“Is my cat pregnant?” It’s a question that many owners of female outdoor cats have asked themselves. Maybe you’ve noticed Kitty Purry looks decidedly plumper these days. Or perhaps you rescued a cat clearly on the cusp of becoming a mama. It could be that your kid drew a picture of a cat that looked pregnant and now you’re paranoid. For some cat owners, the possibility of a cat pregnancy might be a good thing. It may not be as desirable for others, but, hey, it is not the worst thing in the world either — especially if you arm yourself with information. So, how can you tell if your cat is pregnant? We’ll walk you through the signs and stages, as well as what comes next (outside of super-cute and cuddly kittens!).
If your cat hasn’t yet been spayed, recently went into heat, and was in the same proximity as an intact or unneutered male cat, well, it’s quite possible a litter of kittens could be in your home’s near future. At this point, we’d be remiss not to mention that female cats who aren’t spayed can have up to three litters per year. It’s important to spay and neuter house cats to avoid overpopulation.
Granted, even indoor cats sometimes sneak out and have their own agenda, which may very well be why you’re here right now, searching for answers. In that case, keep reading for everything to know about determining if your cat is preggers.
Is my cat pregnant?
Luckily, cat pregnancy stages are fairly easy to identify. Any cat you suspect might be pregnant should also visit the veterinarian to ensure that everything will go as swiftly as possible once your cat starts to enter labor. A veterinarian will also help confirm a pregnancy, especially if your cat is already a few weeks along.
If your cat has a history with the vet already, it’ll be easier for a veterinarian to diagnose. That’s because your vet will be able to tell if your cat has gained any significant weight since the last visit. Unless your cat is already obese, many vets can confirm a pregnancy based on feeling your cat’s abdomen, meaning that they can better estimate a response for “Is my cat pregnant or fat?”
What are the cat pregnancy stages?
Before going to a vet for confirmation, it may be tough to tell early on. Within the first few weeks of a cat’s pregnancy, it can be hard for their owners to physically see much of a difference.
Cat Pregnancy Symptoms: 0 to 4 Weeks
The first stage of cat pregnancy often occurs between 15 and 18 days. You may notice:
- Your cat’s nipples are starting to enlarge and change colors. This is the first telltale sign that kittens are on the way.
- Your cat might also get a little sick during early pregnancy. Just like with human pregnancy, cats might feel a bit of morning sickness-related nausea, vomiting, lethargy, and loss of appetite during this big life change (and big hormonal changes).
- Your cat might experience slight weight gain, but it may be too little to notice yet.
Cat Pregnancy Symptoms: 4 to 8 Weeks
By now, your cat will really start to exhibit some of the tell-tale signs of pregnancy. You’ll likely notice:
- Your cat’s belly is swelling! There are a few important notes surrounding this symptom. First, avoid touching your cat’s belly — you don’t want to cause them discomfort or injure the babies (if your cat is pregnant). If you’re still not convinced that your cat may be pregnant, it’s time to get a professional involved. That’s because belly swelling is a common symptom for a few different cat ailments. Obesity is a big concern, along with organ enlargement, masses that might be revealed as tumors, and even parasites. A veterinarian will be able to rule out these, and other ailments.
- Your cat’s nipples will also continue enlarging, turning a bright shade of pink. Your cat might start licking away the fur around the nipples, an instinctive behavior designed to make feeding easier for future kitties. At this point, you could also see a milky fluid coming from the nipples.
- As time goes on, your cat’s appetite will likely increase, adding slightly more weight to support the pregnancy. While it’s good to make sure your cat has all the nutrition she needs to support her kittens, try not to overfeed your cat.
- Due to increased pressure on her bladder, your cat might have accidents outside of the litter box.
- Your cat’s behavior may noticeably change. As labor gets closer, she may become extra affectionate. Or, alternatively, she may become less tolerant of handling and other pets in the house.
- She’ll grow more restless the closer labor approaches as well.
Cat Pregnancy Ultrasounds
If you’re looking for immediate answers to the question of, “Is my cat pregnant?” then an ultrasound is your best bet. Ultrasounds can often be used as early as 16 days into the pregnancy.
