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A friend of mine and I were having this discussion the other day about his tabby cat. As it turns out, his female tabby cat is pregnant and about to have her first litter of kittens! While it’s an exciting time for them, it’s also a scary one too. Together we decided to do some in-depth research on tabby cats and how to care for one that is pregnant. This article is a culmination of what research we’ve found and hopefully is the complete guide you and others with pregnant cats might need!
1. Take Your Pregnant Cat To The Vet
Pregnancy for your cat can be a really exciting time. It’s also a time when cat owners need to be very alert to their cat’s needs. If you suspect your cat is pregnant, the first step of action is to take them to the vet. The vet will be able to do a few things for you:
- Diagnose your cat with pregnancy through palpitation
- Provide an estimate of your cat’s pregnancy timeline
- Recommend a pregnancy-friendly diet
- Provide medications, vaccinations, and diagnose other health issues
Any questions you have about the process will likely be answered during this vet visit too. They can give you the exact weight of your cat, suggest a healthy feeding schedule and also describe symptoms to look for. Usually, a vet will require that you schedule regular checkups at various points in the pregnancy process.
2. Provide Healthy Food And Plenty Of Water
Once you’ve got some quality advice from your veterinarian, it’s time to put a plan into action. The first thing you need to do is figure out what kind of food your cat needs and to come up with a solid feeding schedule. There are many pregnancy cat foods on the market, but I recommend checking out this one. It provides all of the essential nutrients, carbs, and moisture content pregnant or nursing cats need.
When cats are pregnant, calcium is one of the first essential nutrients that can become a deficiency. It usually occurs after the pregnancy, but for some cats, it takes place during those final stages of pregnancy. When there’s a lack of calcium, your cat can develop some serious health issues. Eclampsia can cause your cat to be sloppy or disoriented.
While Eclampsia is not as present in a cat as it is dogs, it can definitely occur during pregnancy. To help with this, sometimes vets will prescribe calcium supplements if they sense a deficiency is possible.
You should also expect to see a noticeable uptake in your cat’s feeding behavior. They will become require more food than normal, so be prepared to up the portion sizes or frequency of feeding. The same can be said for water intake as pregnant cats are more prone to dehydration.
Naturally, because the food and water intake have increased, so will the production of waste. Expect to change the litter box every other day so your cat has room to go to the bathroom. Also, it’s important to limit cats’ exposure to diseases that can come from a dirty litter box, so the environment must stay relatively clean. A self cleaning litter box like this one can be beneficial too to keep the environment clean at all times.
It can be tough to gauge just how much your pregnant cat needs and when it needs it. That’s why I recommend going to a solid feeding schedule that you can handle whether you’re at home or not. Because most of us work a job, an automatic feeder comes in handy. This automatic feeder by Petsafe is one of the best options out there. It has 12 programmable modes so you can completely customize it to your cat’s needs.
If you notice that your cat is not consuming most of their food or water, then chances are they are experiencing a form of morning sickness or having complications. In that case, get them to a vet immediately.
3. Provide Your Cat With A Comfortable Environment
There are two elements to this. As a general rule, cats should never be put under stressful living conditions. This includes during and after pregnancy. During pregnancy, it’s essential that your cat never goes under any stress. Try to avoid yelling at them or isolating them to the point they become scared. It’s important to be as present as possible as pregnant cats need that reassurance.
If you notice any excessive shedding, lack of appetite, or constant meowing, your cat might indeed be freaking out. I recommend using some feline stress relief devices to help calm them.
Many cat owners seek out various oils and scents to keep the cat calm in the home. This aids a lot with cats and dogs alike who experience separation anxiety especially. Feliway makes a great line of diffuser oils, especially for cats. The oils are aimed at reducing tension and conflicts if you have a multi-cat home. Every cat is different, so expect them to take at least a week to get used to the scent.
Sprays and wipes are also great ways to calm down a cat. With the sprays, you can cover as much area as you need or apply it to specific items in the home.
Outside of making the room comfortable through scents, simply having comfortable objects in the home helps too. Thick and plush pet pillows for cats are the way to go. Try to create an area in the home for the cat to go and relax for long periods of time. The softer, the better. Also, provide a scratching post that they can easily reach without having to stretch their torso to do so. Flat, ground-level scratching posts like this one would work really well in this case for a pregnant cat.
Just before birth cats go through a series of changes that cause them a great deal of discomfort. You might notice that just before labor, the mother cat will seek out an area of silence so they can complete the process. It’s a wise idea to have that area set up ahead of time and to get your cat used to going to that location so they can find it quickly and do their thing.
Also, try to keep other pets in the home well away from the pregnant cat during the entire pregnancy process. You want to elminate any potential bickering and fights among cats and any rough play that could hurt them. Although it may be tempting to touch your cat’s belly to monitor their development, it’s not wise to do so. Touching their belly can cause them to actually lose their baby kittens.
