A pregnant kitty will carry her litter of kittens for around nine weeks before giving birth to them. During the pregnancy and while nursing, she'll need extra care, veterinary checkups, love and nutrition to keep her safe, snug and healthy.
A cat's pregnancy typically lasts 65 days, though it can take as few as 63 or as many as 71 days in some cases, according to WebMD. During her pregnancy, your little girl becomes more docile than usual, and she won't go into heat. She'll start to gain weight, and her belly will become distended as her kittens develop. After about the first month of pregnancy, these subtle symptoms become more pronounced. In addition to your kitty becoming larger, you'll notice that she tries to build a nest for her upcoming litter and may try to mother items like toys or other small objects, according to PetPlace.com.
Time for the Vet
If you suspect that your little girl is pregnant, bring her to the vet for a checkup. Your vet will thoroughly examine your furry buddy to see if she's expecting. By around the third to fourth week of pregnancy, a vet should be able to feel the kittens inside your kitty by gently touching her abdomen. Your veterinarian can perform an ultrasound on your expectant kitty to see how many kittens she's carrying. Depending on her condition, your vet may recommend dietary changes, supplements or special care for your furry friend. Follow all of the directions you are given. Ask the vet how often you should bring your little girl in for checkups. Your vet will also give you exact instructions of what to do during the birthing process.
Pregnant kitties need mild exercise indoors and a safe space to rest until they give birth. Their safe spot will become the nest for the little ones, so keep it in an area away from noise or other pets in your home. A blanket-lined cardboard box works well to make your mother kitty feel at home. But be aware: When birthing time comes, she might disappear to a place she finds more secure.
Your mama cat will need more calories than usual to nourish her developing little ones -- typically around twice as much as that needed by an adult cat, according to the National Research Council of the National Academies. Feed her foods specifically formulated for pregnant or nursing kitties; they contain increased amounts of protein and fats to encourage proper growth for the kittens, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
Babies Are Coming
To determine when your feline friend's kittens might be coming, look for signs that she is nearing the time of birth. Her nipples will swell and may produce milk a day or two before she goes into labor. Your kitty's normal temperature is between 101 and 102 degrees Fahrenheit; if it drops to 100 degrees, your kitty will likely give birth within 24 hours, according to 2ndchance.info, Dr. Ronald Hines' cat health website. Prior to labor, your kitty may seem restless and may lick at her genitals frequently. When your kitty goes into labor, which can last up to six hours, follow your vet's instructions to see that your kitty delivers a litter of healthy kittens.
Keep in mind that very young kittens can go into heat and become pregnant as early as 4 months of age, according to Purina. Prevent any unwanted little ones by spaying your furry companion by 3 months old, before she reaches her first estrus. This is the only sure way to prevent her from becoming pregnant. If your kitty does give birth to a litter of kittens, care for them properly and find them good homes. Some rescue groups can help you do this and can provide low-cost spay and neuter options for both the babies and their mama.
- VCA Animal Hospitals: Estrus Cycles in Cats
- Purina: At What Age Can My Cat Become Pregnant?
- Fayette Veterinary Hospital: Reproduction Questions
- WebMD: Pregnancy and Gestation in Cats
- PetPlace.com: Pregnancy in Cats
- National Research Council of the National Academies: Your Cat's Nutritional Needs
- U.S. Food and Drug Administration: Selecting Nutritious Pet Foods
- 2ndchance.info: The Stages of Feline Labor -- When Your Cat Gives Birth
- George Marks/Retrofile/Getty Images