Can Cats Have Contractions in the First Stage of Labor?

"Mom said I was a much easier delivery than you. You've always been trouble."
i David De Lossy/Photodisc/Getty Images

Chances are your healthy cat will have an easy delivery. But it's wise to know what to expect. Understanding the proper order of events is smart in the small chance she'll need help. A cat's contractions in the first stage of labor are generally not strong enough to notice.

Approaching Delivery

By day 63 of Fluffy's pregnancy, some significant physical changes have occurred in her. Obviously she's heavier than she was a couple of months ago. Her nipples are probably enlarged and pink. Her behavior may be different as well, as she seeks out just the right spot to have her kittens. As you hold and stroke her, you may notice her kittens moving around inside her, particularly as they position themselves to be born.

Light Contractions in the First Stage

Fluffy will begin having light contractions in the first stage of labor. You may not notice the contractions because they don't result in straining early in the first stage, but you may be able to feel the movement of her kittens. Other signs that she's started this stage include restlessness and decrease in appetite. She may be in and out of her kittening box, trying to get comfortable at this stage. Fluffy may stay in this state for just a few hours or as long as 36 hours.

Contractions in Transition

As Fluffy's delivery time approaches, the time between her contractions will decrease to about two to three minutes apart. As the time between them shortens, they'll become stronger. Depending on her personality and your relationship, Fluffy may become very vocal and want your attention, or she may prefer to withdraw and cope with her condition on her own. It's normal for a cat to lie on her side or squat to help push kittens out. It's best to leave her be at these times and not interrupt her.

Strong Contractions in the Second Stage

The second stage of labor begins with the birth of the first kitten, which should happen around 30 minutes to an hour after Fluffy starts her strong contractions. She'll have rest times between each kitten's birth, usually lasting about 15 to 30 minutes. Depending on how many kittens there are, it can take as little as a couple of hours to a good part of a day for Fluffy to deliver her brood.

Unusual Contractions

Occasionally a cat may experience premature contractions causing early delivery of her kittens. Some cats can be genetically predisposed to early labor while others may have an infection, a hormonal imbalance, ovarian cysts, stress or malnutrition. The death of a fetus in the womb can also cause early labor. If Fluffy hasn't reached 61 days of pregnancy and you see bloody discharge, a change in appetite, hiding behavior or increased vocalization, it's best to get her to the vet. Also, seek medical help for her if she has strong contractions for more than 60 minutes between kittens.

Always check with your veterinarian before changing your pet’s diet, medication, or physical activity routines. This information is not a substitute for a vet’s opinion.

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