A pregnant cat brings about lots of excitement. Whether you're a seasoned pro or new to cat pregnancy, our checklist will help keep your cat and future kittens happy and healthy. With your home needing to be prepared, vet appointments to be booked and extra TLC to be given, its important to be able to spot the signs that your cat may be expecting as soon as possible.
How to tell if a cat is pregnant
First things first, is your cat pregnant?
Spotting a pregnant cat is easier said than done for most pet owners. But it’s always a good idea to check whether your cat is expecting, rather than leaving it to chance. While there are worse things to come home to than a litter of adorable kittens, a surprise pregnancy can be stressful and emotional for both sets of pawrents.
If you’ve welcomed your own baby into the world, you know how much your body and mind change during pregnancy. Your cat is no different. Spotting these changes early on is best for ensuring a healthy pregnancy for both the mother and their kittens. Fortunately, with all the physical and mental changes occurring, there are a number of signs to look out for:
Changes in appearance
The most obvious and easily noticeable signs of a pregnant cat are the changes to her appearance. Her nipples may become darker and more enlarged as she prepares to nurse her babies. This typically takes place 2-3 weeks during her pregnancy. You may also become aware of weight gain, specifically around her tummy, which is otherwise unexplained.
Pregnant cats can gain around 1-2kg, depending on how many kittens they are carrying, which should be noticeable if you look at her body shape from above. You may be tempted to touch her belly to feel for signs of life, but you should avoid doing this too much as you could risk hurting the new mum or her babies.
If your cats tummy has swelled but you don't think she could be pregnant, take her to the vet as this could signal an illness.
Changes in behaviour
Pregnant or nursing cats are known as ‘queens’, and they can certainly live up to their title! She will start to sleep more during the day, appearing to have less energy or desire to move. Your queen may also start to act more maternal and needier, seeking extra attention from you – when she’s awake that is! If you notice your cat rolling around on the floor and being highly vocal, chances are, you have a pregnant cat!
If you are an experienced pawrent and have had your kitty for a while, you might be able to recognise when your cat is in heat. Just like humans, female cats have periods of peak fertility, which happen once every three weeks or so. Typically, you’ll notice her being more affectionate to others and walking a little differently. However, if her heat cycle suddenly comes to a halt or she displays different behaviours, this could be a sign of cat pregnancy.
Changes in eating habits
Another sign of a pregnant is a change in their appetite. This depends on the individual cat. Your queen could suddenly go off her food and refuse to eat, or she may begin to eat everything and anything in sight. Either way, any drastic change to her eating habits could be a sign of pregnancy, so it’s important to be aware of how much, how often and what food your cat is eating.
Just like a human pregnancy, pregnant cats can get morning sickness and cravings. She may start to be sick on a regular basis as soon as 3-4 weeks into the pregnancy. Don’t panic. Sickness is normal for a pregnant cat. However, it’s a good idea to get her checked out by the vet if:
- She doesn’t eat for more than 3 days
- She is being excessively sick
- She is eating anything other than her food in abundance
How long is a cat pregnant?
Cat pregnancies typically last around 65-69 days, so there’s no time to waste! Once you know for sure if your furry family is growing, you can start planning and preparing for the big day.
While it’s important to look out for physical, behavioural or nutritional changes in your kitty, the only way to know if your cat is pregnant for sure is by booking her in with the vet. They can carry out an ultrasound to confirm whether she is expecting and can usually determine how many kittens she is carrying. So, as soon as you start to notice any of the above changes, book her an appointment to get a pregnancy confirmation.
Caring for your pregnant cat
A little extra TLC
With her body beginning to go through drastic changes, it’s understandable that your queen will require some extra love and care. She may not want to leave the house as often and you might notice that she seeks out some alone time in a quiet place. If so, it’s best to leave her to it. Chances are, she’s starting to nest and is searching for the ideal peaceful spot to bring her kittens into the world.
Feeding your pregnant cat
Your queen won’t just be ‘eating for two’ – each litter tends to have an average of 4-6 kittens. With so many mouths to feed, it goes without saying that she may need a little extra in her bowl each day - food intake can quadruple in this time. She’ll need to be fed small meals several times throughout the day and should have access to fresh water at all times. During her pregnancy you can leave dry kitten food out for her to graze on.
Pregnant cats dietary requirements differ to their non pregnant diet. Your pregnant cat will need extra protein and energy. As soon as you've confirmed your cat is pregnant, switch them from their normal adult cat food to a kitten food. Kitten food is packed with extra calories and the nutrients your queen needs to keep herself and her kittens healthy. If you've not tried Scrumbles, our high quality natural kitten food also includes a probiotic to keep their digestive system happy and boost their immune system. And most importantly keep those poos in check.
