C-Section in cats

A C-section in cats is often needed when natural birthing poses risks. Purebred queens have a higher risk of birthing complications than domestic breeds.

A C-section in cats is a surgical procedure that involves administering anaesthesia, making an abdominal incision, and carefully extracting kittens from the uterus. The procedure is crucial when complications arise during labour, jeopardising the mother or kittens. Also referred to as a caesarean section. You should get veterinary help quickly if your cat is having trouble giving birth.

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What it’s for

When is a C-section in cats necessary?

A caesarean in cats is recommended when complications during labour (dystocia) endanger the health of the mother or the well-being of the kittens.

Common indications of dystocia include:

  • Prolonged labour
  • Difficulty in delivery (due to kitten’s position in the pelvic canal)
  • Mismatch in kitten size and mother’s pelvic canal

Consult with a vet if you see any signs of distress or difficulty during labour. Click here for more details on cats giving birth.

You can also find information on our pregnancy in cats article.


How it’s done

How is a caesarean done in cats?

Vet checks during pregnancy and just before the due date are very important to prevent emergency labour complications.

If your cat faces labour difficulties, they may need an emergency C-section.

In order to prevent emergency life-threatening situations, your vet may anticipate labour complications and advise a planned C-section.

In a non-emergency or planned C-section, you may expect the following:

Before the surgery day

  • Your cat will have a pre-natal check with a vet, this can include a scan or x-rays.
  • Your cat needs to be starved from the night before the surgery.
  • You can leave water available.

In practice

  • A vet or a nurse will admit your cat.
  • Then the vet will do a hands-on examination to make sure the operation can go ahead.
  • When necessary, pre-anesthetic blood tests will be performed.
  • Then a sedative and pain relief will be given to your cat.
  • While waiting for the pre-anaesthetic injection to work, your cat will be kept in a calm, warm kennel.
  • Once the sedative has taken effect, your cat will be put under a full/general anaesthetic.
  • In preparation for surgery, the incision site will be cleaned and clipped while your cat is being closely monitored.
  • Surgery will begin.

During surgery:

  • An incision will be made on your cat’s tummy, followed by one on the uterus.
  • The kittens will be gently extracted one by one.
  • The membrane covering the kitten (amniotic sac) is ruptured and peeled away.
  • The umbilical cord will be cut and stitched, if necessary.
  • The kittens will be wrapped up and massaged until they start breathing and become responsive.
  • If future litters are not intended, a spay (surgical removal of the uterus and ovaries) may be performed next.
  • Finally, the mother’s tummy will be sutured and closed.
  • Surgery time should, ideally, not last more than 1 hour.

After surgery

  • Mum will be recovered quickly from anaesthesia to facilitate early nursing and maternal bonding.
  • Mum and kittens will be placed in a quiet, warm, comfortable kennel together.
  • They will be monitored closely to ensure mum is recovering well and is receptive to the kittens.
  • Usually, you can take mum and kittens home as soon as they are stable to ensure stress is reduced.

For emergency caesareans, the procedure on the day is the same, but there will be less at home preparation before the surgery takes place. The vet might also try to deliver the kittens naturally with the help of medication, before deciding to do a caesarean.



How much does a caesarean cost in cats?

Cost depends on:

  • Geographic location of the vet practice
  • Type of anaesthesia monitoring
  • Complexity and time of surgery
    • This will increase if there are any complications during surgery that require further intervention and medication.
  • Hospitalisation time
  • Emergency or out of hours fees



Are some cats more at risk of needing a C-section?

Breeds prone to birth complications may require C-sections.

  • Breeds: British Shorthair, Oriental and Birman are some of the breeds more prone to difficulties during birthing.
  • Planned C-sections may also be indicated:
    • If your cat suffers from any underlying health conditions
    • If there is only one kitten (as may not produce enough cortisol to induce labour)

Are there any risks or possible complications for your cat during or after a C-section?

There are several things to consider. Your vet will assess them and discuss it with you.

  • Anaesthetic risk: for both mum and kittens. As most anaesthetic and pain medications cross the placenta, extra precautions are taken to minimise fetal exposure to certain medications.
  • Opening of the surgical wound: excessive rubbing, licking or injury to the skin can damage the surgical site before adequate healing has occurred.
  • Infection: of the uterus or skin incision (surgical wound) is possible and can lead to the opening of the wound.
  • Bleeding: during surgery or after
  • Death: unfortunately is a possibility at any time before, during, or after the procedure for both mum and kittens.


Recovery tips

How to care for your cat after a caesarean section

The recovery period is generally 10 to 14 days.

Aftercare includes:

  • Close monitoring of mum and kittens
    • The kittens should nurse as soon as you arrive home. If necessary, place the kittens near the mum’s teats. You can express some milk to encourage nursing.
  • Monitoring mum’s appetite
    • Mum should start eating within a few hours after surgery. Offer small amounts of food and water frequently (every 30 minutes or so) for the first 24 hours after surgery.
    • Mum should be offered approximately 2 to 3 times her normal amount of food while nursing.
    • Continue a high-quality food for pregnant and nursing cats. If you do not have access to this, you can use a high-quality kitten range instead.
  • Keeping an eye on the kittens
    • Make sure they are all nursing, active and always warm.
  • Resting mum
    • Avoid any boisterous movements, play or jumping for 2 weeks following surgery.
  • Monitor the surgical wound
    • Prevent mum from licking it and monitor the kitten’s behaviour to avoid any injury to the area.
    • Inspect the incision for any bleeding, discharge, or small skin openings.


When to worry

When to worry about your cat after having a C-section

In the days following C-section surgery, close supervision of your cat is crucial.

Seek vet care if your cat is showing signs of:

  • Weakness (lethargy) that persists more than 24 hours after coming home
  • Bleeding or discharge from the incision site
  • Bleeding or discharge from the vagina that continues for more than 7 days
  • Vaginal discharge that is green or has a bad smell
  • Open mouth breathing
  • Tremors, twitching or seizures
  • Vomiting or diarrhoea
  • Pain

Joii can help if:

  • You see bruising around the incision
  • Mum is not eating well
  • Mum refuses to allow the kittens to nurse
  • You cannot keep mum calm
  • Mum licks or chews at the incision site
  • The incision is becoming irritated by the kittens nursing
  • You have trouble feeding or caring for the new kittens
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