Cats have their heat several times a year and are very fertile. If a cat comes out when she is in heat, there is a good chance that she is pregnant. The signs of gestation are not obvious, what are the ways to know if a cat is expecting young? How to best monitor gestation and provide the pregnant cat with everything she needs?
A cat is generally in heat every 2 months or even more often, to find out more about heat , how to recognize it, how long it lasts, you can read our sheet on the subject.
A cat can therefore have several litters per year.
How do you know if a cat is expecting babies?
When she is expecting kittens, a cat is said to be pregnant. There are no significant changes in the first few weeks of gestation, but some signs may be noticed after 3 to 4 weeks.
Good to know: gestation in the cat lasts a little more than 2 months: 64 to 69 days.
Here are the main signs of pregnancy in cats:
- a complete or only partial stop of signs of heat
- a change in character (calm, fearful, etc.)
- increased weight and abdominal swelling from only one month
- a gradual increase in appetite and drinking
- late breast enlargement (around 7 weeks)
- the milk arrives late, around two months
There aren’t really any characteristic symptoms a woman can have: no morning sickness, no extreme fatigue …
To be sure that a cat is expecting kittens, it is possible to have a pregnancy diagnosis carried out by your veterinarian:
- by ultrasound: we can see the embryos around 18 days, and detect heartbeats and movements around 30 days.
- by x-ray: after 36 days, when the skeletons of the kittens are ossified. This makes it possible to count the young with certainty and to detect possible signs of fetal death. Better to wait 40 days to make sure you don’t miss a little ossified kitten.
There is no early diagnosis as in women by hormonal assays.
How to detect the first signs of childbirth ? The cat starts to build a “nest” a few days before, she isolates herself from noise and agitation, she purrs a lot. She will certainly lose her appetite and eat little or no food in the days leading up to it. The cat’s temperature drops: it easily drops between 37 and 38 ° C (while it is normally around 38.5 ° C). Following this drop in temperature, farrowing generally takes place within 24 hours.
How to monitor the pregnancy of a female cat? What care should be given to a pregnant cat?
Generally speaking, gestation in the cat is not very risky and goes smoothly. Keep an eye on her general condition: that she eats well, does not seem downhearted, does not have any bleeding, etc … Do not hesitate to consult your veterinarian in case of doubt.
Spontaneous abortions (miscarriages) are rare, when they occur they are early and often go unnoticed. The risk of eclampsia (disorders linked to a too low calcium level) during gestation or after is much less important in the cat than in other species, the bitch in particular.
Give your pregnant cat a suitable diet
We generally recommend switching to kitten food from the 2nd month of gestation.
An additional supply of energy and protein will be beneficial during gestation, and throughout lactation until weaning of the kittens, who will follow their mother’s example to taste the food which will also be adapted to their needs.
We do not ration a pregnant or lactating cat, we consider that she can eat at will during these periods. So make sure she always has a bowl of food on hand, as well as fresh, clean water.
Handling kittens in utero
Do not deprive yourself of caressing your pregnant cat, you can very well touch and handle her by taking a few precautions: if you have to lift her for example, take it under the hindquarters rather than under the belly.
Kittens are able to feel sensory stimulation in the womb and their psycho-social development would already begin in their mother’s womb. It is therefore possible to start handling the kittens in utero, by stroking the mother’s belly during gestation. This allows the kittens to get used to the contact and it is positive for their future socialization.
Vaccinations and antiparasitic treatments
Cats pass their antibodies to their kittens during lactation, so it is beneficial if the level of antibodies is high. Check with your veterinarian if your cat is up to date with her vaccinations ideally before gestation.
Some vaccines cannot be used during pregnancy, discuss this with your veterinarian.
It is important to continue to deworm and treat a pregnant cat for fleas and ticks. Some antiparasitics can be used safely during pregnancy. Again, ask your veterinarian for advice.
In the last days of gestation, try as much as possible to keep your cat indoors so that she will breed in a safe and comfortable place.
You can provide your cat with a “nest” with a cardboard box lined with fabrics or towels, place it in a calm and peaceful place so that your cat feels good there. Impossible to guarantee that she will agree to give birth in this nest however… she can choose a completely different place more to her liking, watch well under the duvets, in the cupboards, behind the furniture, in the recesses… You can try it. move to her nest if the chosen location does not seem suitable to you, but be aware that it is possible, even after giving birth that the cat tries to take her kittens elsewhere in a corner that seems better to her …