4. Do Not Allow Your Cat To Go Outside
If you have an outdoor cat that has become pregnant, it is absolutely vital that you convert them into an indoor cat for the time being. Outdoor cats are more likely to get involved with minor or serious injuries. The elements of the outdoors can also have adverse effects on pregnant cats. This includes excessive heat exposure, cold temperatures, and inclement weather.
Pregnant cats also tend to move much slower and are more likely to fail in any outdoor battles that may happen with other animals. Diseases, worms, bug bites, parasites, and more are also much more likely to affect a pregnant cat if they are outdoors.
If you have a cat that is primarily outdoors, they can gradually be converted into indoor cats. Keep in mind, that if the pregnancy is discovered in the later stages, then the cat must be brought indoors immediately without question!
Of course, everyone has their own unique living situations, and it may tough for you to bring your pet cat inside. In this case, you should at the very least place them in an outdoor enclosure. Outdoor enclosures provide an extra level of safety so your cat doesn’t get hurt in any attacks from other animals.
A good outdoor enclosure will feature a sturdy frame, locked entry, elevated platforms that are low enough so your cat does not have to jump, and extra space for the cat to move around and relax. Wire fencing also helps so your cat can get enough air but still enjoy the scenery of the outdoors. Pawhut makes an excellent outdoor enclosure that includes all of these features and much more.
5. Set Up Monitoring Plan For Your Cat
When dealing with a pregnant cat, it’s important that you know what their condition is at all times. This is why it’s vital that you set up monitoring devices in the home. This can be done in a variety of ways, but a simple pet monitoring camera like this one will do. Many of these cameras allow for remote monitoring.
Simply pull out your smartphone wherever you are and you can check in on your pregnant cat. A lot of these cameras also have built-in microphone features, so you can even call your pet’s name and they’ll hear it. Monitoring your pet allows you to see if they ever fall ill or even go into labor while you’re away. You can also monitor food and water levels and much more.
Remember, pregnant cats tend to be scratch happy, so make sure you get a quality camera that can withstand this. Also, a camera that has a bit of weight works best because you don’t’ want your cat tipping it over. It’s more ideal to mount the camera high up on a wall where the cat won’t be tempted to jump at it. Especially during pregnancy, you don’t want your cat to be too overly active as it can put the baby kittens at risk.
Now, if you don’t plan to use monitoring cameras to keep an eye on your pregnant cat, you could set up a schedule with the family. Especially later in the pregnancy, it’s a good idea to take shifts looking after the cat. One person could handle the morning hours while another handles the afternoon afters and so-on.
If your cat is a late-night wanderer, then it may be wise to keep them confined to one room while they get through the last stretch of the pregnancy. Doing so allows you to limit what accidents your cat may run into and to keep a better eye on them.
Keep in mind that monitoring a cat during pregnancy does not end with just looking after the cat itself. You need to keep an eye on everything they interact with as well. Observe their behaviors with other cats in the home, check on the quality of their litter, see if the food is suitable and so on. Also, look for trails of debris and other abnormal behaviors such as excessive shedding and more.
6. Be Ready For Sudden Behavioral Changes In Your Cat
The trend with most pregnant cats is a positive change in behavior. It’s been noted that pregnant cats can end up turning into really affectionate companions. They want to cuddle more, purr more, follow you around, and generally want to be in your company. On the flip side, pregnant cats can end up being more aggressive and agitated. That can be due to pain and discomfort associated with their pregnancy as well as hormonal changes.
When it comes to the more affectionate behavior, that is actually seen earlier on in the pregnancy. Usually for the first one to two months is when your cat will almost become clingy to you. Later in the pregnancy, of course, is when things can turn south. Cats become quite restless and fed up over the entire process, and the change in behavior can be quite sudden.
The cat will experience all kinds of discomfort like:
- A drop in body temperature
- Refusal of food/lack of appetite
- Contracting abdomen
- Looking for a location of silence (to give birth)
Pregnant cats also tend to sleep a lot more than the average cat because of reduced energy levels. Allow them that time and space to sleep.
7. The Cat Pregnancy Timeline
Understanding the cat pregnancy timeline is a crucial step for any owner. It helps you understand what your cat may be going through at various stages in the process and helps with planning out the proper care for your furry pet.
Overall pregnancy in cats is a really quick process when compared to human pregnancy. The stages of pregnancy occur in a matter of 60 – 70 days, so it’s a short process. Below is a breakdown of the entire pregnancy process and what to expect in each phase:
Cat Pregnancy Weeks 1 – 2
This is also referred to as the initial gestation period. During this time, your female cat may or may not be carrying baby kittens. It’s really hard to tell at this stage, and even an initial diagnosis at the vet may not yield the desired results. It’s recommended to visit your vet around the 2-week mark to get a better idea of if your cat is pregnant or not.
