Cats

How do you care for a pregnant cat?

posted: 05/15/12
care-for-a-pregnant-cat0
Read more Read less
Care for pregnant cat
Ivy Reynolds/Getty Images

Perhaps your unspayed indoor-only cat slipped out for a rendezvous with a local tom. Maybe you've taken in a stray in distress, or are fostering a mom-to-be for a rescue group. Whatever the reason, you're about to host a feline obstetric ward. Pregnant cats often become very vocal, affectionate, and sometimes have morning sickness, just as humans do. She may also begin pulling some fur off her stomach area, exposing her growing nipples. As with any expectant female, the lady-in-waiting requires some extra care during this stressful, exciting time. Along with enough cat food and a soft place for the nursery, you'll need an ample supply of patience and kindness. Prepare other members of your family for this event, so they'll respect the cat's need for space. And never press on a pregnant cat's stomach. Doing so can harm the kittens and cause a miscarriage.

Visit the Vet

A vet exam early in the cat's pregnancy will help pinpoint her due date. The vet can also check her for any conditions he can treat, such as fleas or ear-mites. If the cat is a stray that seems poorly nourished, the vet may suggest dietary supplements or a particular food formula. No vaccinations, medications or antibiotics should be given to a pregnant cat unless your vet approves. He can also reassure you of what to expect during her pregnancy, from weight gain and swollen nipples to lethargy and increasing affection.

Eating for more than one

You may be tempted to overfeed the expectant cat, but doing so early in her pregnancy may cause her to add fat, making her delivery difficult. Feed the same amount of high-quality cat food you've been offering, with plenty of fresh water. Her kittens will grow rapidly during the last four to six weeks of her nine-week pregnancy, which is when she'll need more nutrition. During that time, slowly increase food to about 50 percent more than usual. A gradual switch to a higher-calorie food, formulated for kittens, will help the unborn kittens get necessary nutrients, and the mother produce milk later.

Of course you'll keep your pregnant cat safely indoors! Set up a nesting spot, in a draft-free room away from kids, other pets, and household traffic. A large cardboard box with low sides makes a good birthing box. Filled with towels, an old sweatshirt or blanket, it will give her a feeling of comfort and warmth-- and she'll feel secure about delivering her brood there.

care-for-a-pregnant-cat0
Read more Read less
Care for pregnant cat
Ivy Reynolds/Getty Images

Litter issues

Provide a large litter box with low sides so that as your cat gains weight, she won't struggle to climb in. It should be kept meticulously clean, scooped or emptied at least twice a day.

Until the later stages of the cat's pregnancy, she'll act much as she always has. She'll stretch, use her scratching post, and nap-- sleeping more as pregnancy progresses. Your main concern is ensuring she eats and drinks enough. As her breasts become swollen, she'll feel uncomfortable, licking them to relieve pressure. You can help by gently squeezing each nipple with a slight downward push, releasing a few milk drops. Never press on a pregnant cat's stomach, because it can cause a miscarriage. Near the end of pregnancy, she'll be very restless. Usually a cat stops eating for a day right before giving birth. If she doesn't eat or drink for more than a day, consult your vet.

Delivery Do's and Don'ts

When your cat is ready for her family, she'll do the work herself, but you should stand by. She'll pant when she's in labor, lying in her birthing box. She may get up to walk around, so gently place her back in the box. Make sure she is secured in a room so she won't go to the back of a closet or under a bed to give birth. Kittens usually arrive within a three-to-four hour span, although a large litter may take longer. If your cat is in labor for more than eight hours without delivering, call your vet immediately for instructions.

Once the kittens come, the cat may be too absorbed in their care to eat. Place fresh water and food where she can easily reach it. Allow mother and kittens privacy and quiet for the first three or four days. Resist the urge to handle delicate newborns. Your cat will let you know when it's okay to stroke her babies by welcoming your touch on her own body, sometimes licking your hand. If you then pet a kitten and she doesn't hiss, you have her approval.

More on
Cats