Cats may deliver a stillborn kitten due to an infection, a congenital defect, or malnutrition of the mother. Sudden complications can also arise during delivery, putting both mother and babies at serious risk. Giving birth is a long, difficult and dangerous process, so you should monitor your pregnant cat carefully and contact a veterinarian immediately if problems arise.
Difficulties during labor and delivery
Many things can go wrong during a delivery, which is why owners should pay close attention from beginning to end. The fluid-filled sac that surrounds newborns can get stuck as a kitten is being pushed out. The sac must be removed within a few minutes of its appearance or the baby may die.
Unborn kittens may also become lodged in the birth canal or become tangled in the umbilical cord. Cats deliver at different time intervals, some take longer than others. Contact your veterinarian if your cat is in intense labor for more than 20 minutes without producing a kitten, or if a couple of hours pass between deliveries.
Congenital malformation of kittens
In most cases, a stillborn kitten is the result of a fetal defect or deformity. A kitten may die in the womb due to the irregularity or may be aborted and absorbed by the mother's body. Congenital malformations may result from a flaw in the kitten's genes or a problem during early development.
Defects during development can also occur due to health issues of the mother, including stress and malnutrition. Taurine deficiency is known to hinder the development of the muscles and bones in kittens. Exposure to pharmaceuticals, toxins, and chemicals can also lead to birth defects in kittens.
While not all congenital malformations are preventable, proper care and feeding during pregnancy can help reduce the chances of problems with the kittens. Keep your cat safe by keeping chemicals and medications in a secure location and feed a quality diet throughout her pregnancy.
Several viral infections can cause cats to deliver a stillborn kitten. The feline panleukopenia virus can infect unborn kittens and cause cerebellar hypoplasia, a fatal deformity of the skull. This may affect the entire litter or a single kitten.
Feline leukemia virus is another dangerous pathogen that can cause stillbirth in cats. Kittens who contract the disease from their mothers may pass away shortly after delivery. This effect is also called fading kitten syndrome.
Viral and bacterial infections in a pregnant cat are always a risk for kittens, so it's important to keep the mother in good health through delivery. Make sure she is current on all of her vaccination prior to breeding.
Preparation and precautions
Prepare for your cat's delivery in the weeks before so you are ready to act when the moment comes. Provide the mother with a secluded and controlled location free of noise, people, and other animals. Keep your phone close by so you can contact the animal hospital or your veterinarian if any complications arise. Watch closely for signs of distress during delivery and be ready to get professional assistance if needed.