Cats can become pregnant as young as four months of age, which is why it’s important to spay female cats before they go into their first heat. Allowing your cat to have a pregnancy because you believe that your cat needs to have the experience of giving birth, or your children need to witness the “miracle of life,” is unacceptable. There may, however, be circumstances when you find yourself caring for a pregnant cat. Perhaps you took in a stray cat, or you are fostering a pregnant cat.
The average cat pregnancy will last 65 to 69 days. Even though cats are pretty self-sufficient when it comes to having kittens, there are things you can do to support your cat through her pregnancy.
Good nutrition is important
Cats will need more calories during pregnancy. Feed a grain-free raw or canned diet high in protein, and plan on increasing the amount of food you feed as your cat nears her term. Your cat will gain weight throughout the pregnancy, but will most likely not start showing until the last few weeks of her pregnancy. You may need to feed more and smaller meals as the pregnancy progresses.
Physical changes during pregnancy
Your cat’s nipples may start leaking milk during the final phases of pregnancy. It is possible that she may not make it to the litter box each time. Think about how pregnant women complain about the baby pressing on their bladder – the same thing is true for your cat. Don’t scold her for accidents. Use pee pads near areas where she tends to relax as an extra precaution. Your cat may need help cleaning her bottom since she may not be able to reach it herself due to her increasing size. Use a soft cloth moistened with warm water.
Preparing for birth
Create a nesting space for your cat in a quiet area where she can give birth. A box lined with soft blankets or towels, perhaps in a closet or small bathroom, is a good choice. Don’t be surprised, though, if your cat doesn’t use the box.
What to expect during labor and birth
Prior to labor, your cat may be restless and wandering through your house in search of a place to give birth. You can gently direct her to the box you prepared, but don’t force her to use it. Once labor begins, it’s best to not get involved unless there are complications. If you notice any of the following, seek immediate veterinary care:
– Your cat is having visible contractions but has not delivered a kitten in 15-20 minutes
– You see parts of a kitten, or the placenta, protruding from her vulva, but she is unable to expel the kitten within a minute or two
– It is normal for a cat to rest between birthing kittens, but if more than two hours pass without another kitten being delivered, contact your veterinarian.
What do expect after birth
Once all the kittens are delivered, if your cat delivered them somewhere other than the clean and comfortable area you prepared, you can move mom and the kittens there. Your cat will most likely spend most of her time with her new kittens and they will depend on her for everything from keeping them warm to feeding them. Your cat will groom her kittens, and sometimes even eat their excretions. This is normal.
Once the kittens reach 4 weeks of age, you can start introducing them to solid food. Once they eat regularly, you can start weaning them, usually around 6-8 weeks of age. Kittens should remain with their litter mates until they’re at least 8 weeks old.
If your cat or the kittens aren’t eating normally, acting abnormally, of if they vomit or have diarrhea, immediate veterinary attention is required.
This article was previously published on Answers.com and is republished with permission.