Caring For The Pregnant Cat
Making the decision to breed your cat should only be done under very specific circumstances. This includes careful planning and selection of a suitable purebred tom for your purebred queen.
It is important to realise that an intact female, known as a queen, can and will breed as early as 4 months of age in some breeds. Young toms are also able to breed from this young age. Responsible breeders will, however, wait until the female is fully mature which can be up to a year depending on the breed.
Breeders should also carefully choose the time between pregnancies to allow the female to recover fully from gestation and lactation. Again, this will vary somewhat by breed and age but typically ethical and responsible breeders will never breed more than 3 litters in two years.
Signs of Pregnancy
Cats have a gestation period, their time of pregnancy, ranging from 63 to 65 days. However, it is possible for queens to give birth sooner or later and, in some cases, the exact date of breeding may not be specified if the tom and queen were together for several days.
A vet can use a technique known as abdominal palpation at about three to four weeks of age to confirm pregnancy. Many experienced breeders can also use this technique. Some vets now use ultrasound rather than manual palpation which can provide a more accurate picture of the number of kittens to expect. X-rays can also be used after day 45 for a very clear picture of the pregnancy.
You may also notice that the queen’s teats may become slightly larger and more obviously pink to red. This is called “pinking up” and it is more pronounced in some queens, typically started at the middle to end of the third week of gestation.
Some queens also experience a bout of morning sickness at the third to fourth week. She may go off her food and you may notice some vomiting and lack of energy or interest. If this behaviour lasts more than a day or two consult your vet as there are other issues which can be the cause of the behavioural change.
Feeding and Care
The first three to five weeks of pregnancy will be very typical for your queen. At about the halfway point in the pregnancy, or at about the mid-point of week 4 she will typically have an increase in food intake.
Switch the queen to a top quality kitten food at the fourth to sixth week of pregnancy as it provides increased protein and nutrition that both the mother and the developing kittens will need. For most cats this will be an increase by about one-quarter of their typical daily ration. Continue to feed her the kitten food until lactation is completed. Also, it is important to make sure that the queen has access to all the fresh, clean water as she wants. Once the kittens arrive the water needs to be away from where the kitten can possibly fall into the dish as this can result in drowning.
At about a week before the expected date of the arrival of the kittens move the queen into a quiet, warm area where she is calm and feels comfortable. Monitor the queen for any signs of discomfort and changes in behaviour, which will start to happen about 24-40 hours before birth.
Each kitten should be preceded by the bursting of the foetal membrane. The birthing process itself will take about 10 to 30 minutes per kitten. During this time the queen may get up and move around, which is normal. If you have any questions or concerns call your vet immediately and do not attempt to assist with the birthing process unless specifically instructed by your vet.
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