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The gestation period for a cat is 63-65 days (approximately nine weeks). This varies between cat though, and anywhere between 60 to 70 days is average.
A pregnant cat is known as a queen, an entire male is known as a ‘tom‘, and the male who sires the litter of kittens is known as a stud.
A kitten can come into heat as young as four months of age. Signs that your cat is in heat can include the following:
- Persistent vocalisation
- If she is stroked, she may lay her front half low, and raise her hindquarters, treading up and down with her hind feet, and move her tail from side to side. This is known as lordosis
- Licking the genitals
Some breeds such as Siamese and Orientals tend to be a little more precocious than other cats. A pregnancy in a cat this young is extremely dangerous as she has not reached maturity herself.
Yes, cats are not fussy who they mate with. Littermates can and will breed; fathers will mate with their daughters and mothers will mate with their sons. It is also possible for a female cat to become pregnant to more than one father.
It is not possible to determine a pregnancy via a blood or urine test in cats. However, there are often indicators that your cat is pregnant. The pet owner may notice weight gain around the fourth week of pregnancy.
Below is a timeline which covers both kitten development and changes will occur in the queen during the duration of her pregnancy.
Cat pregnancy timeline
Week 1 (0 – 7 days)
Week 2 (8 – 14 days)
Week 3 (15 – 21 days)
Week 4 (22 – 28 days)
Week 5 (29 – 35 days)
Week 6 (36 – 42 days)
Week 7 (43 – 49 days)
Week 8 (50 – 56 days)
Week 9 (57 – 63 days)
An experienced veterinarian will be able to palpitate the abdomen and feel the kittens around 17 – 25 days. Do NOT attempt to do this at home as you may cause miscarriage or damage to the developing kittens. After 32 days the developing fetuses and fetal membranes become difficult to distinguish.
The fetal bone structure is visible on x-rays around the 43rd day. Avoid x-rays in early pregnancy.
Ultrasound can also detect pregnancy in a cat.
Yes, cats can experience morning sickness. They may also go off their food around the third week of pregnancy.
Your cat should be up to date on her vaccinations before falling pregnant and be on a regular flea and worming regime.
Keep her indoors for the last two weeks of pregnancy to ensure she doesn’t give birth to the kittens elsewhere.
You should take your queen to the veterinarian early in pregnancy for a health check; your veterinarian will also advise on the care of your queen during pregnancy. He/she will probably want to see the queen again in late pregnancy.
A good quality, nutritious diet is essential. Your veterinarian may recommend a kitten food for your queen as this contains higher protein and calcium. Avoid supplementing the diet unless your veterinarian has given the go-ahead to do so.
Avoid overfeeding, and excessive weight gain as this can complicate labour.
Provide free access to clean, fresh drinking water.
- Kittening box which can either be a sturdy cardboard box or a commercially available kittening box.
- Sterile surgical gloves.
- Eyedropper or syringe to aspirate the mouth and nose secretions.
- Dental floss or cotton thread to tie the umbilical cords.
- Antiseptic to apply to the umbilical stumps.
- Clean towels.
- Your vet’s phone number in an easy to reach place.
- An emergency vet’s phone number.
- Kitten milk replacer.
During the last week of pregnancy, place the kittening box in a warm, quiet, draft-free room which is off limits to children and other pets. She should be encouraged to sleep in this box.
Food, water, and a litter tray also need to be placed in this room.
Line the kittening box with old newspapers which can easily be changed or an old blanket. Make sure that the blanket isn’t going to snag the kitten’s claws. Change bedding daily.
Do not let the pregnant cat outside in the final week or two of pregnancy.
- The mammary glands increase in size during the last week of gestation.
- Around two days before the queen gives birth, she will start producing milk.
- She may start nesting.
- Drop in temperature to around 99 F.
- Her appetite may wane in the last day or two of pregnancy.
- Change in behaviour. During the last week or so your queen may become reclusive and seek out a secluded place, or she may become more affectionate, especially if she is bonded to one carer.
Seek veterinary attention immediately if you notice the following:
- Loss of appetite for more than 24 hours
- Elevated temperature
- Depression or lethargy
- Discharge from the vagina
Can I give my cat medications while pregnant?
Some medications can cause congenital disabilities and or abortion in pregnant cats, so it is vital that you speak to your veterinarian before giving your cat any medications.
Can I worm my cat when she is pregnant?
Yes, but not all worming medications are safe for pregnant cats and her unborn kitten, so speak to your veterinarian about an appropriate de-wormer. Worm the queen as usual, and again at 5 and 7 weeks gestation.
Please see this page which lists worming medications which are safe to use on pregnant and lactating cats.
Can I treat my cat for fleas while she is pregnant?
I believe there are some flea products which are safe to use on pregnant cats. These are available from your veterinarian, so it is best to speak to him/her. DON’T ever use a flea product on a pregnant or nursing cat without the okay from your veterinarian.
Other things to avoid when a cat is pregnant
Be careful with antiseptics such as Dettol as many are toxic to cats and also burn the skin. If you need to use any antiseptics, use one recommended by your veterinarian.
Avoid excessive handling of the newborn kittens – let the mother bond with her babies. Cats have been known to kill and eat their babies if threatened by other animals or too much human interference.
Reminder – Female cats can again become pregnant within as little as 2 weeks after giving birth but more usually between 8 weeks and 10 weeks so great care that the queen is kept safely confined during this time.
If you plan to desex your cat, wait until kittens are 7 weeks old. The mother can still nurse her kittens afterwards.
Unplanned cat pregnancy
If this is an unplanned pregnancy are you prepared for the unexpected?
- Difficulty giving birth, which will require an emergency c-section.
- Death of the mother.
- Death of the kittens.
- Rejection of kittens, this will mean that the kittens will have to be hand raised for the first few weeks. Hand raising kittens is a rewarding but challenging job, which requires around the clock feeding for several weeks.
- Have you found suitable homes for the kittens?
- Microchipping is mandatory in some states in Australia, and all kittens must be microchipped before they go to their new homes. So please remember to factor this into your budget.
- Vaccinate and worm kittens before they go to their new homes.
How soon after giving birth can a cat come into heat again?
It is possible for a cat to come into heat, mate and become pregnant between 6-8 weeks after giving birth.
Please remember that there is a huge problem with unwanted cats, and the shelters are overflowing with cats desperately in need of a good home, so don’t contribute to the overpopulation of cats unless you are a registered breeder.
Can a vet spay a pregnant cat?
It is possible to spay a pregnant cat, but this will lead to the loss of her unborn kittens. Some veterinarians may recommend waiting until after the queen has given birth, especially if she is far along in her pregnancy.