Abdominal ultrasounds may not be in the budget for everyone, though. On average, they can cost around $300 to $600, depending on your veterinary practice. In general, having kittens can be a costly venture, especially for their early shots and vet visits. For those who might breed specialty cats or show cats, it’s a worthy expense. It’s one of the best ways to get all of the answers you’re want. You can figure out how far along your cat is and when to start preparing for labor.
If you’re curious how many kittens your cat is expecting, you’ll need an X-ray. While they aren’t always 100 percent accurate, X-rays can offer a reasonable estimate. However, they generally aren’t recommended until your cat is at least 42 days pregnant but ideally closer to 55 days. An ultrasound can help find kittens as early as 21 days into the pregnancy, but it can prove tricky to count how many kittens.
Cat Pregnancy Timeline
According to VCA Hospitals, “Pregnancy in [a] cat lasts approximately 64 to 71 days, with an average of nine weeks (63 days).”
How can I tell when my cat is in labor?
Labor is the last of the cat pregnancy stages — and one of the most exciting. Luckily, cats have an instinct when it comes to giving birth. This stage of cat pregnancy can be further broken down into three phases.
This phase of cat labor typically lasts between six and 12 hours. Signs include:
- A cat who knows that labor is near will begin finding a comfortable place to rest. Setting up a labor site for your cat will be a good way to prepare for kittens. You can make a “birthing box” that’s big enough for your cat and her kittens to rest. A box will also help make sure that any curious kittens won’t be tempted to stray away from their mother. You can line this box with blankets that you can later wash, or don’t mind parting with. It’s OK if your cat chooses not to use the designated spot set up. They’ll find something that works for them, and you can help by making sure it’s secluded — or, far away from foot traffic or other stressors.
- Your cat will begin to pant and meow with urgency.
- She may refuse food.
- She might begin to lick her vulva.
- Within 12 to 36 hours of labor, your cat’s body temperature will drop several degrees.
Things are really starting to happen now! During this phase:
- You’ll see your cat start to strain as her first kitten moves down the birth canal.
- It may look as though your cat is trying to poop, which is natural.
- By the end of phase two, you’ll have at least one kitten.
In this final phase:
- Your cat passes the afterbirth, or placenta, for any kittens born during the second phase.
- Phase two will repeat, followed by phase three, until your cat gives birth to all of her kittens.
- All told, your cat could be in labor for up to 24 hours. But if three hours or more go by in between the birth of kittens, you should reach out to your cat’s vet.
Is it OK to pick up my pregnant cat?
While cats are pregnant, their bodies are very sensitive. This doesn’t mean you can’t pick up your cat — just make sure to pull them up from the bottom so that their stomach is facing your chest. Taking this approach helps you avoid hurting your cat or its kitties. But if you really want to make your pregnant cat comfortable, give it lots of petting time and gentle belly rubs.
How do I take care of my pregnant cat?
If you know your cat is pregnant, congratulations! If you want your feline friend to have a safe and healthy delivery, here are a few things to keep in mind.
- Increase your cat’s food. Like pregnant people, pregnant cats eat for two (or six), so the closer it gets to its due date, the more food you should add to its bowl.
- Make a box lined with soft blankets and put it in a place your cat hangs out regularly. Ideally, your cat will give birth in this box, but if not, you can always move the cat and its kittens there after the birth.
What happens after my cat gives birth?
After a cat gives birth, the work isn’t over. Your cat will need tons of rest and be very hungry. To help maintain healthy breastfeeding levels, you should ensure you’re feeding mama cat well. She will also need a nice and quiet place to recuperate and feed her kittens, so make sure your feline friend is comfortable and undisturbed.
When should I spay my cat after pregnancy?
While kittens are adorable, many cat pregnancies happen by accident. After the first litter, a cat owner may take spaying more seriously. But how soon after labor should a cat be spayed?
It’s best to have a female cat spayed after she finishes weaning her kittens. It’s also vital to consider spaying and neutering the kittens, as well. “It is generally considered safe for kittens as young as eight weeks old to be spayed or neutered,” states the ASPCA, adding, “In an effort to avoid the start of urine spraying and eliminate the chance for pregnancy, it’s advisable to schedule the surgery before your own cat reaches five months of age.”
Spaying and neutering is the best way to help control the cat population, and it’s a procedure that every cat owner should take seriously.
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