How to Care for a Pregnant Cat

cat lay down relaxing on the ground
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Is your cat pregnant? In a perfect world, your cat would have been spayed before this could happen. Perhaps you accidentally waited too long to spay your cat (life happens). Or, maybe you found or adopted a pregnant cat. Either way, she's now pregnant and you want to provide her with the best care possible. 

Should You Breed Your Cat?

Cat overpopulation is a real problem. Please don't purposely breed your cat unless you are a responsible breeder who has a purebred cat of excellent quality and health.

If you are new to cat breeding, seek out an experienced cat breeder to help you do things the right way for the sake of your cat and her kittens.

Veterinary Care for Pregnant Cats

If your cat is showing signs of pregnancy or you suspect your cat may have mated while she was in heat, the first step is to take her to see the veterinarian. The best time to do this is about three weeks into her pregnancy. Any earlier and your vet won't be able to confirm the pregnancy. However, if your cat seems ill, you should still bring her to the vet for assessment and let the vet know she might be pregnant.

At around three weeks into pregnancy, your vet may be able to determine pregnancy by gently palpating your cat's abdomen. If available, an ultrasound may be able to confirm pregnancy around two to three weeks into pregnancy.

During this early stage of pregnancy, your vet can talk to you about the option of spaying your cat and terminating the pregnancy.

You may decide you wish to do so for your cat's health or to minimize cat overpopulation. If you decide to allow your cat to have the kittens, your vet can give you advice about caring for your pregnant cat as well as the care the kittens will need after birth. This is a good time to start thinking about how you will find good homes for the kittens.

About 42 days into pregnancy, your vet may recommend taking a radiograph (X-ray) to look at the number of kittens expected. If you know how many fetuses your cat is carrying, you will be able to know when your cat is finished giving birth or if she is in some kind of distress in between kitten births.

Vaccinations are not recommended during pregnancy because they might have an adverse effect on the kittens' development.

Feeding Pregnant Cats

Your pregnant cat should be fed a high-quality food formulated for growth. Look for the AAFCO Nutritional Adequacy Statement saying that the food is complete and balanced for growth and reproduction. This is often some type of kitten food. In general, wet food is a healthier choice than dry. If you choose dry food, search for one with the highest quality ingredients possible.

Be careful not to overfeed your pregnant cat during her early weeks of pregnancy. Yes, she needs plenty of good nutrition for herself and her kittens. However, the kitten food contains the extra calories and nutrients she needs. If she becomes overweight, it can cause problems for her and the kittens. Gradually transition to the kitten food after you have confirmation of her pregnancy, but do not increase the amount she is fed unless she is underweight or acting hungry.

Monitor her body condition during her pregnancy with help from your veterinarian.

Once your cat is about six weeks into her pregnancy, she should be fed more frequent small meals. The pressure on her stomach from the kittens makes it harder for her to eat much at a time, but she does need the extra food. Offer her small meals four to six times a day.

Your Pregnant Cat's Environment

Beyond some minor vet care and the nutritional changes, your pregnant cat should not have any special needs during most of her pregnancy. However, as she gets closer to queening (giving birth) she will start looking for a safe, quiet place to begin nesting. This usually begins a day or two before birth.

You can prepare a cardboard box or laundry basket by filling it with blankets and tucking it away to a safe, quiet area of your home.

However, your cat may not decide to use it. As is the case with most cats, they'll do as they please. You cat may choose to give birth in the most inconvenient place. If there are areas of the house you want to keep off-limits for queening, make sure those areas stay closed off during the last week of her pregnancy. Also, make sure she does not have access to the outdoors as she may sneak away to nest somewhere you can't find her. 

Your cat may also act restless and even anxious as the birth approaches. This is perfectly normal. Just do your best to keep her comfortable and give her space. This will all be over soon.

When Your Cat Is Ready to Give Birth

Once your cat has chosen the area where she will give birth, it's best to leave her alone and observe from a safe distance. Fortunately, most cats need little if any human intervention when it comes to queening. However, you may need to assist if she is in distress.

Keep track of the time in between each birth and make sure you know how many kittens to expect. Contact your vet if your cat is having obvious contractions for more than 30 minutes without kitten birth. Also get in touch with the vet if more than two hours go by without the next kitten birth. If a kitten remains in the birth canal without being pushed out for more than a minute or two, it's best to bring your cat right to the vet. Call your vet's office for advice if anything else seems wrong.

Your new mama cat should get a veterinary exam within about a day after queening. Avoid separating mom and kittens for the first few days. Instead, bring them all into the vet's office for a check-up. If you are not a purebred cat breeder, talk to your vet about having your cat spayed as soon as possible. This is often done after the kittens are weaned. ​