If your female feline companion has started to gain weight, you may suspect she's pregnant. Today, our Zeeland vets share a few more clues that your cat might be pregnant, and what to do next, including how to care for your kitty so she can have a safe, healthy birth. Also: find out which diagnostic tests your cat will need.
Is My Cat Old Enough to Get Pregnant?
Do you have a female cat who hasn't been spayed and has recently escaped the safety of your home? There's a good chance she may be pregnant.
Your cat is likely to experience her first heat cycle at around 4 to 7 months of age, meaning that she'll be physically mature enough to produce her first litter of kittens.
Depending on where you live, your unspayed female kitty may go into heat as often as every 3 weeks until she is either spayed or becomes pregnant. An unspayed female cat may have as many as 4 litters of kittens every year, with between 4 to 12 kittens in each litter. This means that if your cat is an undoctored adult female and has gone exploring outdoors, there's a good chance that she is expecting kittens.
Is My Cat Pregnant?
For domesticated cats, pregnancy lasts about 2 months, so the first question to ask yourself is whether your cat has been roaming outside within the past 8 weeks. If so, see below for some other signs of pregnancy in cats. Note that your cat may not show all of these symptoms, depending on how far along the pregnancy is:
- Swollen, pink nipples
- Hiding more often
- Significant weight gain
- Increased appetite
- Distended abdomen
- May sleep more than usual
- Becoming more affectionate
If your cat is unspayed and has been displaying the signs above, it's time to book an exam with your veterinarian to confirm the pregnancy and/or look for signs of underlying health issues that may be causing these symptoms.
How Will My Vet Find Out Whether My Cat is Pregnant?
There are a few different tests that vets can do to confirm whether your kitty is pregnant:
- The first thing your vet is likely to do is to palpate your cat's abdomen. This means that the vet will very gently feel your cat's belly to determine whether they are able to detect the presence of fetuses. If your cat is more than 17 days pregnant your vet may be able to confirm pregnancy in this manner.
- Your vet may recommend a quick and easy ultrasound test to look for fetuses if your vet suspects that your cat is 14 days pregnant or more. Heartbeats can be spotted using ultrasound sometime after 21 days of pregnancy.
- If your vet believes your cat is fairly far along in her pregnancy (further than 42 days) they may recommend an X-ray. Digital X-rays or radiographs are considered very safe and can help to determine a due date for the kittens and how many there are.
How Do I Care for My Pregnant Cat?
Once your vet has confirmed that your feline friend is pregnant they will provide you with specific recommendations on how to care for your pregnant kitty. That said, there are a number of things that are generally recommended in order to help a cat have a healthy and safe pregnancy and birth.
- Do not squeeze or press on her belly, since this can cause pain and in some cases may lead to miscarriage.
- Clean her litter box once or twice daily, and make sure that her litter box is easy for her to access as her tummy continues to expand and drop.
- Provide your pregnant kitty with plenty of high-quality food. Your cat may eat as much as 25% more than normal while she is pregnant and nursing. Ask your vet to recommend the best food for your pregnant cat.
- Ensure that your cat has a cozy, clean area that she can use to give birth and care for her kittens. This spot should be in a warm and quiet spot in your home, well away from kids, other human traffic, and other pets.
Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.