Cat Pregnancy - Taking care of a pregnant cat

What is the most important thing to know if your cat is pregnant?

As obvious as this sounds, I'm going to say the most important thing to know is that your cat is pregnant. Because the care doesn't have to change a lot, it’s good for you to just have the knowledge that they are pregnant, as it might affect some of the decisions that you have to make going forward.

Dr. Broussard
The Waggin' Train Veterinary Clinic

How soon should you bring your pet to see a veterinarian if you suspect your cat is pregnant?

I would say sooner rather than later. If nothing else, just to get a good head-to-toe wellness exam. We want to make sure that the female cat is in perfect health and able to carry this litter properly, probably even check her for worms to make sure she doesn't have that burden weighing her down. And if so, we need to deworm her adequately before she gets further along in the pregnancy. So the sooner that you can pick up that something is different, give her an entire check.

What are some signs of pregnancy in a cat?

Well, pretty self-explanatory stuff I would say. The swollen belly is the first thing. Really, cats don't necessarily show that in the very, very early stages, but probably three or four weeks in you can start to see that they may look a little fuller in the abdomen. And about that time, or maybe even a wee bit after that, you might begin to see that their mammary glands are becoming enlarged. That's probably about the only two outward factors that you're going to see. Every once in a while there'll be a change in their temperament, but that's usually even further along when they're getting close to delivery.

How will a veterinarian determine if your cat is pregnant?

At this time, there are no dependable pregnancy blood tests that we can do. Most times what we do is palpation. That's the first thing, digital palpation with my hands. If that is uncertain, then depending on how far along they are, x-rays can show you if they are pregnant or not. It usually takes about until day 50 before the bones become ossified enough to show up on an x-ray. And if that is still in question or uncertain, then an ultrasound can detect them a little bit earlier as well. Probably as early as a couple of weeks, you can detect that there are little fetal balls there. So those are the three options that I would use.

What are some things people can do at home to prepare for their cat's labor?

Really, Mother Nature is going to do most everything for you. Let’s assume this is an indoor cat that we're talking about, but even if it's an outdoor cat, probably the most important thing that you can do is to provide the cat, a safe, isolated, comfortable space—a wellbeing box, if you will. And that can be anywhere. That can be in a closet, that can be in a cardboard box, that can be in a spare bathroom that you don't use. It matters not where it is, but just give a spot for the cat to have a quiet, dark, comfortable area where she can go when the time is due. That's where she'll probably hide and deliver the kittens.

How can you help your cat recover after giving birth?

Again, in most cases, I would say to let Mother Nature do her thing. God knew what He was doing when He made these guys and most of the time they can handle things just fine. After the fact, you want to look for obvious things. Make sure that not only is the mother eating and drinking, but also look for the same thing with the kittens. They should be nursing on a very frequent schedule, between every 1-2 hours. Typically, the mother cat will also help them eliminate, for lack of a better word, so make sure that that is happening. But as I said, they are usually on autopilot afterward. All you need to do is stand back and just ensure that those things are happening.

Will my cat naturally know how to take care of her kittens?

Yes. With very few exceptions, that answer is yes. Again, there are exceptions to every rule, but when they go through the whole experience of birthing, the hormone release that happens when that process occurs would normally make them kick in and certainly begin the mothering process themselves.

Cat Pregnancy - FAQ

Dr. Broussard
The Waggin' Train Veterinary Clinic

What is the first thing I'd need to do after finding out my cat is pregnant?

Plan a visit to your veterinarian. Just a good physical exam will do, and then perhaps even taking a stool sample to check for intestinal worms. That is a problem that we will sometimes see with cat pregnancy. The hormonal changes that cats go through during pregnancy can cause them to begin to shed intestinal worms, even though they might've been negative before then. Those are good approaches to take when you first find out about cat pregnancy.

Do I need to buy anything in particular for my pregnant cat?

Not really. The care for a pregnant cat is virtually the same as any other adult cat. One thing that I like to do, however, is to switch the moms-to-be over to kitten food. Yes, of course, I do understand I'm talking about feeding an adult animal kitten food, but the reason why is because kitten foods tend to be higher in fat, higher in protein, higher in calcium. These are all things that they're going to need when they're producing a litter of kittens and very shortly thereafter in order to produce plenty of milk. They're going to need some of those increased nutrients. I typically recommend that pregnant cats eat the kitten food until the litter is weaned.

How often will my pregnant cat need to see a veterinarian?

It's a good idea to see a veterinarian at the time of diagnosis. During the pregnancy, there's seldom a need for it. Honestly, most of the visits are going to really come into play at the time of delivery or perhaps thereafter when we're caring for the kittens and also maintaining care for the mother.

Does my cat need to rest while pregnant?

Let's be honest. It's a cat and they're going to rest pretty much whenever they want to rest. We all know the lifestyle of a cat. I think the biggest thing is to avoid stress. Now when we say "rest", my mind immediately thinks sleep. More importantly, though, you should avoid exposing them to stress as much as you can.

If there's a way to give them their own little space where there are no other animals in there harassing them, that's ideal, especially if they don't do well with the dogs or other pets in the house. Keep them separate so they don't have to be traumatized by those kinds of things. I think stress is the bigger enemy there.

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