It can be hard to know if your cat is expecting kittens. In the first few weeks after conception there will be very few signs of pregnancy. But you won't have to wait and wonder for long – cat pregnancies progress quickly and it shouldn't take much time for things to become more apparent. Below we outline a few simple tips for determining if your cat is a mother-to-be. If you have any trouble confirming a pregnancy yourself, a trip to the vet and a quick examination should clear things up. Before you schedule that vet visit, though, read on for our guide to determining if kittens are in your – and your cat's – future.
One important tip before we get to the pregnancy info: please consider spaying or neutering your cats. Kittens are wonderful, but cat overpopulation is a major problem. Too many unwanted cats get euthanized every day. To prevent unplanned pregnancies please spay or neuter. It's one of the most important responsibilities of every pet owner.
Cats waste little time when it comes to reproduction. Female cats can go into heat and become pregnant when they're as young as four months old, and they can give birth just nine weeks after conception. If you have a cat that has gone into heat and been around unneutered male cats (either at home or outdoors) it's very possible your cat is pregnant and you'll have a home full of kittens in a couple months. Soon after conception (1-2 weeks) your cat won't show very many obvious signs of pregnancy. Things become a little more noticeable by the third week. Your cat will no longer go into heat and her body will begin to change. You might see swollen, pink nipples and a larger abdomen. An increased appetite and vomiting (yep, cats can get morning sickness too) are also signs of pregnancy. Pregnant felines often become more affectionate than usual, so be sure to give your pregnant cat some extra attention.
If you suspect your furry friend is going to have a litter, we recommend you visit a vet to confirm the pregnancy and make sure your cat is healthy and progressing normally. Your vet may examine your cat's stomach, feeling for embryos. Please don't try this at home though – you could harm the unborn kittens and even cause a miscarriage. If your vet has trouble confirming the pregnancy with these methods, they may need to perform an ultrasound. You'll want to hold off on any vaccinations or medications until your cat has given birth. As always consult your vet with any concerns or questions.
Shortly before your cat is due to give birth she will begin setting up a place to have her litter. This is called nesting, and you may notice her arranging blankets or going into a closet more than normal. It's best to keep your cat inside during this time so the new kittens will be born in a safe place. You may want to give your cat a nesting box, and you can make one at home fairly easily – just cut a hole in the side of a large cardboard box, include a towel or blanket, and place the box in an area of your home that's not too loud or bright. It's important that your cat has easy access to food and water throughout her pregnancy, so keep plenty of both nearby. Once your cat goes into labor she may meow loudly and vomit. Don't panic – this is normal. Thankfully cats generally give birth in a short amount of time. You'll want to keep a watchful eye on your cat during the birthing process, but don't get too close or involved. Most births go smoothly, but if any problems arise be sure to contact your vet.
By Niels Ingvar
About the Author
Niels Ingvar is a freelance writer specializing in animal care and behavior, as well as Nordic film and literature. Niels, a native of Aarhus, Denmark, has been living in Los Angeles, CA for 15 years where he writes and actively volunteers at various animal rescues throughout the area.