The pregnant cat
A litter of young kittens is very cute.
Unfortunately, the shelters are full of cats, so it is useful to think about this carefully. You may already have some people in mind who want a kitten. But before you give the kittens to the new owner, there is a lot involved. Below you will find information about your cat's gestation and delivery. When is the best time? Cats can go into heat as early as 6 months, but for most cats it does not start until 8-9 months.
Cats go into heat under the influence of sunlight. When the days get shorter, they often do not go into heat. When the days get longer again in spring, the heat starts again. Indoor cats, however, can go into heat all year round. Cats usually go into heat every 2-3 weeks, but sometimes it can also occur every 5 days. You will notice that your cat is in heat if she meows more than usual, is eager to go outside, shows restlessness, has less appetite and raises her tail and buttocks if you stroke above the base of the tail. Cats do not bleed, as dogs do, during heat.
We advise against having the cat mated right from the first heat, as she will still be very young. Pregnancy and suckling take so much energy that she will stop growing. The queen should be at least one year old, so that she has grown enough. This means you will have to keep her away from the uncastrated males for a few months.
When the time comes, you can bring the female cat to the male cat or vice versa. Should your cat run outside, it is possible for several males to cover your cat. Thus, the kittens may have different fathers. The stimulation of mating causes ovulation, after which fertilization can take place. Determining pregnancy Once your cat has been mated, it is useful to know whether she is pregnant or not.
Between the 19th and 27th day of gestation, the vet can try to feel the amnion sacks where the kittens are. In large, heavy and agile cats, this can be a bit more difficult. After that, there is a period when the amnion sacks cannot be felt. With the help of an ultrasound you can determine from 23 days onwards whether the queen is pregnant, but you cannot determine exactly how many kittens you can expect.
From 40 days, the kittens can be felt by themselves. An X-ray of the belly can also be taken now to see whether the queen is pregnant and, if so, of how many kittens. In most cats, from 3.5-4 weeks, the nipples start to swell and become redder in colour. The hair around the nipples may also start falling out, making the nipples clearly visible. Gestation On average, females are 64 days pregnant. But they can give birth from 59 to 67 days after mating. If the kittens come earlier or later, it is wise to contact us about this.
During the first six weeks, you can continue to feed your queen as you are used to. We advise against giving extra vitamins and minerals. For the last three weeks, we advise you to start feeding kitten kibble instead of normal food. This contains relatively more protein, which is necessary for the strong growth of the kittens in the last part of the pregnancy and for the mother's milk production.
You should then mix the kitten chunks with the old food for a few days to prevent diarrhoea caused by a sudden change of food. The packaging will tell you how much to give to your cat. Be sure not to give too much, as fatter cats are more likely to have birth problems. In the last week of pregnancy, your cat may start eating less. You can then give her smaller portions more often. You will notice that your cat's belly will thicken, especially in the last part of the pregnancy.
Your cat will often choose its own place to give birth. Usually this is a dark place, such as your wardrobe or the litter box. At such a time, your cat surprises you with a litter of young. Other cats appreciate the owner's presence and will wait until you come home. Rest is very important before giving birth. Therefore, find a quiet place in the house where the queen feels comfortable. There, you can place a whelping box for your cat, insulating the bottom with newspapers or towels, for example.
A crate with raised edges is handy so that the kittens cannot get out, but the mother can. Newborn kittens cannot keep themselves warm properly. The house should therefore not be too cold, at least 23-25 degrees. In addition, you can use a heat lamp. The kittens can then lie comfortably warm under it, without the mother getting too hot. Right under the lamp it should then be about 29-31 degrees. A hot water bottle or heat mat is also an option.
About 12 to 24 hours before the first kitten is born, you may notice changes in your queen. She may become more restless, have less appetite, defecate and urinate a bit more, sometimes vomit or have some diarrhoea. Your cat may also have a typical lure call. One or two days beforehand, you may see clear, slimy discharge unless your cat licks it away. If you see pale green or slightly bloody discharge, your cat is dilated. If so, the first kitten should be born within a few hours.
Cats approaching expulsion often hyperventilate noticeably. It is then pleasant for your cat to have fresh drinking water at her disposal. Before the birth of the first kitten, your cat may have mild contractions for quite a long time to stretch the birth path. The moment the birth bladder or kitten is visible, then the kitten is normally born within 15-45 minutes. Now the female cat has contractions and these should therefore not last longer than 45 minutes. You will see clear abdominal contractions here.
The following kittens should not be pushed for more than 30 minutes. The time between the birth of two kittens is usually 45-60 minutes (of which a maximum of 30 minutes is needed). However, it can also happen that the queen takes a longer break during which she may even fall asleep. It is useful to keep track of when the queen starts to push, so you also know when to call for help.
Your cat may press in various positions. They usually press in the pooping position or breast-belly position. Partly because of the first position, kittens are regularly born in the litter box. Kittens can be born in either the head or breech position. Both positions are normal.
When should you contact us?
Of course, you can always contact us the moment you are not confident. Just call the practice. During opening hours you will get an employee on the line, in the evening and at the weekend you will get a number of the veterinarian on duty.
