How to Tell When a Cat is Ready to Give Birth

If you have a litter of kittens on the way, you will be wondering when your momma cat will be giving birth.

A pregnant cat will exhibit several signs to alert you that the time is near. Unless you are a breeder and know specifically when your cat got pregnant, then it’s kinda hard to guess her due date.

1) Nesting Felines

Most all mammals will have an instinct to start nesting before the birth of their offspring. It’s much similar to humans who want to prepare for the upcoming event and secure all of the items needed for a new baby.

Your cat will want to find a place that is warm and safe, no matter if she is an inside cat or an outside cat. This is one thing you can certainly help her with.

You should provide her with a shelter of some sort. Usually, a box works well as long as she and her babies will fit in it easily and she has room to move around. The sides of the box should be low so she can easily get in and out and put her food and water bowls near the box, as well as her litter box.

You should put the box in a quiet and warm area of your home or possibly in your garage or outside shed if she is an outside cat. Cats also like it to be a darker area when they give birth, so they are not disturbed.

The first few weeks of a kitten’s life don’t allow them to keep their body temperature up naturally. They rely on an area that’s warm and safe to stay warm.

2) Changes in Appetite

Pregnant cats eat about the same amount of food when they are pregnant as before they got pregnant.

In about the last week of pregnancy, your kitty will eat considerably more than usual, and then within a few days of giving birth, she will eat very little or nothing.

This is because nature tells her to eat extra calories for the strength of delivering her kittens and when the time is near, she is usually a bit nervous and has pressure in her stomach from the kittens, so she eats less food.

3) Preparation of the Milk

You will likely notice your pregnant kitty pulling the hair in tufts out from around her nipples. This is to give the kittens better guidance when they go to the nurse.

Since the kitten’s eyes won’t be open, it’s easier for them to find the mother’s milk if there is bare skin around the nipples. This is totally normal and nothing to worry about.

You will also notice that your cat’s mammary glands will start to swell with milk in them. This signifies that she has about a week left until she delivers her kittens. You will usually see four mammary glands in two rows for a total of eight nipples for the babies to drink.

Your cat may produce some milk a day or two before the kittens are born or as soon as they are born. If you see milk leaking from your pregnant feline friend, don’t fret, she will clean herself up without the need for your help.

4) Body Temperature Changes

All cat’s normal body temperatures range from about 100 to 102.5 degrees on a regular basis. When a cat’s body temperature drops down to 99 degrees, it’s a signal that she will give birth in about 2 days.

5) Behavioral Changes

A pregnant cat’s behavior changes when the time for birth is near. Your Cat may be more clingy to you as her pet parent or start hiding in darker areas of the house or outside.

She may also start pacing and be restless while taking fewer cat naps than normal. You may also observe her licking and cleaning herself constantly to prepare for her newborns and cats can vocalize differently with chirps, howls, or loud meows.

How Long is the Cat Gestation Period?

If you are unsure when your cat got pregnant, it’s definitely hard to tell when the kittens will arrive.

The gestational period is about 63 to 65 days. So, if you happen to see her mate one time with a male cat and not again afterward, count forward to this time period for an estimate of when you will have a bouncing litter of kitties.

How to Feed A Pregnant Cat?

When humans are pregnant, we need more calories to support the baby plus the mother. We often say that someone “is eating for two.” Cats usually have 4 to 6 kittens, but they don’t need 5 to 7 times as much food at all. They need a change in their diets to support their young.

If you estimate that your cat is about 4 weeks pregnant, then you should switch her to high-calorie cat food for gestational cats.

Your cat will need this same high-calorie food until her kittens are weaned to keep her in the best of health. Look at cat food labels for pregnancy and lactation or commercial foods labeled for kittens.

If you are feeding your cat a dry commercial product, it’s best to free-feed while she’s pregnant. This way, she can eat more frequently and when she’s hungry, as she will need more food to support the babies, but she will also have less room in her tummy for her food.

Should My Pregnant Cat Visit a Vet?

It’s best to take your cat to the vet for a checkup if you suspect she is pregnant. She should have a fecal test and be put on a de-wormer from your vet if parasites are present in her stool.

Don’t use over-the-counter parasitics on a pregnant cat, as many of these can be dangerous for her in her condition.

You should continue to use your flea preventative on your growing kitty. Make sure your vet approves the one you normally use for her while she’s pregnant.

This will help protect the kittens when they are born from having fleas and contracting flea anemia, which is a very common cause of death for young kittens.

Your pregnant feline friend should not have vaccines while she’s carrying babies. Her vaccinations can be rescheduled for after the arrival of her litter without causing her harm.

How to Tell If A Cat is in Labor?

The first stage of labor is when your cat enters and exits the nesting box, paces, and vocalizes. This is when she is starting labor and it will last about 12 to 36 hours.

The second stage of labor is when she has contractions. She will likely lie in one area and pant and you may even see her tummy contract. This is when the kittens are born with each one in a sac, followed by the placenta, which is a greenish-black mass.

Your mother kitty will likely take off the protective membrane or sac on each kitten as they are born and wash them. This stimulates them to start breathing on their own. Their umbilical cords may be severed during birth or the mother will sever them.

Do I Need to Help Her?

Normally, instinct takes over and your mother cat will do all she needs to make certain her kittens are healthy and thriving.

However, at the end of the labor, she can become tired and need help to remove the sac from the kittens.

You can use a warm damp washcloth to break and wipe the membrane away from the kitten’s mouth and nose and wipe the nose to stimulate it to breathe on its own.

You may need to stroke the body with the washcloth for it to begin breathing. cut the umbilical cord if it is still attached about an inch away from the kitten’s body.

Signs of a Mother Cat in Distress

If your cat has been pushing in hard labor for over an hour and doesn’t produce any kittens, you should call your vet. Some cats need extra care when bearing their young.

Also, if there is no placenta after the kittens, you should call your vet because the retention of the placenta can make your cat very sick with fever and infection and they won’t be able to care for the kittens.

Feline Postpartum Care

Most cats don’t need help in postpartum care. Make sure she has the same food she was eating before giving birth until after the babies are weaned. Provide clean water and a clean litter box in the area of the nest and keep it quiet around her.

You should check on the kittens often and make sure they are all getting fed enough. Smaller kittens tend to be pushed away from the milk by the bigger and stronger kittens.

If you don’t think your cat is producing milk or won’t let them nurse every one to two hours for the first few weeks of life, call your vet for help to take care of the babies.

You should now have an idea of how much longer you will need to wait for the arrival of your “grand kittens.”

This is an exciting time in your household when you finally get to see your cat’s beautiful offspring.

Many female cats become even closer to their favorite human after having a litter of kittens. Enjoy the bundles of fur and if you don’t want future kittens, check into getting your cat spayed.