Cat Pregnancy Weeks 3 – 4
Weeks 3 – 4 in cat pregnancy are filled with plenty of action. At this point, you’ll know for sure that your cat is pregnant. A visible belly will start to show and you’ll also experience some behavioral changes. Your cat should also be getting regular checkups at this point and some of the procedures include the use of:
- Fetal heart detection
It’s very important that you let the vet take care of the palpitation especially as touching the belly on your own can end up in the result of a miscarriage if done wrongly. With the ultrasounds, this gives the vet a chance to look at the embryos, measure their size, and foresee any future complications.
Around days 30 – 32 your cat may start experiencing some morning sickness. This is entirely normal, but you always want to take some precautions. They may also be swollen underneath their abdomen area.
Cat Pregnancy Weeks 5 – 7
At this point, the belly area will definitely be swollen as your cat has gained some size. Along with this will come an increased appetite and desire for more water. It’s important to keep your cat fully hydrated and provide more food as needed. Remember that because the bladder has gotten larger that any pressure on it may cause some messy accidents. Soiling is quite common in pregnant cats, so be prepared to do some routine cleanups as needed.
As far as affectionate behavior with humans that’s a possibility, but the opposite is also a possibility. Your cat might even become less tolerant of other pets in the home which can lead to some unnecessary scuffles. Try to keep your pets separated so that the future kittens are protected from any harm.
The cat’s uterus will likely cause a great deal of discomfort at this stage, so it’s important to give them a stable environment they can be comfortable in. Provide plenty of blankets and pillows and keep the climate well balanced in the home.
Cat Pregnancy Weeks 8 – 10
By this point, female cats are restless, low on energy, and ready to have their furry kittens. You can expect to hear a lot more howling and meowing than usual, and that’s a sign that it’s almost time for the birth to take place. If you see your cat wandering around the home, chances are they are looking for a birthing spot. To help cut down on any potential messy situations, you should birth-proof the home beforehand.
Layout some towels, empty cardboard boxes and whatever else you can find. Just be sure your cat can comfortably climb in and out of the box as needed, but make sure it’s deep enough that kittens cannot escape it.
Once labor begins, keep a close eye on your cat. Look for things such as the kittens not making it out on time as well as checking their breathing. Also, keep an eye out for the placenta that is expelled.
8. Female Cats And Miscarriage
Just like humans, female cats can experience sudden miscarriages during pregnancy. Miscarriages are very subtle and almost spontaneous. Noticing when one actually takes place is hard to point out. Cats often miscarry during the later stages of pregnancy and generally has no significant effect on the cat.
Below are a few symptoms to take note of when a cat has a miscarriage:
- Abnormal bleeding
- A deployed fetus (typically late into pregnancy)
- Your cat is in discomfort or has blood in their urine
What causes miscarriages can vary but below are some of the common reasons:
- The fetus is no longer living
- Hormone imbalances
- Fungus in the uterus
- Parasites from contaminated water
As a precaution, you should seek out a vet to make sure the cat has not developed in an infection. They can also look for a fetus that is left behind and other debris. Vets can take care of removing those remains so no infections develop or spread.
9. Be Prepared To Emergency Care
The actual birth process of kittens is a beautiful thing when everything runs smoothly. However, there can be complications that may go beyond your control. In this case, be prepared for emergency care in the following situations.
- Contractions but no movement of kittens
- Long periods between the passage of kittens
- Miscount of placenta vs amount of kittens born
- Umbilical cord not bitten off
- Kittens not breathing or not cleaned by the mother cat
In general, if there are contractions, then kittens should be passing through the mother cat. It typically takes 2 – 3 minutes for each kitten to be born. The litter on average is between 2 – 5 kittens, but occasionally more. If for some reason nothing has happened after a substantial amount of time, or if the period between kittens is more than 20 minutes, you need to seek a vet immediately.
Ultimately, your cat may need a caesarian section; a procedure that a professional must handle. This is quite a rare occurrence, but it does indeed happen. Usually when the cat has some abnormalities, or if there is an issue with kittens passing through, this procedure must be done. Cats who have experienced hip or bone fractures or have oddly shaped abdomen regions are more likely to need a caesarian section. And of course, if the female cat is taking too long to pass kittens then this is likely the next step in the process.
10. Post Pregnancy Care
After the kittens are born, it’ll be up to you to take care of them carefully. Baby kittens are still developing, so it’s important they get high-quality food that is rich in the nutrients that they need for proper development. Royal Canin makes an amazing baby cat food product specifically for cats 1 to 4 months old. It’s a wet food that’s very soft so it’s easy for baby cats to digest and chew. It’s also designed to be given to pregnant or nursing cats.
After the kittens are born, make sure they have some time to relax and be with their kittens. This gives them a chance to get their initial bonding out of the way without interruption. As with anything else, make sure to get your cat to the vet a day or two after the birth to check for any bacteria and complications. Chances are your cat will be very exhausted, so handle her with care!