Having a cat is like having a companion, and thus it is no surprise that many people prefer to have these little bundles of joy in their homes. If you have a female cat, you have to know what to do when they get pregnant. There is a myriad of books that have covered the pregnancy period that cats go through. Granted, some of them are spot on, but most of them either offer inconclusive information, or the information may be a bit outdated. The raison d’etre of this article is to try to help you ensure that during your cat’s gestation period, you will take care of your little bundle of joy, and that, even after delivery time, the cat remains comfortable. The first question to cover is how do you know whether a cat is pregnant or not.
Getting ready to deliver
A cat’s pregnancy, or its gestation period, lasts about 63 to 65 days. This is about two months long. However, it can even extend to 72 days, according to WebMD. More often than not, in the first couple of weeks, your cat will not show any signs, or significant signs, of pregnancy. This thus gives you a month, more or less, to plan for your cat’s pregnancy.
Signs that your cat is pregnant
There are a couple of signs that will hint as to whether your cat is pregnant. Of course, being the cat guardian, you should know the normal nature of your cat so that any deviation from the natural habits will raise the alarm. According to Forever Vets, some of the old-fashioned ways, to tell whether your cat is pregnant include; A change in the heat cycle; cats normally have a heat cycle around every ten days. This is usually accompanied by a lot of yowling and rolling on the floor. If she is pregnant, this will stop, as she is not ovulating while she is pregnant. An increase in appetite; since she is expectant, she will need food for herself and her baby. Her desire to eat will increase during this time, and she may even be able to eat 1.5 times her normal amount of food in one sitting. The darkening of nipples; the cat’s nipples will swell up and ‘pink up’. They may at times look a bit darker and fully engorged, especially if she is expecting more than one cat in her litter. If she has a layer of dark fur, this may not be so easy to tell.
Vomiting; like humans, morning sickness is also common in cats. Regular morning sickness, early on, may be a sign that she is pregnant. However, if she only exhibits this sign without any other signs, take her to the vet immediately. A longer period of sleeping; she will be asleep for a longer period. Weight gain; this is especially later on in the gestation period. You may notice a weight gain of about two to four pounds. An increase in affectionate behavior; though it may seem a bit abstract, as the cat guardian, you will be able to tell the rise in the affectionate behavior that your cat is exhibiting. She will want more attention due to the hormonal and neurological changes that are taking place in her body. Nesting behavior; in preparation for birth, cats usually find secluded, quiet places where they can deliver their litter. She may even start arranging blankets while becoming feisty with other animals about her personal space. Swollen abdomen; this is usually the tell-tale sign that your cat is pregnant. Halfway through the gestation period, you will notice that she is developing a swollen belly. This change may be a bit more difficult to observe if she is overweight.
Ascertaining that your cat is pregnant
The best way to know if your intuition is correct is to take your cat to the vet. There, they will use one of three methods to know whether or not she is really pregnant;
With the experience of a veterinarian comes the ability to tell if your cat is pregnant by simply moving his or her hand around the abdomen. The vet will gently press the cat’s belly, feel the cat’s fetuses, and, as early on as the 20th day will be able to know whether she is pregnant.
X-rays will only be able to show whether the cat is pregnant from the 40th day after the skeletons of the expected kittens have begun to form. By using x-rays, you can tell the number of kittens to expect. That being said, although effective, x-rays are not always correct and are usually not recommended until the 55th day of pregnancy.
An ultrasound will be able to confirm whether the cat is pregnant after 16 days. It will not, however, be able to tell you how many kittens you should be expecting.
Caring for your pregnant queen
The term queen is both a term of endearment and a scientific name referring to the female cat about to give birth. The cat can get pregnant when as young as four months old unless she has been spayed to prevent it from happening, After you have ascertained that your cat is pregnant, you should know how you should take care of her during the gestation period, and even after it. Even though rare, some cats do develop a bit of morning sickness. They may even show a lack of appetite while also vomiting regularly. If this is the case with your cat, make sure to take her to the vet immediately to be given the proper medication for it. With the caprices that are hormones and moods in this stage, your cat may show some signs of fatigue, especially in the first few weeks, as she gets accustomed to the fact that she is pregnant. If this is the case, make sure that she gets enough rest and eats enough food to energize her body. As mentioned earlier, since she is expectant, she will need more food to meet the nutritional requirements of herself and her babies, according to PetMD. Thus, you should be in a position to make sure that she gets all that she needs in terms of food and water. Your vet will probably recommend that you feed our cat food that is labeled for pregnancy and lactating cats throughout the pregnancy and after she has given birth. You should know that viruses can spread to cats even after they are born, so make sure that you keep up with your cat’s vaccination schedule. If, while she is pregnant, she is due for her regular vaccination, flea, or deworming treatment, make sure that you tell the vet that she is pregnant.
