Signs of pregnancy at a glance
A pregnant cat is known as a queen. Pregnancy in cats (also known as the gestation period) typically lasts between 60-67 days (or 9 weeks) but can last as long as 70 days. Unlike humans, there are no pregnancy tests available to determine if your cat is pregnant.
Some females are capable of becoming pregnant as young as four months of age, so if you are not planning to become a breeder, she should be spayed around this time, if not earlier. The “mating season” starts as the weather warms up, typically September to April in the Southern Hemisphere and February to September in the Northern Hemisphere.
Signs that a female is coming into heat (and ready to mate) include extreme friendliness, rolling on the floor, yowling, rubbing against objects, positioning herself in the mating position when petted. This behaviour can last between 3 – 20 days. This cycle will repeat several times if she does not mate.
Signs of pregnancy in cats
- Some cats may experience morning sickness early in the pregnancy, including being less interested in food and occasionally vomiting.
- Increased appetite, especially as the pregnancy progresses. This typically begins around the third week of pregnancy. A pregnant cat’s nutritional needs will increase, particularly later in the pregnancy. Free feed the pregnant cat kitten food which is high in calories.
- You may notice behavioural changes in your cat, she may become more affectionate.
- Pregnancy is hard work and the queen may sleep more, especially in the later stages of pregnancy.
- Around 18-21 days, the nipples will be visibly swollen and rose coloured, this is known as “pinking up”.
- Around three weeks gestation, your veterinarian will be able to perform an ultrasound on your cat to determine if she is pregnant.
- At this time, he can also carefully palpate the abdomen and feel the developing fetuses. Please do not attempt this at home.
- By four weeks her belly will have become noticeably larger.
- In the later stages of pregnancy, the queen will look for a “nest” in which she can deliver and care for her kittens. This is usually a warm, quiet spot such as in a wardrobe or under furniture.
- The mammary glands (breasts) will start producing milk towards the end of the pregnancy.
Pregnant cat care
- Be diligent in keeping her litter tray clean, if you have a high sided litter tray, it may help to switch to one with lower sides, particularly at the end of the pregnancy when moving around can be a bit more difficult.
- Make sure her nutritional requirements are met and provide fresh water at all times.
- Keep her stress free, stress is not good for the mother or her kittens.
- Keep the queen comfortable, by the latter stages of pregnancy she will have trouble moving around, make sure her litter tray, food and water bowls as well as a comfortable bed are all within easy reach for her.
- De-flea and worm the queen two weeks before her due date, speak to your veterinarian about flea and worming products that are safe to use on a pregnant cat.
Ideally, the queen will have a health examination before she mates and should be in excellent health, free of parasites and up to date on her vaccinations. If you think she may be pregnant, schedule a veterinary check to make sure she is healthy and well.
Frequently asked questions
What is nesting behaviour?
Nesting behaviour refers to the instinct in pregnant cats to create a ‘nest’ in anticipation of the arrival of the kittens. The expectant queen will seek out a quiet and safe location to give birth in.
How many kittens are in the first litter?
The first litter usually contains one or two kittens, but it’s not unusual for her to have more.
Are pregnant cats aggressive?
Changes in behaviour are common in pregnant cats, but most do not display aggressive behaviour.
Do cats get protective of babies?
Yes, the mother will be protective of her babies and if she feels unsafe, will move the nest to a new location.
Do mother cats reject their kittens if humans touch them?
No, the mother cat will not reject her kittens if they are touched. As above, if she feels threatened or unsafe, she will move the kittens to a new location. If the mother has a positive relationship with her human family, handling the kittens shouldn’t be an issue, but it is strongly advised to avoid excessive handling of the kittens in the first week or two.
Do cats make a mess while giving birth?
There will be some blood and amniotic fluid during the delivery, however, this should be minimal. The queen eats the placenta once it has been delivered.
What time of the year are kittens born?
Kitten season is late spring, but kittens may be born any time of the year.
Do cats eat their kittens?