Pregnancy in cats

Pregnancy in cats length is similar to dogs. On average, a cat’s pregnancy lasts approximately 65 days.

Responsible breeding requires careful planning and attention to the needs of both the mother and her kittens. Consult with your vet regularly to ensure a smooth and healthy pregnancy, labour, and postpartum care for your beloved feline companion.

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Pregnancy in cats – body changes and what to do

After a successful mating, pregnancy will last on average 65 days (can vary from 60 to 67 days).

Phases of pregnancy

Early-term from week 0-3

  • Body changes:
    • You’re unlikely to notice any obvious changes in your cat
    • But she may gain a small amount of weight
  • What to do:
    • Even if your cat seems fine, always take her for a check-up with your vet if you think she is pregnant
    • Let your vet know the date she was bred/mated. In case of doubt, give a rough estimate
    • Start a diet for pregnant and nursing cats or a high-quality kitten food

Mid-term from week 3-6

From day 25 after mating, your vet can do an abdominal ultrasound scan to confirm and check her pregnancy. You will start noticing changes in appearance.

  • Body changes:
    • Weight gain
    • Changing shape – her tummy will start to round up and sag down
    • Appetite will increase, especially after the 5th week
    • The nipples along her mammary glands will start to enlarge and may darken in preparation for milk
  • What to do:
    • Continue exercise and routine as usual

Late-term from week 6-9

  • Body changes:
    • Belly becomes visibly larger
    • Mammary glands will swell
    • Milk may leak from her nipples
  • What to do:
    • Prepare a nesting area
    • Familiarise yourself with the emergency signs of labour, so you will know when to call your vet if anything goes wrong
    • Get the emergency vet number and location in case of need
    • If it is past day 67 and she hasn’t yet given birth, contact your vet

From day 45, we can start to see the kittens on an x-ray (radiograph).

Your vet may want to do x-rays to rule out some birth problems.

If your vet determines that the kittens are too big to pass safely through the birth canal, then your cat will need to have a caesarean section (C-section).

For information on cats giving birth click here.


Things to lookout for

Things you may need to consider

Pregnancy termination

The decision to end a pregnancy never comes easily.

This might be necessary in different scenarios:

  • You may decide to end your cat’s pregnancy if she is too young to carry a pregnancy safely.
  • Accidental pregnancy that puts your cat’s health at risk.

A termination can be achieved with medications or surgery.

It is helpful to know the breeding date, as different medications work only during certain stages of pregnancy.

  • Spaying
  •  Medications:
    • Progesterone antagonists (aglepristone)
    • Prolactin inhibitor (Cabergoline)
    • Prostaglandins (cloprostenol)
    • Estrogens (estradiol benzoate)
  • Talk to a vet to discuss what is the best option for your cat since the choice of medication will depend on the length of the pregnancy and possible side effects.


What to do

What to do when you have a pregnant cat

Vet checks before breeding

  • Ideally, schedule a pre-breeding vet check-up to ensure your cat is in optimal health for pregnancy.
  • Confirm vaccinations are up-to-date and discuss a suitable breeding plan with your vet.
  • Perform necessary genetic testing to avoid hereditary issues.
  • Record the day of mating. This helps to monitor the length of the pregnancy, plan for birth and prevent pregnancy complications.

Vet check-up during pregnancy

Take your cat for a check-up with your vet as soon as you think she is pregnant.

Your vet will look into her health and make a pregnancy plan with you.

It’s also recommended to have at least another two check-ups during pregnancy:

  • at mid-term (6 weeks) and
  • close to the expected delivery date (8 weeks)

Pregnancy confirmation

Confirming pregnancy in pets is not as simple as in humans.

There is no early blood test either. The only blood test that can be done is a relaxin test.

  • Relaxin test: can be detected at around 14 days after mating but is more accurate at 25+ days.

Confirming your cat’s pregnancy can also be done by:

  • Hands-on examination: your vet may be able to feel the kittens from 20-30 days after mating. However, this can be difficult and isn’t the most accurate way to diagnose pregnancy.
  • Ultrasound scan: your vet will be able to scan your cat from around 25 days after mating.
  • X-rays: less common due to radiation exposure and the need for sedation, but can be taken after 45 days.

Nutrition during pregnancy

  • When your cat becomes pregnant, it is important to consult with a vet for specific dietary recommendations based on individual needs.
  • The general recommendations are to start a gradual transition to a high-quality diet formulated for pregnant and nursing cats or high-quality kitten food.
  • Introduce the new food in a space of around one week, gradually increasing the amount of the new food.
  • From week 3, start increasing the frequency of feeding. Ideally, feed your cat 3-4 meals throughout the day. As the pregnancy progresses and the womb takes up more space, it becomes difficult for her to eat a lot in one go, so increase the number of meals.
  • You should not give your cat calcium supplements or any other type of supplement unless advised by your vet.

Deworming during pregnancy

  • Your cat will need to be dewormed while she’s pregnant to prevent her from passing worms to her kittens.

Always speak to your vet for advice before choosing a wormer, because not all treatments are licenced for pregnancy.


What not to do

What not to do when you have a pregnant cat

Control outdoor activity

  • Maintaining your cat indoors during the late term may be advisable in case she decides to give birth in an unknown location.

Prevent environmental stress

  • It’s particularly important to minimise stress during late-term pregnancy.
  • Around week 7, create a clean, comfortable and stress-free environment. Including a nesting area and minimising disruptions (loud noises, excessive people, other pets, cold environment).
  • Sometimes your cat may choose a place on her own and you can simply adjust it to be clean and more comfortable for her.

Care with medication

  • Speak to your vet If your cat is pregnant and has a condition that requires medication.
  • Many drugs are unsafe during pregnancy and nursing (lactating).
  • Don’t give or apply flea and worm treatment to your pregnant or lactating cat without getting advice from a vet first.


When is it normal

Common behaviour changes seen during pregnancy

Your cat may change its personality as well as behave differently when expecting.

  • Increased affection: Your cat may seek out more of your company to connect and cuddle.
  • More tiere: You may notice that she sleeps more, especially as the pregnancy progresses.
  • Restlessness: As her pregnancy progresses, she may look more unsettled needing to readjust her position to feel comfortable. A restless cat that won’t stay still can be a sign that she is close to giving birth, so keep an eye on her.
  • Nesting behaviour: In the last few weeks before birth it’s normal for her to hide in small places of the house, such as the closet to make a cosy nest. Do not let her outdoors with no supervision, she might decide to nest away from the house.
  • Increased thirst and urination: You may notice your cat drinking more water during pregnancy, which often leads to more frequent urination. This is due to hormonal changes and the increasing demand on her body.


When to worry

When should you be concerned about your cat during pregnancy?

Take your cat to the nearest vet practice if they look:

  • Disoriented
  • Stiff
  • Lethargic

Joii can help if:

  • Your cat is not eating as usual
  • Is restless
  • You need help creating a suitable nest
  • Advise on your cat’s diet and exercise
  • Confirming normal labour
  • Identifying emergencies
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