About: A cesarean section is a medical procedure where kittens are delivered via a surgical incision in the female cat’s abdomen. This procedure is necessary when a vaginal delivery will put the mother or her babies at risk.
Causes: Maternal: Uterine prolapse, uterine torsion, uterine inertia, uterine rupture, narrow birth canal. Fetal: malformation, difficult presentation, large fetus, fetal death.
Symptoms: Straining for an extended period without producing a kitten, gestation longer than 68 days, fever, dark or red discharge from the vagina.
What is a c-section?
Medically known as a hysterotomy, a cesarean section (c-section) is the surgical removal of full-term unborn kittens from the female cat’s uterus. This surgery is usually an emergency due to birthing difficulties.
Brachiocephalic types such as Persians and Exotics have a higher incidence of dystocia (difficult birth) than mesocephalic breeds (cats with medium proportioned heads).
Dystocia, meaning difficult birth can be either fetal or maternal.
- Prolapse of the uterus
- Uterine torsion
- Uterine inertia – This may be primary in which contractions fail to establish properly or are weak, secondary (exhaustive) is the result of a long second stage labour resulting in uterine fatigue
- Rupture of the uterus
- Birth canal too narrow
- Fetal malformation
- Malpresentation (breech for example)
- Oversized fetus
- Excessive fetal head size (most often seen in brachycephalic breeds)
- Fetal death
Signs of dystocia
Dystocia refers to difficult birth and is a medical emergency, seek immediate veterinary assistance if the queen displays any of the symptoms below:
- 20 minutes of intense labour which fails to produce a kitten
- The queen is in active labour but has not delivered any kittens
- Gestation lasting longer than 65 days.
- Dark or bright red discharge coming from the vagina
- Fever above 103F
At the hospital
Your veterinarian will evaluate the cat and perform a digital vaginal palpitation to determine the size and the shape of the pelvis for abnormalities as well as to check for a kitten in the birth canal. He will obtain a medical history from you including previous pregnancies, dates of mating, when did labour commence In some instances, he may be able to remove the kitten gently. He may also try to administer oxytocin in an attempt to strengthen uterine contractions and attempt a normal vaginal birth. Oxytocin is a hormone which stimulates uterine contractions.
- Biochemical profile, complete blood count, and urinalysis to evaluate the overall health of the cat before anesthesia.
- Diagnostic imaging to do determine the number, size, and position of the fetuses.
How is a c-section performed on a cat?
The veterinarian will discuss the possibility of spaying (desexing) the queen while she is under anesthesia. Some breeders may not want this to happen; however, in some cases, it will be medically necessary to do so. It is important to know that a cat who has had a c-section has an increased risk of complications and repeat c-sections in future pregnancies.
Speed is important to save the lives of the mother and her kittens. The veterinarian needs to be very careful with the type of anesthetic used on the queen as this can pass through the placenta and affect the unborn kittens.
The cat is shaved and the skin disinfected and an IV catheter placed. Anesthesia is induced and a midline incision is made from the umbilicus to the pubis and the carefully exteriorised. A single incision is then made through the uterine wall, and the kittens are removed. The umbilical cord is clamped and then cut. Each kitten will be handed to a waiting nurse or assistant.
Once all kittens are delivered, the uterus will be sutured and placed back into the abdomen, or it will be removed along with the fallopian tubes and ovaries if the queen is to be spayed.
All surgery comes with risks, and this includes c-sections. Some complications may include:
- Fetal death
- Maternal death
- Excessive bleeding
- Post-surgery infection
- Blood clot
- The veterinarian may prescribe painkillers and antibiotics upon discharge, administer all medications as prescribed.
- Confine the queen and her kittens to a small, quiet room while she recovers. Most queens won’t move far from the nest unless it is to eat, drink or go to the toilet.
- Keep an eye on the wound for redness, swelling, and discharge, all of which could be an infection.
- Please make sure your cat doesn’t chew at the incision; she may have to wear an Elizabethan collar if this occurs.
- A bloody discharge will occur after delivery if the queen wasn’t spayed which is completely normal. If the discharge becomes excessive or has a foul odour, seek veterinary attention immediately.
- Keep a very close eye on the mother and her kittens until she has fully recovered from surgery. Offer her food and water regularly; it is better for her to eat small amounts of food more often during the recovery period.
- Look out for any changes in the mother or her kittens such as lethargy, loss of appetite, fever, vomiting, ignoring or neglecting her kittens as well as excess vaginal discharge, or an infected incision need to be checked out by the veterinarian. It is not uncommon for the cat to not have a bowel movement after delivery of her kittens, if she has not had one within three days of birth, please contact your veterinarian.
- If your cat does lose her appetite, try to encourage her to eat with strong-smelling foods such as tuna. Warm-up food to body temperature to help release the smell. Hand feed her boiled and finely chopped chicken breast.