Cat pregnancy: the 5 stages and how to take care of a mother cat

How do you tell if a cat is pregnant? How many months does pregnancy last? Let’s answer this and other questions about feline gestation.

If you have decided to have your cat reproduce or more simply you have come across a future feline mother and have chosen to take care of her, it is essential that you know everything you need to know about cat pregnancy and the stages of which it consists. Here is all the information you need to know to better take care of the pregnant cat.

How do you tell if a cat is pregnant?

Cat pregnancy symptoms can go unnoticed, but if you really want to understand if the cat is pregnant, you need to be able to observe some signs.

the most obvious symptoms of feline gestation are:

  • Sudden stop of heat;
  • Physical and character changes in the cat;
  • The cat seeks a safe shelter.

Sudden stop of the heat period

First you need to pay attention to the cycle: cats go into heat very often, about every 14 days.

If the heat stops suddenly, it is an obvious sign that the cat may be pregnant. In particular, it is necessary to pay attention to certain behaviors such as less desire to leave the house or an attitude that is more calm and relaxed than usual.

Physical and character changes in the cat

When a cat reaches three weeks of pregnancy, the first signs of physical changes begin to show.

The first thing you will notice is a change in the nipples, which become bigger and more rosy.

This is a somewhat difficult sign to notice, as cats’ fur is often quite thick in that area: but if yours is a short-haired cat or perhaps belongs to the hairless cat breeds you can easily notice it.

Pregnancy also involves changes of a character nature in the cat.

Usually, a pregnant cat suddenly becomes much more loving and cuddly than usual due to differences in hormone levels.

Among the symptoms of pregnancy in the cat there is also seeing the cat persistently following the owner, meowing more than usual to claim attention.

A pregnant cat tends to have morning sickness exactly as it happens to pregnant women: for this reason, it is possible to notice some typical signs in the pregnant cat such as a certain decrease in appetite and the tendency to vomit often in the morning and later general during the day.

Loss of appetite in cats usually lasts only for the beginning of pregnancy, then they will resume eating more often than usual!

After the first half of pregnancy, another of the more unequivocal symptoms appears: the belly begins to grow and the pregnant cat will have the classic “baby bump”. In addition to increasing in volume, the abdomen becomes firmer and the nipples grow even more in preparation for the lactation phase of the kittens.

The cat seeks a safe shelter

Finally, when the date of delivery is near, the pregnant cat will start looking for the right place to “make the nest”, that is a den in which to give birth and breastfeed the little ones.

The search for the place to give birth can end up in a closet, under the bed, in the laundry basket or we can facilitate the search by offering them a suitable refuge and making soft towels or blankets available to them.

But be careful: the mother cat will always make the final decision.

Pregnant cat: how long is pregnancy and how many kittens can she do

How long is the pregnancy of the cat? Once fertilization has taken place, the pregnancy of the cat lasts from 58 to 72 days.

The number of cats a cat can give birth varies, as it depends on a number of factors, including:

  • Tonnage;
  • Race;
  • Age;
  • The cat has already given birth or is the first birth.

In general, they range from a minimum of one puppy to a maximum of 6.

The stages of cat pregnancy

A pregnant cat needs special care and attention that change and evolve as the pregnancy progresses.

For this, you must be prepared for the changes and needs that arise as the weeks go by, doing everything possible to ensure the well-being of both the cat and future kittens.

Faced with the pregnancy of the cat, a series of doubts and perplexities may arise: in this article we will answer the possible questions, dividing the gestation of the cat into 5 phases.

1. Fertilization

Fertilization coincides with the initial moment of the cat’s pregnancy, that is, with the mating between the male and the female.

To have the mating it is necessary first of all that the cats have reached the right age, that of maturity, which coincides with approximately 6 months (even if some cat breeds reach this stage earlier than others).

For mating and fertilization to take place, the cat must be in heat.

Cats go into heat several times a year, for an average duration of about seven days at a time, during which time they can mate several times a day, even with more than one male.

