How To Help A Mother Cat Have Kittens

When you first notice your female cat is pregnant, begin to feed her kitten chow. She needs the high protein. Even after the kittens are born, continue feeding her kitten chow, it helps with the milk production. Giving her red meat also helps stimulate a good milk flow. I usually feed a nursing queen kitten chow until the kittens are weaned. The gestation period for a cat can range from 60-70 days, depending on when the queen ovulated and the time the owner counted from. If like me, you have rescued a cat that is pregnant or soon shows signs of being pregnant, and you have no way of guessing how long it has been, then all one can do is keep a close eye on her. You can take her to a vet, but if the queen has not yet been vaccinated, it is not a good idea to get her vaccinated while she is pregnant. She may need worming to, but unless her health is very bad I don't think the vet will risk giving her worming medicines until after the kittens are weaned. One cat I got that had kittens that were 4 weeks old, was in very poor condition. She did get wormed and so did her kittens. It was only after that that I had any luck putting weight on them.

As the queen gets larger, you should prepare her a nesting box. I prefer to get large rabbit cages that you put together yourself. I line one with newspapers, as towels and blankets run the risk of a kitten getting trapped under or between folds of the cloth and getting laid on or suffocating. As the kittens get closer to 4 weeks old i put soft towels or blankets in with them. For the birthing time, I keep the cage covered with a blanket. The queen has a litter box in there as well as food and water. It is imperative to keep the litter box very clean. Once the kittens are born, you should either give the queen water in a dish that can be attached to the side of the cage and out of reach of crawling kittens, or keep it out of the cage completely and let the mother out for exercise and water often. The reason I prefer using the cage is because as the kittens grow older and begin to explore, they are so tiny it is very easy for them to get hurt and even lost.

During the first stage of labor, you will see signs of her getting ready to give birth to her kittens. If by chance she has started hard labor yet she is not in her nest, do not attempt to put her in it until after all her kittens have been born. Doing so could cause her to delay labor (yes, they can do this). Delaying labor could cause complications and even death in the kittens. It is best to remain quiet and calm when you are near a queen about to give birth, only participating in the process if she gets into trouble. I remember one night, before I began using cages, one female woke me up in the middle of the night. She had left her nest to find me and had a kitten half in and half out and she was in distress. I helped her finish giving birth by placing one hand at the base of her ribs (just where the rib cage ends) and taking the kitten in my fingers. With each contraction I very gently rubbed my hand down from the rib cage to her hips, applying just enough pressure to give her something to push against (like when you are having a hard time going to the bathroom and you press on tired tummy muscles to help you push) you are giving her support. AS I did this I very, very gently tugged at the kitten. The kitten was breech and the bag had popped, so it was vital to get it out into the open very quickly. The kitten finally came out, but was having difficulty breathing. I hurriedly wiped the bag away from the face and cleared out all the mucus from the mouth and nose. You can do this by wiping a paper towel over the nose and opening the mouth and running it through the mouth. I have in some cases sucked (very soft and quick, like sucking in to make a popping sound) at the mouth and nose to clear them, in emergency situations.

Sometimes the queen will be to tired to pass the placenta. You can help her by very gently tugging on it (be sure to take hold of the actual placenta and not pull from the umbilical cord, you don't want to break the cord if you can help it, though I have, and nothing bad happened.) until it slips free. Normally kittens can be born up to an hour apart. If it has been 3-4 hours and you believe she still has a kitten inside of her, I would definitely call or take her in to see the vets. Our first rescue was a kitten we thought was around 6 months old she was so small...And seriously sick. We got the vomiting to stop but were unable to stop the diarrhea. Despite that she just kept getting fatter. We usually don't run in to see the vet unless it is serious as we live 100 mile round trip from the nearest vet. However, we felt she needed to see the vet and so we took her in. Turns out she was 9 months old and very pregnant. The vet wormed her, and that got rid of the diarrhea finally. When it came time for her to have her kittens, she came out to the living room crying. We brought her nesting box into the living room so she could be with us. She finally had her first kitten...sadly it was dead. It took forever to have her second kitten, which was alive. Then she did not have another kitten and nearly 4 hours had passed, so we called the vets. Our usual vet was out in the field, and it was suggested we call another vet who had recently opened for business there. We did and they said bring her right in. She ended up needing a C-Section because her uterine muscles were not working. We believe that was caused by her being so sick in her early pregnancy. Sadly we ended up having to put one of the kittens down. We could not figure out why no matter how much extra care and formula we gave her that she just got weaker and weaker, so we took her to the vets and it was discovered that she had congestive heart failure. The vet said he was amazed we had kept her alive so long.

I can tell you that a queen can be finished having her kittens and yet you will swear she still has one or two still in there. It will look and feel as if there are one or more kittens moving around in there. I finally decided it was just the uterine muscles settling down after birthing. Always count placentas. Make sure there is a placenta for every kitten born...and make sure no placenta comes out without a kitten to go with it. If this happens and a kitten does not soon come to, get her to a vet.

