Cat Pregnancy and when to Call the Vet
Cat pregnancy is one of the major problems today contributing to increased euthanasia tactics throughout the country in feral colonies. However, there are times that our pets become pregnant or we adopt an already pregnant cat. During these periods we must become aware of the complications that can occur and when we need to pay a visit to our veterinarian. It is better to call your veterinarian on a "false alarm" even if only to gain reassurance, than to delay in the hope that in time the situation will correct itself.
During cat pregnacy, a problem might be present when:
1 - A queen goes into labor with serious straining and does not deliver a kitten within two hours. Purposeful straining usually means that a kitten is in the birth canal. It will be a mistake to wait 4-6 hours because the mother is exhausted and normal delivery may not be possible.
2 - The queen passes dark green fluid before the delivery of her first kitten. This indicates separation of the placenta from the wall of the uterus which means the kitten is not getting enough oxygen from the mother and may die. Green or bloody fluid is normal after the first kitten is dropped.
3 - The passage of yellow fluid means rupture of the water bag surrounding the kitten. If these membranes rupture and a kitten is not delivered in 30 minutes, there is a problem.
4 - The labor process stops and the queen shows signs of restlessness, anxiety, weakness or fatigue. Kittens come 15 minutes to two hours apart. Over three hours between kittens is a sign of trouble. This three hour rule may not apply if the queen is resting contentedly and nursing her kittens without any signs of anxiety or distress.
If it is impossible to get quick veterinary assistance or if the water bag breaks and the kitten is stuck in the birth canal, the following steps should be taken to deliver the kitten:
- Clean the outside of the vulva with soap and water. Put on a pair of sterile gloves and lubricate your fingers with pHisoHex, K-Y Jelly or vaseline. Before inserting your finger into the vagina, be careful not to contaminate your gloves with stool from the anus.
-- Place one hand under the abdomen in front of the pelvis of the queen and feel for the kitten. Raise him up into position to align him with the birth canal. With your other hand slip a finger into the vagina and feel for a head, tail or leg. When the head is deviated and will not pass through the outlet of the pelvis, insert a finger into the kitten's mouth and gently turn his head, guiding it into the birth canal. At this point, apply pressure on the perieum just below the anus. This will induce the queen to strain and holds the kitten in the correct position so he won't slip back into the improper one.
-- When the kitten is coming as a breech (rump first), hold the kitten at the pelvic outlet, and with the vaginal finger, hook first one leg and then the other, slipping them down over the narrow place until the pelvis and legs appear at the vulva.
-- If the mother is unable to deliver a larger kitten normally, the problem is due to a shoulder locking in the birth canal. The head is seen protruding through the vulva. Rotate the kitten first one way and then another so the legs can be brought forward. Insert a gloved finger into the vagina alongside the kitten until you can feel his front legs at the elbow. Hook them and pull them through individually.
Once the kitten is in the lower part of the birth canal, he should be delivered without further delay. To stimulate a forceful push by the mother, gently stretch the vaginal opening. If you see the kitten at the mouth of the vagina, but he disappears with relaxation, grip the the skin at the nape of his neck with a sterile piece of cloth and pull him out. Time is very important, particularly if the kitten is a breech. It is better to take hold and pull out the kitten even at risk of injury or death since this kitten and possibly the others, will die, if something is not done.
During this delivery stage of cat pregnancy, most queens will not require assistance, however it is always best to become knowledgeable and aware of the danger signals involved.
References: The Cat Owner's Home Veterinary Handbook by Delbert G. Carlson, D.V.M and James M. Giffin, M.D.
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