Preparing for the day
In preparation for the big day, make sure that you make the home as comfortable as possible. If you do let your cat go for walks alone outside, then you should stop it as the day draw near, so as to prevent her from going into labor when outdoors, according to Medic Animal. About two weeks to the due date, you may notice that your cat has begun to act a bit funny. This is called the nesting mode. You can help out by scanning your home to find the best place for giving birth. A medium-sized box with a low opening and covered with old towels, newspapers, and soft blankets are the perfect place for both the mother and her future kittens. Make sure to place the nest in a quiet part of the house. That being said, you can only do so much in helping her out choosing her nesting place. She is going to do what she is going to do. If they want to give birth in the back of the closet or in a laundry basket, then that is exactly what she will do. When you see that your cat is going into nesting mode, you will have to take her to the vet to have her final prenatal visit. The vet will give you all the necessary information on how to prep for delivery, check in the mother and her kittens, and tell you what to do when there is an emergency. There are two ways to know that she is about to give birth; she will stop eating for 24 hours before giving birth, and her temperature will drop to below 100 degrees Fahrenheit
Things to do when your cat is pregnant
Once you have made sure that your cat is indeed pregnant, there are a few things that you have to be aware of.
Check for vaginal bleeding
Vaginal bleeding is an abnormality, and thus, during any feline pregnancy, its occurrence should be a cause for concern. If it happens during the early or middle stages of the pregnancy, then the chances are that the cat has had an abortion or miscarriage. If it occurs on the last days of the pregnancy, then it is a sign that she is having early labor pains, and thus immediate vet attention is required.
It is recommended that you take a fresh stool sample to the vet to be checked for any intestinal parasites that may spread to the kittens. Never deworm your cat using over-the-counter dewormers during pregnancy, as this could be very dangerous. Make sure that you keep your cat is on a safe flea preventative that is vet-approved. Always check to make sure that the said preventative can be used safely with pregnant cats. This will ensure the safety of both the queen and the kittens. Flea anemia is among the most common death causes for young kittens.
Stage one; contractions and restlessness
This is the 1st stage and it is highlighted by cervix relaxation and intermittent contractions. It is not possible to see or tell that it is happening. However, there are several signs that you should look out for. She will be restless, move in and out of her nesting box, vocalize, pant, and may even vomit. Her temperature will decrease to below or about 99 degrees Fahrenheit when she is between 12 and 36 hours before full contractions.
Stage two; Birth
This stage is accompanied by more frequent and stronger uterine contractions that will finally lead to birth. The kittens may be born at intervals of between 30 and 60 minutes, depending on the individual cat, which means the entire delivery process can last for up to six hours, according to Catster. You should watch out for several complications at this stage, one of them being dystocia. This is a condition where the queen is having difficulty during childbirth. If she is experiencing strong contractions and it has gone 60 minutes without giving birth to any kitten, then take her to the vet immediately. Kittens are usually born with a fetal membrane protecting them, and the onus is upon the mother to remove it. The said membrane is usually reddish-yellow. If the mother is unable to remove the fetal membrane within the 1st minute, it will be necessary for you to break the sac and wipe any amniotic fluid on the kitten’s nose. You will then have to open the kitty’s mouth with the face facing down to clear any remaining fluid in the system. If the mother has not broken the umbilical cord or has not broken naturally during delivery, you will have to break it yourself. Ensure that you are not very close to the kitten’s body when breaking. You should also pull the cord carefully, as it may damage the kitten’s organs.
Stage three; Afterbirth
This is the third and last stage and it is the placenta’s passage. It is a greenish-black mass that the cat expels after giving birth to each kitten. It is important to call the vet immediately if you fail to see the placenta. Retained placenta is a state where the queen retains the placenta after birth, and it can lead to infection, failure to take care of the kittens, fever, and lack of appetite.