences vaginal bleeding during pregnancy, she may be naturally aborting the litter. Vaginal bleeding late in the pregnancy, such as around the eighth week, may indicate premature birth requiring a cesarean section, which requires immediate veterinary care. Contractions that last more than 60 minutes mean the cat needs help delivering her kittens by a veterinarian. After giving birth, if your cat retains the placenta, the tissue that surrounds the kittens during gestation, she can develop an infection. Cats under 1 year old or over 8 years old should not be allowed to breed since they experience more health complications during pregnancy than other cats. If your cat experiences seizures during pregnancy, she may suffer from eclampsia and require a veterinary abortion.