Our Jackson veterinarians across all locations frequently receive questions from pet parents about detecting pregnancy in cats and how to handle it. In the following article, we will provide you with reliable methods for determining if your cat is pregnant and offer advice on planning and preparation.
Pregnancy in Cats
An unspayed kitten can get pregnant as early as 4 months old, which is risky for both the young queen and the kittens. If your cat is unsupervised or lives with unneutered males, pregnancy can occur without your knowledge.
To avoid unintended litters and health issues, our veterinary team highly suggests having your cat spayed. This will prevent unwanted pregnancies and reduce the chances of various health problems.
How Long Are Cats Pregnant?
As stated earlier, kittens can become pregnant at a very young age of 4 months. Unspayed female cats can have heat cycles every 2 to 3 weeks during spring through autumn, leading to rapid pregnancies and the ability to have their own litters as young as 6 months.
The typical pregnancy period for cats is 63 to 65 days. However, determining the stage of pregnancy, the number of kittens and any potential health issues may require a veterinary examination.
How To Tell If Your Cat Is Pregnant
- If your cat tolerates it, gently palpating (feeling along) your cat's belly can sometimes be helpful but isn't always correct
- The cat's belly will grow bigger and rounder about a month after mating, and their nipples will also become darker and redder
- Fatigue, though this should pass after a few weeks
- A sudden increase in appetite, especially when combined with the above signs
- Although unusual, some cats experience 'morning sickness' as human parents do; this can appear in the form of nausea/lack of appetite
For a more accurate look at your cat's pregnancy status, your veterinarian has access to a number of diagnostic methods and tools. They can use ultrasound to confirm the presence of kittens 16 days into gestation, though it cannot determine how many kittens your cat is carrying; X-rays can give an idea of the number of kittens, but isn't always accurate and isn't safe for the unborn kittens until 42 days into gestation - at earliest. Ideally, X-rays aren't taken of pregnant cats until they are past 55 days of pregnancy.
Preparing for Your Cat's Pregnancy - and Kittens!
During pregnancy, your cat will require more healthy calories to maintain her health and strength until giving birth. Expect her to eat 1.5 times more than usual, especially near the due date. Your veterinarian may suggest feeding your cat kitten or pregnancy-specific food during and after pregnancy.
Newborn kittens, like human babies, are susceptible to infections and illnesses from their mothers. Therefore, keeping your cat's vaccinations up to date is crucial. Consult with your vet to ensure that scheduled vaccines or preventive medicines are safe during pregnancy.
Getting Ready For the 'Big Day'
Although these tips can make your home more comfortable for your cat and her kittens, ultimately, cats will do what they want when it comes to giving birth. However, being prepared to assist the new mother and her tiny kittens is essential, no matter where she decides to give birth.
If your cat goes outdoors, keep her indoors near her due date to ensure that she delivers safely in a familiar and safe environment.
Two weeks before giving birth, your cat may enter a nesting phase. You can help by providing cozy areas around your home that are quiet, dry, and clean. A medium-sized box with low walls, lined with newspapers, old towels, and soft blankets, can be a perfect spot for the mother and her kittens. Place the nesting box in a quiet corner and let your cat visit it often before giving birth to become familiar and comfortable with the area.
Experienced cat owners may notice a lack of appetite and a temperature drop below 100ºF about 24 hours before giving birth. Our veterinary team looks forward to meeting these tiny bundles of joy for their first check-ups!
Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.
If your cat is expecting kittens, get in touch with our Jackson vets for advice and to book appointments for mama and her newborn kittens. We can't wait to help you care for your tiny bundles of furry joy!