What Are the Signs to Look for Right Before a Cat Is Ready to Give Birth to Her Kittens?

When you have a pregnant cat in your home, you're probably feeling a lot of excitement as her due date arrives. And you should be! You might also be anxious about the delivery, especially if this is the first time your cat is having kittens. When you know what signs to look for, you can get a sense of when a cat is getting ready to give birth to her kittens so you can be sure to stay close by just in case your cat needs help.

Kitten facing up with a questioning facial expression
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Your cat’s due date

Knowing your cat's due date can give you an approximate idea of when the kittens should come, though it's never guaranteed that your cat will go into labor at that time. The average gestation period for cats lasts 63 days, so if you know the date that your cat was bred, you can calculate the approximate date when she will give birth.

Don't know when your cat was bred? Your vet can perform hormone tests that can give you an idea of how far along her pregnancy is.

Changes in affection

When your cat is pregnant, she may become more affectionate or cuddly toward you. As she gets closer to going into labor, though, you may notice that your cat becomes more standoffish and seems to want to be left alone.

Nesting behavior

When your cat is getting ready to deliver, you may notice that she displays a nesting behavior. Your cat may withdraw socially and seek out a quiet, sheltered place to give birth. Cats may dig in the carpet or laundry to create a nest, or they may head to a closet or go under the bed to create their safe birthing space. This nesting behavior often occurs about 12-to-24 hours before your cat gives birth.

You can help your cat satisfy her nesting drive by providing her with a nesting box. This can be a cardboard box lined with soft towels where she will feel safe with her kittens. Providing a first-time mother with a safe space is particularly important since if the cat is stressed, she may not properly care for her kittens.

Decreased appetite

In the last 24 hours before labor, cats often stop eating. Be sure to keep plenty of food and water available for your cat in case she does decide that she wants it. During this time, your cat's temperature may also drop under 99-degrees Fahrenheit.

If you notice signs of nausea in your cat, such as excessive drooling, or if she doesn't eat for multiple days, give your vet a call just in case.

Restless behavior

As your cat progresses toward labor, she may start to get restless and may seem uncomfortable. You may notice your cat pacing around the house like she's looking for something, and she may also start to vocalize.

The delivery

Most cat deliveries go smoothly, but it's always a good idea to be nearby in case your cat does run into a problem. Be sure to keep the area quiet for your cat, and disturb her as little as possible while still monitoring her progress.

If you have any questions about the progress of your cat's labor, or if you think your cat may need help giving birth to her kittens, contact your vet right away. It's also a good idea to touch base with your vet ahead of time and to give the office a heads-up when you suspect your cat is getting ready to go into labor. Keeping your vet's office updated can allow them to prepare to help out just in case an emergency does occur.