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What to do if Your Cat Gets Pregnant

Updated on March 26, 2015
A mother cat and her litter of kittens.
A mother cat and her litter of kittens. | Source

In a perfect world, we would all spay and neuter our pets, but sometimes this doesn’t happen. Sometimes your totally indoor cat escapes out the door when you least expect. Or maybe you adopted a stray only to find out she was pregnant.

I am a member of a social media pet group and recently saw an ad for a pregnant cat. It seems a family had adopted a stray, and now realize she is in fact pregnant, so they want her gone ASAP. They are concerned about potential vet bills, and the disruption of their own lives due to the cat’s pregnancy. I thought this was disheartening. If your sixteen year old daughter announced she was pregnant, you would probably be disappointed, but you probably wouldn’t try to dump her off on someone else. If you have taken in a cat, or allowed yours to become pregnant by accident or otherwise, it’s still important for you to provide her with proper care.

It is usually possible for a vet to terminate a pregnancy if you are adamant that you don’t want your cat to have the kittens; however, this is a personal decision not to be taken lightly. As with a human abortion, there are some risks involved, so discuss this with your vet.

If you choose to allow her to carry the kittens, be assured that most cats have kittens with no problems.

A cat’s gestation is 63-65 days, though a range of 60-70 days can still be normal. The cat will start showing signs of pregnancy at 3-4 weeks. You will notice that the cat’s nipples feel more swollen than normal, and she will start to get round. Some cats will experience morning sickness and not want to eat. If this is the case, offer palatable food, preferably warm.

As the pregnancy progresses, gradually transition the cat to a kitten food. Kitten food is higher in calories and will meet her increasing nutrient needs. As pregnancy continues, the cat will need to approximately double her food intake to keep herself in good condition.

The Kitten Box

As the cat gets closer to having the kittens, you may notice her checking out various corners and crevices in the house. Cats do begin to ‘nest’ when they are close to delivering their babies. If there are rooms where you don’t want her to deliver the kittens, be sure to keep the doors closed. You also might want to cover or move and valuable furniture. Ideally, set up a box for her in a quiet area of the house where she won’t be disturbed by too much human activity, or other pets. Line the box with newspaper and old towels or blankets.

Encourage her to rest in this box on a regular basis, but be aware that she might not choose to have her kittens there. If she goes outside, watch her carefully, or limit her to indoors. She may go off somewhere and have the kittens where you won’t find them.

Newborn kittens.
Newborn kittens. | Source

Have clean towels available for the birth in case you have to dry off a new kitten. Usually, the cat will have enough time between kittens to properly lick them dry and cut the umbilical cord with her teeth, but if they come very fast, you may have help her dry them off.

It’s also ideal to have some dental floss for tying umbilical cords, and scissors to cut them if necessary.

Sometimes a cat will want you to be present when she is in labour, but a lot of cats will just surprise you by having their kittens when you least expect it, probably in a location you didn’t expect. It’s not uncommon for your cat to just appear one day as a thin, no-longer-pregnant cat. If this is the case, you may have to do some serious hunting to find the kittens. The cat is unlikely to give you any clues as to their whereabouts and may even move them once you find them. If she’s had them somewhere other than where you wanted them, and you find them, you can gently move them to the box you prepared, place her in it, and pet her until she lays down with them. She may stay in the box from then on.

A healthy cat will usually have plenty of milk for her kittens, but if she was unhealthy to begin with, such as if she was a very thin stray you took in, you may need to supplement the kittens with a kitten milk replacer. This is uncommon, but you should have some idea of where you can get kitten milk replacer if you need it. Cow’s milk is not an acceptable substitute.

Signs Your Cat is in Trouble

Very abnormal behaviour. If your normally active cat becomes very lethargic, it might be cause for concern, as is any behaviour that is very abnormal.

Elevated Body Temperature. This could signal an infection

Any sort of bad smelling discharge. This could also signal infection.

Refusing food for more than 24 hours.

You should contact a vet if your cat is showing any of these signs of trouble.


Other Warnings

Don’t use dewormer on a pregnant cat

Ask a vet before using any flea treatment products. Some are perfectly safe, but some are not, so be on the safe side and ask first.

Cats can get pregnant again very quickly after having kittens. Be sure to have a plan in place to avoid allowing her to get pregnant again.

The Growing Kittens

The kittens will be born blind and deaf, and will need to stay with their mother for approximately 8 weeks. Their eyes will start to open at about 10 days, and be fully open by about 14 days. They will be able to hear by the time their eyes are open.

Newborn kittens should be handled very gently, and only when necessary. At first, their mother will keep them very clean, but as they grow and start to eat solid food, be sure to provide a litter box that is low enough they can climb into it. Place the litter box reasonably close to their food and sleeping box so they find it and can quickly learn to be tidy, litter-trained cats.


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