As each kitten is born, if the queen does not immediately remove the sack covering the kittens face, you must do it and quickly. If she is taking care of the kitten, let her be, only act if she is neglecting to tend to the kitten. Don't worry if the kittens do not nurse immediately, Sometimes it is an hour before they begin nursing. If you have a cat you know will be having kittens, you should buy some KMR (kitten milk replacer) and some eye droppers. That way if any of the kittens need supplemental feeding or something happens to the mother or she refuses to feed them, you can be ready to step in and help. If you find yourself needing to feed them the KMR, simply follow the directions on how to make it (I always found it best to put the required amount of water into a jar that has a tight fitting lid (large baby food jars or maraschino cherry jars) and getting it hot in the microwave (30-45 seconds) then adding the required amount of formula, putting a lid on it and shaking it well. This gets rid of all the lumps and mixes it far better than mixing it with a spoon). Once it is made, feed it to the kitten via eyedropper. I prefer the eyedropper as it gives you far more control with less accidents than a syringe, and I never had success with bottles. Let the tiniest drop form on the mouth of the eyedropper and place it into the corner of the kittens mouth. Once the kitten realizes it is good, it will often suck from the dropper and your only concern is keeping the dropper full...and making very sure no milk goes up the slit into the kittens nose. If this happens, and the kitten does not sneeze it out, wipe all moisture from around the nose and mouth, tilt the kitten head downwards and pat and rub its back and rib cage. If this does not work give a quick gentle suck of the mouth and nose. Listen to the chest, if you hear clicking there is still liquid in the lungs, if it is clear all is well. If or until the kitten starts sucking on its own, only put a drop at a time into the kittens mouth. At first the kitten will do well to finish one dropper, but as they age that amount will go up. Feed them as much as they will eat and do this every two hours. Always clean them after feeding. If you are only supplementing mothers milk, then mother will clean them and make sure they go potty. If you are doing everything for the kitten, you must take a damp paper towel and rub in a gentle circular motion on the kittens genitals until they pee and poo. Do this every time you feed, before and after feeding.

When the kittens reach 4 or 5 weeks, you can begin to introduce them to solid foods. It is best to offer them canned kitten food. Don't give them adult food until they are several months old. There is not enough protein or nutrition in adult food for a growing kitten. At first, a whole litter of six kittens will only eat half a can of kitten food. They are for the most part still satisfied with mothers milk. As they continue to grow, mother's milk will not be enough and they will eat more and more canned kitten food. When they are 2 months old, grind Kitten Cow up and mix it with the canned kitten food. Over time use more dry and less wet. As for water, at 4 weeks you can put a bit of water into a shallow lid and introduce them to it. at first, they will get it up their noses but are old enough now to sneeze it back out again. Even after they begin to drink water on a regular basis, never leave water down around them without supervision because they are way to clumsy and unaware of their environment and will fall head first into the water or spill it and get soaking wet and sick. You can leave it with them when they are around 5 or 6 months, but be prepared for it to get dumped often. By then they have better control and can get themselves out if they fall in.

At four months old, you should begin getting your kittens spayed or neutered as they can begin breeding at that age. They should get their first vaccinations no later than 6 months old.

I have experienced many odd things in cat births. One , the oddest, was a cat that gave birth to two kittens (they died soon after birth no matter how I tried to save them), and several weeks later gave birth to four more kittens. We figured she went into early labor and the kittens lungs were not fully developed and they were unable to breathe. For whatever reason she stopped and finished out her gestation and gave birth to 4 healthy babies.

Below I will provide a link that will give you a general guideline for what to watch for and when things will happen. Just remember every cat is different and so is every birth. Below that I am adding a video of some kittens and their mother that i took in.

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Comments 6 comments

urmilashukla23 profile image

urmilashukla23 4 years ago from Rancho Cucamonga,CA, USA

Great Hub. I was in the same situation few years back. They are so much fun to watch.


tlmcgaa70 profile image

tlmcgaa70 4 years ago from south dakota, usa Author

hello urmilashukla23...they are indeed. these kittens have brought me a great deal of happiness and laughter. they are such great entertainment for sure. thank you for taking the time to read such a long hub. have a wonderful night.


Rachel Richmond profile image

Rachel Richmond 4 years ago from California

Great hub -We only ever had puppies being born, seems like it is a lot harder for a queen. Your stories are very moving too. I think it's wonderful you help out the stray cats. :) Have a good one!


tlmcgaa70 profile image

tlmcgaa70 4 years ago from south dakota, usa Author

thank you Rachel. i am sure those who have raised pups have their "hard ones" stories as well. I had a dog that gave birth to seven puppies all but one being born breech. cats bring me so much joy that i am often left wondering who has rescued who. you also have a wonderful night.


drbj profile image

drbj 4 years ago from south Florida

With all your extensive kitty birthing experience, Tammy, you could easily start a profitable business. Just make up some business cards with your name followed by P.F.M.W. and voila! you are in business. (Professional Feline Mid Wife)


tlmcgaa70 profile image

tlmcgaa70 4 years ago from south dakota, usa Author

lol, i love it! typing lazy, plz forgive =)

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