What to Expect When Your Cat is Expecting: Tips for Caring for Your Pregnant Cat

Caring for a pregnant cat and the impending birth of her kittens can be a stressful experience, so as her pet parent, it is important to make sure you are prepared. The first step of caring for your pregnant cat is to determine if she really is pregnant or if there is something else going on. If your cat is showing signs of weight gain and her nipples have become larger and darker, there is a good chance she is expecting a litter of kittens but a trip to the veterinarian will confirm your suspicions.

If it turns out that she is pregnant, you will need to take steps to get ready for the birth of her kittens. On average a feline pregnancy lasts for about nine weeks and can result in the birth of a litter of four to eight kittens. To make sure that your cat will remain healthy and as stress-free as possible during her pregnancy and ensure the safe arrival of her kittens, there are several steps you should take.

How to Prepare

Consult Your Vet

As soon as you suspect your cat is pregnant, you should call your vet to set up an appointment where they can verify that she is pregnant. At the first appointment, your vet will be able to determine the best course of action for her pregnancy, by creating a series of appointments for vet visits throughout her pregnancy. Your vet will also make sure your cat is in good health and provide suggestions for her care.

During her pregnancy, it is important to stick the schedule of appointments with your vet because they will be beneficial to making sure your cat is healthy, and her pregnancy is developing the way that it should. Your vet will also be able to track her weight gain and take note of any variations in her diet and eating patterns. These appointments also offer you the opportunity to ask questions as you prepare for the arrival of the kittens. If you have any concerns about your cat’s health during her pregnancy, it is best to call your veterinarian as soon as possible.

While your cat is giving birth, you can expect things to move along easily without the need to interfere, but it is still imperative that you monitor the delivery of the kittens to ensure that there are no complications. If you notice signs that something may be wrong, contact your vet right away. Even if you have concerns but aren’t sure something is wrong, contacting your vet is a good idea because she will be able to tell you whether or not your cat needs to be seen by the vet.

Change Her Food

Just like pregnant mothers, pregnant cats need to make sure they are getting the proper nutrition and enough calories. Not only should you be feeding her more food than normal, but you should change her food to a formula that is designed to provide the essential nutrients needed during pregnancy. It is recommended that pet parents should switch their pregnant feline to a kitten formula, such as Hill’s Science Diet Healthy Development Kitten Formula during her pregnancy. Once she gives birth, she can continue to eat the kitten formula, because it will provide her with the energy and nutrients needed while nursing and help to wean the kittens from milk to solid food.

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During the final week of her pregnancy, pet owners can expect to continue increasing the amount of food she is given, to support her diet as well as the development of the kittens. It is also suggested to supplement her diet with a kitten milk replacement, which will give her a boost of extra vitamins, minerals, and nutritional elements she needs while pregnant.

Prepare a Shelter for Her to Give Birth

When preparing to give birth, cats display symptoms of nesting. You may notice that she may be stealing clothing or seems to be scoping out quiet, secluded places to give birth. These places can be closets, behind furniture, or even under the bed. To help her prepare, you can set up a shelter for her by lining the bottom of a box with some blankets or a self-heating cushion and putting it in a familiar but quiet place for her. Make sure that the opening is large enough for her to fit through and low to the ground so that she can get into it easily.

Despite your best efforts and preparation, there is a chance that she will choose a different place to give birth to her kittens. If this happens, it is okay to move the kittens and the mother to the box you prepared for them. You may be nervous to do so because of the common misconception that the mother will abandon her kittens if you handle them too much, but Dr. Lorie Huston asserts that this is not the case.

Prepare Her Litter Box

Proper litter box maintenance should be something that a pet parent practices, no matter what, but it is especially important when caring for a pregnant cat. Make sure that her litter box is easy for her to get into, because as her pregnancy progresses, she may have trouble stepping into a box with an opening that is higher up or has a small opening.

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Once you have found a litter box that is suitable for a pregnant cat, it is important to move the litter box to the area you have designated for her to give birth. Place it near the box you have set up so that she doesn’t have to stray too far from her kittens to use the bathroom.

Keep Your Pregnant Cat Indoors

One of your priorities when caring for your pregnant cat should be to keep her indoors. While this may not be possible if you are caring for a pregnant stray, doing your best to limit her ability to wander around outside will keep her and her unborn kittens safe, as well as give you peace of mind. Letting your pregnant cat outdoors can be harmful to her and her unborn kittens because she will not be able to protect herself from other cats and animals as well as she could if she were not pregnant.

Another danger of letting your pregnant cat outdoors is the possibility of her going into labor while outside. Doing so increases the risk of something happening to her or the kittens should complications arise during the birthing process, or the possibility of detrimental weather depending on the season. For that reason, it is in the best interest of both you and your cat to keep her indoors for the duration of her pregnancy.

Do Some Additional Research

Just as a pregnant couple would read books such as What to Expect When You’re Expecting to prepare for the birth of a child, a great way for a pet parent to learn how to care for a pregnant cat is to read up on feline pregnancy. While you’re at it, it can be beneficial to check out books on caring for kittens, as well.

The Importance of Spaying and Neutering Your Cat

While the birth of kittens can be exciting, it can also be stressful, especially if the pregnancy was unplanned. The best way to prevent an unplanned feline pregnancy in the future it to consider spaying or neutering your cat. According to the Pet Health Network, “a single pair of cats and their kittens can produce as many as 420,000 kittens in just 7 years.” While that number may seem too large to be true, the ASPCA estimates that cats make up about 3.2 million of the animals that are introduced to animal shelters nationwide each year. This overpopulation leads to many of the cats that are brought into the shelter being euthanized.

Spaying and neutering your cat has health and financial benefits, too. Spaying or neutering your cat can help them lead a healthier and less stressful life because it reduces the risk of reproductive cancers, urinary tract infections, and hormonal changes. Male cats who have been neutered are also less aggressive towards other cats, which reduces the chances of fights and injuries among cats, which in turn reduces the chances of your cat being infected with the feline immunodeficiency virus and feline leukemia. Another benefit for owners of male cats is that neutering eliminates the problem of male cats spraying urine. So, while the cost of spaying or neutering your cat can seem expensive, it can ultimately save you the cost of many unplanned and expensive vet bills in the future.

Final Thoughts on Caring for Your Pregnant Cat

Learning the ins and outs of caring for your pregnant cat and preparing for the birth of her kittens can be a nerve-wracking experience, but if doesn’t need to be. The most important thing you can do for your cat is to pay attention to her behavior and communicate with your vet to make sure she is healthy and the kittens are developing the way that they should.

Once her kittens are born, it is a good time to look back on the experience and determine if caring for a pregnant cat and finding good homes for her kittens is a responsibility that you want to repeat. If the answer is no, it would be best to consult with your vet about getting your cat spayed to prevent future pregnancies and to help your cat live the best and healthiest life possible.