Cats are extremely fertile feline creatures and often give birth to four or five kittens in a litter, with their pregnancies lasting anywhere between 57 and 70 days. When a female cat, known as a queen, is about to go into labor, she will usually give off several tell-tale signs that start anywhere from days to weeks before the actual delivery, much like humans do.
Some queens will become quite restless and agitated before labor begins and in labor's early stages. The cat may pace back and forth, begin panting heavily and find a secluded area to spend her time. She may also refuse food as it is common for cats to lose their appetite during this time. Vomiting may occur as well.
In the days leading up to the birth, owners should set up a nesting spot for the pregnant cat, known as the queening area. A wood or plastic box can be used, but make sure it is escape-proof for the impending new arrivals. You will notice your cat making frequent trips to this area, often bringing clothing or other soft articles to make the spot comfortable for the birth.
A mucousy discharge may escape from the queen's vaginal area and her vulva may become enlarged and swollen. Temperature is also an indicator that labor is about to begin. Normal cat temperature is between 101 and 102.5 degrees Fahrenheit. When labor is imminent, the temperature will drop to 98 to 99 degrees Fahrenheit. You can monitor this by taking the queen's temperature twice a day when you know she is nearing the end of her pregnancy.
Hard contractions begin when the queen enters active labor, prompting her to remain in the nesting area for the birth. Her cervix will be fully dilated and her babies have made their way into the birth canal. When you see her begin straining as if she is about to have a bowel movement, you know that she is pushing and kittens are about to be born.