The day has finally come: Your best furry companion is delivering her first litter of kittens. If you're overwhelmed, imagine how little Fluffy is feeling. Since she'll be in labor for hours, its best to plan ahead, put together a birthing plan and have an emergency contact ready, just in case.
Female cats become sexually mature between 4 and 10 months of age, but 6 months old about average, according to the Cats of Australia website. A female will start going into heat cycles that last for about a week. While in heat, she'll be overly affectionate, she'll meow loudly to call a mate, she'll frequently lick between her hind legs and may roll around constantly. Heat cycles occur every two to three weeks. Keep Fluffy away from intact male kitties during this time, otherwise you'll wind up having a litter of kittens to care for.
Cats are perfectly capable of delivering their litter of kittens all on their own, but you should know what to expect in case any problems arise. A day or two before delivery, Fluffy's mammary glands will swell and may start dripping milk. This is a sign that her furry brood is coming shortly. Roughly 12 hours before the birthing begins, she may seem restless and wander from room to room, and she might have a decreased appetite. She may even vomit. When she is ready to deliver, she'll enter her nesting box and prepare for delivery. Since it may take her several days to make herself comfortable in her nesting area, set it up early rather than scrambling for towels and blankets when the time comes.
Fluffy will probably give off several clues when it's go-time. She'll enter her nesting box for the long term and might meow loudly. As her contractions start, she'll lose her placental plug. You should be able to see or feel her contractions between her hind legs. Once they are down to about two or three minutes apart, the first kitten will come out within an hour. After the birth of the firstborn, a kitten is born every 15 to 30 minutes, according to the Cats of Australia website.
Length of Time
The length of time for delivery depends on how many kittens are in your loving companion's belly. If you had an X-ray or thorough exam done and know how many kittens are in the litter, you may be able to estimate her labor. For example, if your veterinarian determines that she has approximately four babies, from the time the first kitten is born, she'll be in labor for another 45 to 90 minutes.
Each kitten has an umbilical cord and is wrapped in an amniotic sac after birth. Mama kitty should chew through the cord and clear the sac from her newborn baby, but if she doesn't take care of the fragile kitten within a few minutes, you may need to help her. Ensure that the cord is not wrapped around the kitten's neck and remove the amniotic sac from his face by wiping his muzzle with a sterile cloth. Eventually, as Fluffy gets caught up, she'll get all of her babies cleaned.
Each kitten has its own placenta, which may or may not come out with the kitten. Keep track of the placentas and ensure that they equal the amount of kittens. If there are three kittens and only two placentas, one may be stuck in your kitty, which can lead to an infection. If a placenta is missing, your cat needs medical attention.
As long as Fluffy tends to her newborns and they are breathing on their own, you won't need to intervene. Too much interference or traffic in her birthing area may distract her and delay her delivery. Last, make sure mama kitty has food and water near her birthing nest. She'll need to eat to allow her body to produce plenty of milk for all of her meowing bundles of joy.
Melodie Anne Coffman specializes in overall wellness, with particular interests in women's health and personal defense. She holds a master's degree in food science and human nutrition and is a certified instructor through the NRA. Coffman is pursuing her personal trainer certification in 2015.