The gestation period in a cat is roughly 62-65 days. Sadly most people do not know when their cat is bred that she is pregnant. As a general rule an unspayed cat should not be allowed outside or around unfixed male cats.
If you suspect your cat is pregnant you should have a vet check her out. At this time you can make the decision to have her spayed (thus aborting the litter) or continue with the pregnancy. If you decide to continue with the pregnancy, you should have the vet give you an approximate date she will have the kittens. Begin feeding her good quality kitten food, but do not let her get “fat”.
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When the expected date of delivery arrives the mother cat should be confined to a room in the house, especially if you have other pets, or children. From here on in, you do not want her getting outside at all! The room should be warm and either carpeted, or covered with a blanket. The room should contain a litter box with clay litter (not scooping or silicone beads), a water bowl, and food. She should be able to eat as much dry kitten food as she wants, and be given a small helping of canned kitten food once or twice a day in the days before delivery. Very often on the day she will deliver she may go off her food (she wont eat).
Her nipples will swell and turn pink in the weeks before delivery, she will get bigger and towards the final day, she should form a nesting habit. You will want to have a couple of choices for her in the room you have placed her in. A box, a pile of blankets, a closet, all will make good nesting places for her, you might have your choice, but let her make up her mind. Keep the room cozy and stress free. Her favorite piece of cat furniture should also be in that room.
You can predict the day your cat is going to deliver if you are comfortable taking her temperature. You need to take her temperature daily and you will notice a sudden drop within 24 hours of her delivery.
Most cats do not have problems delivering kittens, of the breeds who usually have complications, the Persian, and Himalayans are the ones to watch closely as they sometimes need costly cesarean sections.
Each cat is slightly different but typically they will lick themselves all over, particularly on their stomach and rear. She might howl or appear to be panting like a dog. Eventually she will lay down for the delivery, pushing one kitten out at first. It may be minutes or an hour before the second kitten is delivered. In this time she will clean the first born kitten, removing the sac it was born in, thus allowing it to breath. Leave them alone at this time so they can properly bond. Usually she will begin nursing the first kitten while awaiting the next. She may eat the birth sac, which is normal behavior.
All through this process you should watch from a distance, perhaps outside the room with the door slightly ajar. Try not to interfere. Within four to six hours the entire delivery process is usually done. The average litter size being four or five kittens. The mother should remain in the room with the kittens until they are four weeks of age. At that time she can be allowed out for a few hours into the rest of the house to be given a break. Do not let her outside until she the kittens are in their new homes, and she is spayed.
When to Call a Veterinarian or Get Involved
- If pregnancy lasts more than 67 days.
- If a kitten appears stuck in the birth canal for more than fifteen minutes, you may try to help the mother by pulling when she pushes, pull the kitten in a downward motion that follows the natural arch of its body. The kitten will be slippery, grab it as high up as you can, rather than pulling its paws.
- If labor goes on longer than 6 hours you may want to call a veterinarian.
- If she refuses to clean off the kittens you can do it, using a dry, soft, towel.
- If she refuses to let the kittens nurse, you can try to help them. The mothers first milk is the most important, as it contains their first antibodies. See below for a link on raising orphaned kittens.
- Any other abnormal or concerning behavior (or physical changes) from the mother at any time is acceptable to call your veterinarian, if they feel it is urgent they will instruct you what to do.
- If the kittens do not appear to be healthy, at any time you can also call your veterinarian.
Click here if you have to care for Orphaned or Abandoned Kittens.
As a final note, please remember that every year more kittens are born than there are homes for. Even if you manage to find homes for all your kittens, it means somebody else did not. Please consider spaying your cat if she is not a purebred who has attended shows to prove her worth as a breeding animal. There are many health benefits from spaying your cat.
Click here to read the Pros and Cons of Spaying a Female Cat.
And for more informaton on How to Care for a Cat with Kittens.