However, you can help the future mum to be as comfortable as possible and help her with the task of delivering healthy kittens into this world.
What is the duration of a cat’s pregnancy? What is a perfect birthing box and what will the event itself look like? Many questions will come to mind when you have not experienced this before.
There are certain signs telling you that your animal could be pregnant. Many are slightly similar to the ones we know from human beings.
Cravings for particular foods are an indicator as well as morning sickness and a steadily growing belly.
If your cat has suddenly even more cravings than usual and gets bigger around the waist, that still doesn’t necessarily mean that offspring is in sight!
However, if this is accompanied by morning sickness, if the nipples are swollen and your cat is even more affectionate than usual, the accumulating signs could well mean that you can count on additional kittens in your house soon.
Cats are extremely fertile animals.
A non-castrated cat can deliver up to three times a year! As soon as it is fertile and receptive, it can get pregnant.
The fertile, or “on heat” days are obviously those on which your cat can get pregnant. Receptive and non-castrated, this can be the case every two to three weeks.
When do cats reach sexual maturity?
Cats can – according to breed – be receptive as of the fourth or fifth month: Abyssinian, Sacred Birman and Siam cats can get pregnant at this age, while Persians need to reach seven to eight months to be able to become mother cats.
The weight also plays a significant role.
A “randy” behaviour of the cat indicates that it is ready to mate. This can occur several times a year and the phase can take between 7 and 10 days, only to start again within 2 or three weeks time.
The phase of a cat’s readiness to mate is called being “randy” or “on heat”.
Hormones play a significant role here: During this period, the oestrogen levels are rising, the ovulation is near and the female starts looking for a tom cat – if there are several prospective partners around, things can get pretty exciting!
In the open wild, the cat may accept several mating partners, which is why the kittens often look so different from each other.
Rolling about, setting off distinct fragrances, loud mewing and maybe even tail and bottom pointing upwards all are symptoms to say: “It’s mating season!”
This means the cat is on heat and ready to mate.
Some cats even loose their appetite during this period.
Normally, this “randy” phase lasts until a suitable mating partner is found, then it’s “back home again”.
Until the offspring is developed enough to enter this world, around two months will go by.
The young ones go through different stages of development until they are ready for birthing.
Smaller breeds don’t take as long as larger ones.
If nothing has happened around the 70th day, you should consult a vet who will examine the mother cat thoroughly and give advice on how to proceed.
Duration and phases of the gestation period
Day 6: Transfer of the fertilised eggs to the uterus
Day 12: Settling in the uterine wall
Day 15: Connection of the embryos with the mother cat’s circulatory system.
Day 21: The embryos can now be seen via an ultrasound scan.
Day 28: The embryos are 3-4 cm in size
Day 38: Nerves, sensory organs and muscles are developed.
Day 50: The babies in the making are ca. 7 cm in size now and the fur is growing
Day 60: “Ready for delivery”
The kittens are preparing for the big day. They are now complete, tiny cats “with all the trimmings” and measure ca. 13 cm shortly before delivery.
The number of kittens per litter varies. One – two – or up to five cat babies enter the world at once, sometimes even six!
This depends on the breed as well as on the mating ritual: When did the female mate and with how many partners?
If the cat decides to mate again during the first three weeks of the gestation period, further fertilisation is well possible.
For that reason, kittens of the same litter often vary a lot – from different fur and eye colour through to individual stages of development at birth.
Directly after the mating, the gestation cannot yet safely be identified. Only after three weeks, the developing offspring can be confirmed by way of palpation.
But be careful and let the vet do the examination. A wrong or harsh grip can hurt the kittens a lot!
After three weeks, your cat’s nipples will be swollen, turn pink (“pinking-up”) and protrude more than usual. They are also more exposed because the fur around them thins out a little.
The most obvious sign for your cat’s pregnancy are swollen nipples.
They are a sure sign which catches the eye immediately and a safe indicator of growing offspring.
The nipples will not only grow but also change their colour in the following weeks.
“Skin-coloured” turns to pink and then to a reddish hue which deepens with time.
When your feline friend is pregnant, her appetite will grow along with the belly!
Even if your cat is not constantly ravenous – the tummy will grow and the bodyweight will steadily increase.
Depending on the number of embryos, the female can gain up to 2 kilos in weight.
Pregnant cats with their constantly changing body often develop a so-called mule look: The bulging belly and developing swayback are indicators for the increasing bodyweight they are carrying around. The growing embryos in their tummy produce a ball shape which in turn causes the spine to bend. The result is a sunken back.
This is referred to as “mule figure”.
Your cat will show typical signs during the gestation period that are often comparative to those indicating human pregnancy, such as frequent sickness and mood swings.
Just a minute ago your cat may have looked for attention and cuddles – in the next it will suddenly retreat and wants to be left alone. For this, the cat will seek out a place where no one has access.
Respect her oases of peace and tranquillity!
Adjusting to the physical changes is as challenging for your pregnant cat as for a human mother-to-be.
Feline pregnancy is never easy to detect in the beginning. If you are seeking early official confirmation, it is best to consult a vet. The doctor is able to tell you through palpation as of the 17th day after mating, if offspring is expected. As of the 21st day, an ultrasound allows for visual confirmation.
