Pregnancy and childbirth are the beginning of a new life – this applies to both humans and cats. If your cat is pregnant, not only the joy of small, sweet kittens awaits you. The pregnancy period can become an adventurous journey for which you can prepare. We cover what to expect during pregnancy and cat birth in the article below.
When is a cat sexually mature?
Like all mammals, cats also go through different cycles and stages of fertility. Most cats are become sexually mature at between 6 and 10 months old. The exact time of sexual maturity cannot be predicted, as it depends on the breed, how they are kept and the individual genetics of the animal. A few breeds experience their first fertility cycle differently from the average, very early (in their 4th month), others rather later (in their 12th month). Once your cat becomes fertile or "in season", its behaviour changes and it can become pregnant. Most cats are very clingy and affectionate during this time. Most cats are considered very fertile and can become pregnant up to 3 times a year if their owners do not prevent it (through isolation, sterilisation, or castration).
Is your cat pregnant? Recognise and interpret the signs:
If your cat mates with a tom during while in season, there is a chance of becoming pregnant. To find out if your pet is pregnant, you need to be patient. Cats are usually in season over a period of about 3 weeks and can mate multiple times during this period. Therefore, several toms can become "fathers" per litter. The first signs of pregnancy can be seen about 2 to 3 weeks after the end of the fertility cycle. A definitive ultrasound examination by the vet can provide information, but you can also identify a possible pregnancy by the following signs:
- Enlargement and colouring of the teats (emerge strongly and become pink to reddish)
- Increased appetite
- Occasional nausea and vomiting
- Weight gain
- Growth of the abdomen
- Possible mood fluctuations (from attached to distanced).
If you notice such changes in your cat, you should contact your vet. These signs are not always associated with pregnancy, so your pet should be examined in any case. As a cat owner, you should not touch your cat's tummy on your own, to avoid injury.
The stages of the pregnancy of a cat
A cat is pregnant for an average of 8 to 9 weeks, although this can also vary. Some cats only give birth after 72 days, others after 61. One cat gives birth to about 3 to 6 young per litter. But litters with more than 7 kittens are also not unusual. The development of kittens in the womb involves different phases, which can be divided as follows:
- Days 1 to 15: The implantation and development of the embryos, the beginning of organ, skin and spinal cord development, the end of the head and tail, as well as the first development stages of the gastrointestinal system and the blood flow can be seen.
- Days 15 to 21: The head and abdomen side of the embryos are easily recognisable, a primitive gastrointestinal system exists, the development of the jaw, the cerebellum as well as the front and hind legs, the neck and tail are bent towards the upper body.
- Days 21 to 28: Development of the upper muzzle, ears and eyelids, development of the toes, further development of the genitals, skeletal and muscular formation, formation of jaw, palate, tongue and salivary glands, growth of teeth in the jaw, formation of the peritoneum, lungs and diaphragm.
- Day 28 to 38: Rapid growth (weight and height), formation of triangular ears, development of uterus in female foetuses, growth of bladder, skin and claws, formation of iris (eye).
- Days 38 to 58: Compaction of skin layers, extension of tail and ears, fur and pigment formation.
- From Day 58: Foetuses are viable on their own and all organs are fully developed, birth can take place.
How do I feed a cat during pregnancy?
As with humans, the cat's eating behaviour changes during pregnancy. Since pregnant pets have a higher need for calories and nutrients, it is recommended to change their diet gradually. During pregnancy, calcium, vitamin A, taurine, copper and iron are of particular importance to your cat. In addition to special food for pregnant and breastfeeding cats, kitten food is also suitable for cat mums-to-be due to the increased protein and energy content.
The right care and conditions: What your pregnant cat really needs
Not only the right diet is important for a pregnant cat. As when they are in season, your cat will be clingier and more affectionate during pregnancy than before. She will therefore appreciate extra attention and cuddles. Even though cuddling is now on the agenda, you should skip the stomach area while stroking, as it is very sensitive. If their mood changes, you should react with understanding. Above all, it is important to give your cat a feeling of safety and security. Under no circumstances should she feel stress or anxiety during pregnancy.
Vaccinations during the pregnancy of your cat?
Ideally, your cat should have received all the important vaccinations before it comes into season. This has the advantage that the mother cat can pass on its antibodies to her young. If your cat is not vaccinated, this is not necessarily a problem. Since some vaccinations are not suitable for pregnant cats, your vet should decide if and when your pet will be vaccinated.
What to do in case of parasite infection?
Pregnant cats can also pass parasites and worms on to their kittens, which can have dangerous consequences. Therefore, your cat can and should continue to be treated with anti-parasitic drugs during pregnancy. Talk to your vet about which medicine is suitable for your pregnant cat.
The right birth preparation: The litter box
If your cat is in the last two weeks of pregnancy, you should prepare a litter box for it. To prevent her from accidentally giving birth outside without observation and help, it is recommended to keep a independent cat indoors. The litter box is a place you have set up where your cat feels comfortable and secure and where it can give birth. A cardboard box is suitable as a litter box, which you can pad out with blankets, pillows and towels. In any case, the space should be large enough for your cat and kittens and have an edge over which the new-borns cannot crawl. It is important that the litter box is warm enough for cat mum and kittens (at least room temperature). Even if your cat leaves the litter box occasionally, the environment should give the kittens enough heat
What problems can arise during pregnancy?
Unfortunately, during pregnancy, there may occasionally be problems that definitely required medical assistance. Sudden changes in behaviour are not always necessarily associated with serious complications, but you should be alert. The following symptoms may indicate problems during pregnancy:
- Restlessness, confusion
- Crying, apparent pain increased licking of genitals
- Loss of appetite
- Smelly or bloody discharge
- Bleeding during pregnancy or childbirth
- Urinary tract problems (frequent visit to the cat’s litter tray/toilet area without urinating or blood in the urine)
Conclusion: Make things as easy and pleasant as possible for your pregnant cat
Cats can become pregnant several times a year without prevention. If your pet is joyfully expecting kittens, you should make her as comfortable as possible during pregnancy. Apart from love, care, the right diet and a cosy litter box, veterinary checks are also important. Because your cat goes through different phases during pregnancy, complications can occur both before and after birth. In order not to endanger the life of your pet or her kittens, we recommend that you always consult your trusted vet.
Author of the advisor
"Surrounded by cool north wind, the stormy Baltic Sea and sleeping dogs, I live, blog and write in the Hanseatic city of Rostock. Since dogs and cats accompanied and fascinated me from a small age, I have specialised professionally in the dog and pet industry. As a "dog-copywriter" I fill the websites, blogs and social media accounts of animal companies with life. At the moment I am the proud owner of two male dogs, with whom I like to wander through the nature of Northern Germany."