- A cat is pregnant for about 63 to 65 days – Weight gain and increased sleeping are signs your cat may be expecting.
- You can usually expect three to five kittens — A cat can have more or fewer, depending upon her age, health, and the number of previous pregnancies.
- Be aware of possible problems — While most cat pregnancies run smoothly, occasional complications can occur.
Just because your female cat’s tummy is growing doesn’t mean she’s pregnant. Other conditions can cause a distended stomach, such as worms, heart failure, and obesity. However, if you pay attention to your cat, she’ll let you know in other ways that she’s pregnant.
Once a pregnancy is confirmed, it can be exciting to have a pregnant kitty in the family, but there are some things you’ll want to know along the way to ensure she and her offspring are healthy and comfortable.
Signs and symptoms of cat pregnancy
- Increased appetite. While not the most reliable sign of pregnancy in a cat, increased appetite in an otherwise healthy, unspayed cat may indicate that she’s eating for more than just herself. Most cats gain two to four pounds during pregnancy.
- Increased sleep. Pregnant cats need to rest more often than their counterparts who aren’t expecting and you may find her napping more frequently.
- Increased affection. All cats have varying levels of affection and you know where your cat falls. If she starts seeking out more attention than usual and is looking for extra reassurance, she could be pregnant.
- Unexplained vomiting. Just like human mothers-to-be, pregnant cats can experience a form of morning sickness.
When you see these signs, make an appointment with your veterinarian. One of the first things they’ll ask is if she has been exposed to an intact male cat within the last six weeks to help determine a due date. Pregnancy is not typically covered by pet insurance, but it might cover any emergencies that crop up along the way.
How long will a cat’s pregnancy last?
Domestic cats are pregnant for a little over two months, more specifically around 63-65 days. If it’s your cat’s first litter, the gestation period could last a few days longer.
Much like human babies, kittens can arrive prematurely. Early labor is usually caused by infections, ovarian cysts, hormonal imbalances, injury, malnutrition, and even stressors such as changing environments or loud fighting in the household. If your cat is pregnant for less than 60 days , her kittens will have a decreased chance of survival.
The first seven days
For an unspayed cat, heat (also called estrus) generally lasts six to seven days. Once a cat goes into heat, she can become pregnant very quickly. It’s hard to tell exactly when a cat becomes pregnant unless you happen to catch her in the act. The sooner you can determine that she’s pregnant, the more attention and care you can provide to help her along the way.
👉 Did you know? Some cats can end up breeding with multiple partners during their heat cycle, leading to different fathers in the same pregnancy. The ability to produce a litter of kittens fathered by more than one tomcat is called superfecundation and is why some litters include kittens that look different from one another.
The middle stage
During the third week of pregnancy, your cat should display some telling signs, such as larger and darker nipples. Some cats will lose fur around their nipples around week three which is Mother Nature’s way of preparing them to nurse. At this point, schedule a visit with your vet if you haven’t already. By week five, you should notice your kitty’s belly getting bigger. Cats typically gain 2 to 4 pounds during the entire pregnancy.
When your pregnant queen is further along, she will start “nesting” in preparation for the arrival of her babies. This could involve finding a secluded corner of the house or a pile of blankets that appear safe and warm. She may become vocal and look to her humans for reassurance. In the last 24 hours before labor, she usually stops eating and her temperature may drop below 100 degrees Fahrenheit.
Labor and delivery
At the beginning stage of labor, you may be able to see or feel the babies through your cat’s wall of the stomach. Don’t be alarmed if your cat starts to pant, scratch, or pace to and from the nesting area. This is normal during labor.
In the second stage, contractions become more frequent and your kitty will begin to push. This will usually take between five and 30 minutes before the first kitten appears and is born.
The third stage includes the delivery of the afterbirth or the passage of the fetal membranes. For each kitten, the mother cat will open each kitten’s membrane and clear the mouth and nose area before biting off the umbilical cord and eating the afterbirth.
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Litter size: what to expect
Kitten litters are smaller than those of dogs — most feline litters include three to five kittens. It’s ideal to know how many kittens to expect so that you can start finding homes for them. Taking your kitty to the vet for an X-ray will help determine how many kittens she’s expecting so you know how many to watch for when she’s in labor. Abdominal X-rays can be taken after day 40 of gestation. Several factors determine how many kittens your cat may birth, such as their age, health, genetic makeup, and the number of pregnancies they’ve had in the past.
Your pregnant cat’s age and health
Both older and younger female cats tend to have smaller litters — two to three kittens — as do first-time moms. A cat that is three to four years old is more likely to have four to five kittens per litter. Additionally, if a cat breeds less frequently, she tends to have smaller litters, and as she becomes older, her average litter size will naturally decrease.
Male vs. female offspring
Interestingly, at least one study of pedigree cats revealed that male kittens are slightly more plentiful than females within a litter. Also, litters conceived during the wet season (September to February) produced more males than expected. Litters conceived during the dry season produced more females than expected.
Potential cat pregnancy complications
While cats instinctively know what to do when it’s time to give birth, complications can still arise, and the problems are similar to ones that expecting women occasionally experience. They include:
- Pre-eclampsia. This occurs when the mama cat can’t keep up with the fetus’s demands for calcium and the calcium blood levels fall. Signs include extreme restlessness, disorientation, and stiffness in her legs.
- Gestational diabetes. This can occur when the cat’s body either doesn’t produce enough insulin or doesn’t use what it’s producing properly. Watch for signs of excessive thirst and urination.
- Mastitis. Usually occurring in the first two weeks after delivery, this painful condition is caused by inflammation or infection of the mammary glands.
- Retained placenta. This happens when the placenta that covers the fetus in utero isn’t expelled as afterbirth when the kitten is born.
With more furry friends joining your household, it may be helpful to have pet insurance established to cover some of the costs. Find out what is (and isn’t) covered in our pet insurance coverage guide.
Preventing cat pregnancies
To prevent unwanted pregnancies and overpopulation, it’s extremely important to spay and neuter your pets. And there’s no truth to the myth that cats need to have a litter before spaying. Fixing your cat can increase their overall health — one study showed that spayed female cats lived 39% longer and neutered male cats lived 62% longer. While it may be costly to spay or neuter your pet, most pet insurance companies offer additional wellness plans that cover some or all of the procedure costs.
Frequently asked questions
Are cats pregnant for three months?
No, cats are pregnant for only a little more than two months – typically 63 to 65 days.
How can I tell how far along my cat is?
Your cat’s weight, her eating habits, and new behaviors, such as increased sleeping and nesting, should indicate various stages of pregnancy. However, knowing when your cat mated would be the best way to know when she approximately will give birth.
How do you know when a cat is about to give birth?
She may pant, pace near the nesting area, and begin straining when contractions become more frequent and stronger.
How can I help my pregnant cat get comfortable during labor?
Before the birth, you can help your cat make a comfy nesting area with simple household items — a cardboard box lined with newspapers, old sheets, or a towel. It’s important that the bed is warm and private, but also observable in case problems arise.