What You Need to Know If Your Cat Is Pregnant
Cat pregnancy is often undetectable for the first few weeks, but once confirmed, it requires close attention to ensure your cat is healthy and prepared for the impending arrival of her kittens. If you suspect your cat is pregnant, or have confirmed the pregnancy but have questions, you may have relied on the internet for answers. At GeniusVets, we believe that pet care information should come from veterinarians and not from well-intended people on the internet. That’s why we’ve taken cat pregnancy FAQs, sent these questions to renowned veterinarians across the U.S,. and compiled their replies to get you useful information that you can trust.
While we've sourced all of the cat pregnancy information and recommendations below directly from leading veterinarians across the country, please make sure to seek out the advice of your own veterinarian or find a trusted vet near you using the GeniusVets Directory.
The most important thing to know is whether your cat is, indeed, pregnant, as it might affect some of the decisions you make for her going forward. It’s also important to know that she’s in good health and can successfully carry the litter, for her own health and her kittens. Talk to your veterinarian about the process so you know when to expect the kittens to arrive. Cats deliver only 58-67 days after becoming pregnant.
If you suspect your cat is pregnant, you should see your veterinarian sooner rather than later for a head-to-toe wellness exam. You’ll want to make sure the cat is in perfect health and able to carry the litter properly, and check for worms to ensure she doesn't have that burden weighing her down. If worms are present, your veterinarian will need to deworm her adequately before she gets further along in the pregnancy.
Most signs of cat pregnancy won’t appear right away, and once they do, many of them are easy to miss.
Signs of cat pregnancy include:
- Swollen belly around 3-4 weeks into the pregnancy
- Enlarged and darkened mammary glands around 3-4 weeks into the pregnancy
- Heat cycle change, no longer happening every 10 days to two weeks as usual
- Increased appetite, approximately 1.5 times her normal food intake
- Vomiting, since early-stage morning sickness is as common in cats as it is in humans
- Weight gain of approximately 2-4 pounds
- Sleeping more, since her body is now carrying the load of multiple fetuses
- Nesting behavior, including seeking quiet places to potentially have their litter
Every once in a while, there will also be a change in the cat’s temperament, typically further along when they're getting close to delivery and feeling anxious.
At this time, there are no dependable pregnancy blood tests that your veterinarian can do.
Ways to confirm cat pregnancy include:
- Palpation – An experienced veterinarian will gently press on the cat’s abdomen with their hands, and can feel the fetuses as early as 20 days.
- X-Ray – X-rays will show the ossified bones of kittens approximately 40 days into the cat’s pregnancy, and this is the best way to see the number of kittens.
- Ultrasound – Ultrasound can detect fetuses the earliest - at 21 days of pregnancy - but is often harder to see the number of kittens.
Mother Nature is going to do almost everything. The most important thing you can do is provide the cat with a safe, isolated, and comfortable space, which can be located anywhere. It can be in a closet or a spare bathroom that isn’t used. This will provide your cat with a quiet, dark, and comfortable area where she can go when the time comes. That's where she'll most likely hide to deliver her kittens.
Mother Nature will do most of the work post-delivery as well.
After delivery, you want to look for obvious things such as:
- The mother is eating and drinking adequately
- The kittens are eating and drinking adequately, nursing every 1-2 hours
- Watch for the mother cat helping her kittens to eliminate
Your cat will instinctively know how to care for her kittens. While there are rare exceptions, the birthing experience and hormone release that happens when that process occurs makes them begin the mothering process.
Purina offers more insight into the cat pregnancy process from start to finish. If you have further questions about cat pregnancy, reach out to your veterinarian. If you don't have one yet, we can help you find a local veterinarian!