In the cases below it is necessary to call a vet:
- 30 minutes of heavy pushing without progress (45 minutes on the first kitten)
- 1.5-2 hours of weak pushing without progress
- 2-3 hours of no further pressing while kittens are still in the womb
- If the queen appears sick (vomiting and diarrhoea around delivery is "normal")
- Stinky, oddly coloured discharge or lots of blood from the vulva
- If your cat is 2 days overdue
With the first kitten, especially inexperienced mothers can "panic". Therefore, it is important that your cat is in a calm environment and that someone is there to guide her. The mother cat licks the newborn kittens immediately after birth. This causes the membranes to rupture and she dries the kittens. Furthermore, licking also stimulates breathing.
Should the membranes not be removed by the mother, it is important to do this as soon as possible. Especially cats with short noses, such as Persians, may find this difficult. You can help a kitten whose breathing does not start by sucking the mucus out of its mouth with a tube or by gently waving the kitten empty with a swishing motion with the head down. You can also start rubbing the kitten dry to promote breathing. The newborn kittens will immediately start looking for a nipple and start drinking. This will stimulate the progress of labor. Normally, the umbilical cord tears off by itself. Should the umbilical cord still bleed or not tear off, you can tie it off with sturdy thread disinfected with methylated spirit at least one centimetre from the abdominal wall. You can disinfect the umbilical stump with Betadine. The afterbirths are often already expelled between the kittens. The afterbirths are often eaten by the queen.
Make sure not all afterbirths are eaten by the queen, as she may get diarrhoea. Each kitten has an afterbirth. If one is left behind, this can cause problems. It is therefore important to count the afterbirths. Should your cat have given birth without you being there, you will often find quite little. The female cat will continue to flow for some time after giving birth. The first few days this will be mostly bloody.
Between the 5th and 8th day, the discharge will become lighter in colour, finally uncoloured and after 8 to 10 days it will have stopped. She should not have a smelly, chocolate-coloured effluent, this may indicate a uterine infection. The mother cat will need more energy to produce milk. Depending on the number of kittens, this could be two to three times more than normal. Feed smaller bits of food regularly.
You can continue feeding the kitten kibble. By drinking the kittens with the mother, the heat can stay off.
But we regularly see that after one week your cat is in heat again and can therefore get pregnant again! Keep a close eye on this. From 6 weeks after giving birth, we can sterilise your cat. Earlier is not preferred, as the surgical wound lies between the mammary glands.
You can mark the kittens with nail polish to recognise if they look too much alike (on the head/buttocks/tail) and then weigh them daily. Kittens should NOT lose weight after giving birth.
If this does happen, something is wrong: the kitten/mother cat is sick and/or the mother is not giving enough milk. Always contact us in this case. On about the tenth day, the eyes and ears open. If all goes well, the kittens' birth weight will have doubled by then. Apart from weighing, you will not need to do much during the first three weeks. The kittens are, if all goes well, quiet. They sleep, they eat and they grow.
If there is restlessness in the litter, something is not right. They could be hungry, too cold or too hot, or they are sick. Sick kittens grow poorly or not at all, are slow and may be cold. For kittens who do not grow enough, there is special artificial milk for cats. You can get this from us. After three weeks, you can start feeding some soaked kitten pellets or porridge (mixed with water!). After five to six weeks, the mother's milk production decreases and the kittens need more solid food. Increase the amounts gradually.
After six weeks, the kittens will hardly drink at all from their mother. Kitten food contains proportionally more protein, which the kittens need for growth. Give the quantity divided into five portions. There is no need to give extra vitamins and minerals, they are all already in the kitten food.
Of course, the kittens should always have access to fresh drinking water. Worming and vaccination All kittens are infected with roundworms by drinking their mother's milk. The mother cat has stored these roundworms somewhere in the body in a resting phase. During pregnancy, these worms come out of the resting phase, infecting the kittens. This happens even if you may have wormed your cat beforehand because the anthelmintic cannot reach the dormant worms.
Since the worms can cause damage to the lungs and abdominal organs, the advice is to worm the kittens regularly. You should then do this at 3, 5, 7 and 9 weeks of age, then every month after this until they are six months old. The advice is to worm the mother cat all the time as well. As not every worming product is suitable for nursing cats, we advise you to contact us first. The kittens should get their vaccinations at 9 and 12 weeks, then only when they are about one year old.
The female cat should not be vaccinated if she is pregnant. You can possibly vaccinate your queen before she becomes pregnant, so that she has plenty of antibodies in the mother's milk for the kittens. We advise you not to take the kittens away from the mother before eight weeks. This will give the kittens enough time to learn a lot of good things from the mother cat.
The siblings from the litter
Kittens taken away from the litter too early can get into a lot of mischief later on! You can gradually get the kittens used to the change of home and owner by taking them away from the mother from six weeks onwards. It is also advisable to give the kitten some kitten food, so that during the first few days the kitten gets the same food as in the litter. This way, the kitten will have the least amount of stress with its new owner.
Do you have any questions about the information above? Then please contact us.