How Long Can a Cat Be in Labor After Delivering the First Kitten?

They're new to the world.
i Jupiterimages/ Images

If you're waiting for Kitty to give birth, it's a nerve-racking time. You want to be sure she and the kittens will be all right. Pregnant cats are called queens, so you should treat her like one. Have your vet's contact information on hand in case of any problems.


Feline gestation lasts about two months. If you purposely bred Kitty, you'll have a pretty good idea of when she is due. If Kitty's pregnancy was an accident or she showed up heavy with kittens on your doorstep, take her to the vet for an estimate of how far along she is. When she feels the first stirrings of labor, Kitty goes into nesting mode. She'll be restless, pacing around the house, meowing and possibly panting. She might also head back and forth to the litter box, with little or no result. Kitty is experiencing contractions, but you can't see that. This initial labor stage lasts a few hours or most of a day.

Giving Birth

That restlessness and yowling is the first labor stage. The second stage signals kitten birth. Babies arrive either head or feet first -- both entrances into the world are normal for felines. Generally, kittens arrive in 45 minute to one hour intervals. The average kitten is delivered with three very strong pushes on Mama cat's part. As each kitten arrives, she licks the amniotic membrane off the kitten's face, which also gets his breathing started. The placenta comes out with each kitten. Make sure the number of expelled placentas equals the number of kittens. A retained placenta becomes a red alert veterinary emergency for Mama cat.

Interrupted Labor

Some cats experience an interrupted labor, in which they rest for a considerable time before delivering the next kitten. This might last for as long as four hours, although that length of time is unusual. If Mama cat appears relaxed between deliveries, even getting up to eat or drink, there's no cause for alarm. She might pause to nurse her kittens. Problems arise if she's straining to deliver and nothing happens.


Dystocia refers to difficulties when giving birth. While the time period between kitten deliveries can last a long time, recognize signs that it's time to call the vet. If your cat appears to be in intense labor but no kitten emerges within 20 minutes, you need veterinary assistance. If bright red blood emerges from the birth canal, with a flow lasting longer than 10 minutes, or the vagina emits a very foul smell, call the vet. Have a carrier on hand to transport the mother and her newborns to an emergency veterinary hospital. Your vet might give Kitty medication to stimulate uterine contractions, or perform a Cesarean section if a kitten is stuck in the birth canal.

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.

the nest