As with any food change, make sure you transition over a period of 7-10 days to keep her sensitive stomach happy. You should continue feeding a kitten formula until her kittens have been weaned off her milk.
You worked tirelessly to house train your cat and now she’s started to leave messes on the floor again. Frustrating, right? However, the latter stages of pregnancy are not the time to scold your queen for having an accident or two. She simply can’t help it. The extra pressure on her bladder can make it harder to reach the litter box in time.
During those final precious few weeks, her nipples may also begin to swell and leak milk. Keeping your queen, and yourself, as calm as possible during those later stages is important for a healthy pregnancy and birth, so make sure you’re regularly changing her bed blankets to provide a warm, clean and cosy safe space.
Keeping your pregnant cat safe
If your cat is an outdoor cat, you'll want to keep them safe and secure indoors from around the 6th week of pregnancy.
Preparing for the big day
In what feels like no time at all, your beloved kitty will be becoming a mother herself. You may have spent weeks, even months, preparing for delivery. But it can still come as a surprise for some. There are a few key signs that your queen is in or about to go into labour:
- Restlessness – Around 24-48 hours before the birth, your pregnant cat may appear restless or anxious, pacing around her nesting area
- Vocalisation – She might begin to meow and cry out more than usual. Don’t worry. She’s just letting you know the kittens are coming
- Temperature changes – Around 24 hours before giving birth, her body temperature will drop below 38°C, so be sure to have a thermometer handy
- Loss of appetite – In the run up to giving birth, your cat may lose her appetite and stop eating altogether.
If the time has come and your cat is displaying signs of labour, now is the time to put all your research to good use and help her bring her new kittens into the world safely.
Let her lead the way
Whether you want to call for a vet or you feel confident doing things yourself, make sure your queen is in a safe and comfortable space when the time comes. A number of pet pawrents have delivered their kittens successfully. But we recommend having a vet on call, just in case something doesn't go as expected.
The mum-to-be will probably start wandering around the house, looking for a good nesting space to give birth in. While you can create a quiet corner with a paper lined box, it’s important to let her lead you on this one and don’t try to move her from her comfortable spot. If a pregnant cat feels threatened or stressed at all, her labour could halt entirely which can be dangerous for both her and her kittens. Cats will typically seek an enclosed space for giving birth - choose an option with low sides for her to get in and out easily.
Create a peaceful environment
We understand this is an exciting time for the whole family. Every auntie, sister, brother and friend wants to be there to witness this miraculous experience. But your queen’s needs come first, and she needs a quiet, peaceful environment in which she feels safe.
So, whether they like it or not, the kids and other pets need to stay out of the room during the birth and you need to make sure your home is as quiet and calm as possible. You should delay the introduction of your new family members until they have had chance to settle in and relax to avoid causing stress to the newborn kittens.
Take a step back
With all the excitement and nerves surrounding the birth, it’s easy to get carried away and think that you need to help your cat out. However, there is no need for you to get involved with the birth at all. Mum always knows best. Nature will kick in, allowing her to safely deliver her babies alone.
Your cat will first experience a number of strong abdominal contractions and then you'll notice some vaginal discharge. After this, the kittens should start to appear. The amount of time to deliver each kitten can vary from as little as 5 minutes to up to half an hour per kitten.
Kittens will appear with an amniotic sac surrounding them that your cat will typically open. If she doesn't you'll need to step in here and gently open the membrane using a towel to allow the kittens to breathe. Once all the kittens are out, your cat should bite through the umbilical cord, but again if she doesn't you'll need to help here.
If you're worried about any of these steps, check with your vet ahead of the big day and on the big day if you suspect something has gone wrong, for example the discharge is bloody or particularly heavy call the vet immediately. Preparation will help you ensure your pregnant cat is safe and comfortable throughout and beyond her pregnancy.
Congratulations – you are now a proud new pawrent! Although it’s tempting to dive straight in with cuddles for these new bundles of joy, the new mum may become fiercely protective if anyone goes too near her kitties, so give them all time to settle first. Only when all kittens have arrived and mum is calm and relaxed should you move all the cats to a clean and comfortable area.
Whether you’re planning to keep all the kittens, or send them off to loving new homes, you’re responsible for these new bundles of joy for at least the first few weeks of life. Bringing home a new kitten can be a scary time for any new pawrent, but the new mum will have all the instincts and nutrients needed to allow her babies to grow.
It's not until around 4 weeks has passed that kittens will be ready to wean onto solid food. Check out our post on feeding kittens to read more about this little milestone in their lives.