2. The cat’s early pregnancy stage

During the first two weeks of pregnancy, the cat may suffer from some typical ailments such as nausea: as we have seen, the symptom that can help us understand if this is the case of our kitten is lack of appetite.

The problem of nausea is resolved by the third week, when the cat will resume eating normally and will gain weight: in this phase, by feeling the abdomen of the mother cat, you can feel small lumps that are the fetuses of the kittens in the development phase.

3. The intermediate stage of cat pregnancy

Starting from the fourth week of gestation, the mother cat begins to gain visible weight.

The reason is simple: the kittens in the belly are getting bigger, and depending on their number, the belly of the pregnant cat can grow to look like a soccer ball!

This is the right time to have the mom-to-be undergo an ultrasound at the vet, who will be able to tell how many kittens there are on the way. You may also be interested in: Feeding the kitten: from birth to weaning

4. Pre-birth

The pre-birth phase of a cat’s pregnancy begins one week before the kittens are born.

You can understand that the mother cat is approaching birth by observing the appearance of the nipples, which will be decidedly enlarged and in some cases even begin to lose a few drops of milk.

In this final moment of pregnancy there are also behavioral changes in the cat.

In particular, the so-called phase of building the nest begins, with the search for a warm, quiet and safe place in which to give birth to the young. 

We can facilitate the mother cat in this phase, providing her with comfortable beds.

You may also be interested in: Cat care after neutering: attention for the male and female

5. Labor and birth

Two days before labor begins, the mother cat will stop looking for the right place to give birth.

The exact moment of the beginning of the birth is recognized by meowing and moaning, but also by the fact that the cat will begin to lick her genitals.

Also, if it is the first pregnancy, the cat is likely to be anxious and agitated.

About an hour after the start of labor, the first puppy is born: subsequently, a kitten should arrive every 15-20 minutes.

Once born, the mother cat cleans the kittens by licking them and gently cutting the umbilical cord with her teeth.

If this does not happen, human intervention will be required.

What Happens During Feline Birth?

After the mucus plug is expelled, the cat gives birth within minutes or hours.

If you have chosen to have your cat delivered at home, always keep your phone handy to call the vet if necessary.

Mother cat helps the kittens to come out by licking them and cutting the umbilical cord of each of them with her teeth: between the release of one kitten and the other it can take several minutes. If you notice that your cat is tired and can’t take it anymore, you can help her give birth by gently cleaning the new kittens with a damp towel.

If she can’t cut the cord herself, get some disinfected scissors, tie the cords in two places away from the puppy’s belly, and cut very carefully. At the end of the birth, the cat will excrete and eat the placenta.

How to take care of a pregnant cat

The pregnant cat must follow a balanced diet similar to the usual one, increasing the food doses by 25/35% in mid-pregnancy.

There are specific cat foods on the market for pregnant cats.

During breastfeeding, the correct nutrition of the cat involves an increase in caloric and calcium intake: consult your veterinarian to know how to regulate yourself and if it is necessary to add vitamin supplements.

Pay attention to the regularity with which pesticides are applied: these treatments are essential in all phases of feline life and especially when the cat is pregnant.

Make sure the cat stays free from internal and external parasites, which could be very dangerous for the kittens.

After giving birth: first care for kittens

Newborn kittens must absolutely not be separated from their mother.

For the first 3 months of life, in fact, they will be fed with their mother’s milk, a food that contains all the nutrients necessary to make the kitten grow strong and healthy.

Furthermore, newborn kittens are blind, deaf and toothless and thus remain totally dependent on their mom.

The best thing to do right after giving birth is to leave the mother cat alone as much as possible, letting nature take its course.

What becomes fundamental in this phase, and that totally depends on us, is the attention to the feeding of the lactating cat.

In order to breastfeed the kittens, the mother cat must produce enough milk and she needs the right “fuel”: we can say that in the lactation phase the nutritional needs of a cat also increases up to four times compared to the phase before pregnancy.

Better to focus on an “at will” diet, leaving the full bowl at the disposal of the new mother, giving preference to wet cat food over kibble because it is more digestible.  

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