The number of kittens can finally be estimated around the 40th day. It takes this long because the little ones are cramped like sardines in a tin and some may have been overlooked during earlier ultrasound examinations. That is why you need to wait this long for an estimate that you can rely on.
– However, you can only be 100 percent sure on the actual day of birth!
Is your cat expecting or simply infested with worms?
An increased appetite and swollen belly are not always safe indicators for pregnancy.
A worm infestation or some form of deficiency, even an allergy or an illness can develop equal symptoms. If the condition does not change and appears suspicious to you, find out if worms could be the reason. An infestation can cause a big, swollen tummy in the same way as gestation does.
The safest way to find out is a visit to the vet’s, who will examine your cat thoroughly and be able to name the right remedy against the type of worms your cat is infested with.
Keep in mind: A visit to the vet’s is never a piece of cake and should only be undertaken in case of real need – but better to be safe than sorry!
Your cat’s body is changing a lot during pregnancy and the needs therefore are different from those of a non-pregnant female.
What should you be aware of? What could potentially be harming for mother and offspring? How can you make the gestation period as pleasant as possible for our animal?
Provide enough light and air for the mother-to-be.
Exercise in moderation is always a good idea.
However, high jumps are to be avoided as well as cat fights, which can not only cause stress but are potentially dangerous for your cat as well.
No need to pamper your cat or treat it like a porcelain doll, but try to avoid stressful and unfamiliar situations.
Nutrition is a major factor during pregnancy as your cat’s body changes massively and needs a lot more energy than usual. For example, an increased daily calories-intake by 50% is recommended.
Make sure that the future mum has access to enough high-quality food and fluids with all the necessary minerals and vitamins needed during pregnancy.
The food required for pregnant and mother cats can be obtained from any specialist shop. If you like to prepare it yourself, please make sure to include all the necessary elements – such as protein and vitamins – that your cat needs now. Best to compose a food plan, so that the nutrition for your pregnant cat is well balanced.
By the way, the future mum should enjoy the same kind of food also during the nursing period, when the little ones still get all of their nutrition from her.
During the last phase of the pregnancy, you will be able to observe your cat looking for the perfect spot for giving birth, undisturbed and in peace.
You can help by providing a comfortable birthing box – it should be big enough for the future mum and their kittens to freely move around.
A lidded box, nice and warm but not too hot, placed in a quiet corner free of drafts would be perfect.
Avoid medication and vaccinations
The same goes for de-worming: This should also be done before the mating season, so that the little ones don’t get infested through the mother’s milk.
De-worming therapies and medications: Ideally, a cat should be de-wormed prior to a pregnancy. If not, this should happen during gestation at the latest, so that the milk is worm free and there is no danger of infestation of the kittens via the mother.
Never medicate or treat your cat without consulting the vet – who will be able to advise you on the correct medication suited for pregnant animals.
As the big day nears, your cat will become more affectionate and clingy. Young cats are often specifically anxious, especially during their first pregnancy.
Don’t leave them alone too much. Spend a lot of time with them and spoil them rotten, even if to them giving birth is a natural process and may be able to do it all by themselves in the end. Yes, they prefer to be alone and without the help of a human “midwife” on their big day, but there is no harm in showing them upfront that we are there for them if needed. We receive so much affection from them – now is the time to give something back.
The delivery of the little kittens into this world is a very special event.
The wonder of life – and you are right there when the little ones draw their first independent breath!
You can support the mum and kids and be right by their side!
Giving birth is a natural process and your cat will – usually – know exactly what to do. You can support your cat by preparing the environment, peace and quiet needed for giving birth but during the actual act, your cat will need her concentration and her space.
Only interfere in case of complications.
The birthing will be conducted in three phases. During the opening phase, the contractions begin. Then, the cervix opens. Then, during the expulsion phase, the kittens are born.
Shortly before start, the kittens have grown quite a bit within their mum’s belly – and may have even been seen moving around!
As soon as your cat starts looking for a safe delivery spot, you can be sure that things will start soon.
The mum-to-be walks around and examines everything, from wardrobes to drawers to laundry basket. All the favourite spots will subjected to a thorough inspection.
During the gestation period, the belly has grown more and more. In the end, it sinks down which gives your cat a pear-shaped figure.
Shortly before delivery, the nipples are swollen even more. They now look like small funnels, sometimes already leaking drops of mother’s milk.
There will be some discharge from the vagina and a mucus plug will be released.
One day prior to giving birth, your cat may eat less or will stop eating altogether. However, she will be thirsty and drink a lot more than usual.
Some may be sick, others dig in as usual.
Neglecting food will not be the case with all cats and thus is not a certain sign that the start of labour is imminent.
Prior the start of labour, many cats will become restless, will look for their birthing spot or go to the litter box repeatedly. They will wander about looking for a place for giving birth, even if this has been chosen already.
Some will breathe harder, or their mewing may get loud and piercing.
No two cats are the same when giving birth and may react differently.
Before beginning of labour, some may wash themselves constantly, especially after the vaginal discharge and the release of the mucus plug.
Others will go to the litter tray repeatedly, because they feel the pressure of the oncoming labour activity. But at this point they will not be able to release urine or faeces – both can be a sign for the big event starting soon.
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