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The Pet Owner’s Guide to Cat Pregnancy

Not sure what to expect now that your cat is going to be a mom? Here's everything you need to know about cat pregnancy, including how you should care for your furry friend and prepare for the birth.

The Pet Owner’s Guide to Cat Pregnancy

Is your cat going to be a mom? Congratulations! Now it’s time to prepare your cat (and yourself!) for the cute bundles of fur that are coming your way. Here’s everything you need to know about cat pregnancy.

What Does a Typical Cat Pregnancy Look Like?
Did you know that your pet could literally be a “queen?” This is the term used for an intact female cat who has not been spayed. “As a precaution, a queen should be fully vaccinated prior to becoming pregnant, since most vaccines shouldn’t be administered during a pregnancy,” says Dr. Taylor Truitt, a veterinarian and co-founder of The Vet Set, which serves the Manhattan area. “The immune status of the mother will be passed along to her kittens, giving them some immunity to disease.”

According to Dr. Truitt, the typical pregnancy of a queen lasts from 63 to 65 days. “If you believe your queen has been pregnant longer than 65 days, contact your veterinarian,” she says. During the initial few weeks of a cat pregnancy, you may notice that your furry friend is a bit more quiet or fatigued.

“Most cats act fairly normal, but some can act irritable or have signs of nausea, vomiting, or change in appetite during the first few weeks of pregnancy,” says Dr. Truitt. “Some queens can become more irritable of other pets in the house regardless of prior relationships, while some queens require more attention from their owners.”

When Should You Visit Your Vet?
If you’re planning on breeding your cat, Dr. Truitt recommends that you have her examined by your vet beforehand. Your vet will assess your pet’s health status, booster any vaccines she may need and talk to you about other medical concerns, such as internal parasites and fleas. It’s also a good idea for you to have your cat examined around the fifth week of pregnancy to make sure that things are progressing well.

According to Dr. Truitt, you should contact your vet immediately if your cat has any vulvar discharge, is excessively or continuously lethargic, has a decreased appetite, or experiences excessive vomiting, diarrhea, urination, or water consumption. She also notes that while it’s not common, cats can deliver their litters prematurely due to a bacterial or viral infection, toxin exposure or other unknown causes.

What Type of Diet Should Your Cat Have During Pregnancy?
Your cat isn’t just eating for two! She is actually eating for up to eight kittens, so she’s going to require at least one and a half times her regular amount of food. Dr. Truitt recommends that you provide your pregnant cat with kitten food, which has a higher calorie count than regular cat food, in an effort to help her meet her caloric needs.

You should offer your furry friend many small meals throughout the day. Because of the pressure that her growing uterus puts on her stomach, large meals will be more challenging for her to consume. If you’re at work and nobody is at home to care for your kitty, consider hiring a cat sitter to stop by in the afternoon to give her a meal.

How Should You Prepare for the Birth?
Dr. Truitt recommends that you put together a nesting box for your cat. The box should be warm, dry, and located in a quiet place away from normal household chaos. You should line the box with absorbent and disposable material that can be removed once the kittens are born.

According to Dr. Truitt, your cat may display nesting behavior as the day of the birth draws closer. During this time, your cat may “start looking for a quiet and clean place to give birth,” she explains. “But, a cat is a cat. If she wants to give birth in your laundry basket or a closet, she’s going to do just that.

As long as she’s not showing any signs of distress, the best advice is to just let her be.” At this point, it’s important to keep your cat inside so that she can find her ideal birth place in the safety of your home.

How Can You Prevent an Unwanted Cat Pregnancy?
“The best advice I can give is to get your cat spayed or neutered before four months of age to prevent unwanted pregnancies and complications potentially associated with it,” says Dr. Truitt. Many cats are euthanized every year — including kittens — because there are just not enough homes for them. If you’re excited for this batch of fur babies but want to prevent your cat from becoming pregnant again in the future, you can have her spayed as soon as she has weaned her kittens.

Want to learn more about newborn kittens? Check out Kitten Care Stages: Newborn to 72 Weeks.

Laura Richards is a Boston-based freelance writer and the mother of four boys, including a set of identical twins. She is also mom to three rescue pets: Scarlett, a 7-year-old beagle, and Edith and Ollie, 15-year-old identical twin black cats. She has written for numerous parenting publications and is the president of On Point Communications.

* This article is for general informational purposes only. It is not intended nor implied to be providing medical advice and is not a substitute for such advice. The reader should always consult a health care provider concerning any medical condition or treatment plan. Neither nor the author assumes any responsibility or liability with respect to use of any information contained herein.