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How to tell if my cat is pregnant?

Unspayed female cats are quick to become pregnant if given the opportunity. Their pregnancies are relatively short and they are also able to become pregnant multiple times a year. Here, our specialty and emergency vets in Springfield share the answer to 'How to tell if my cat is pregnant' and what to expect.

Is my cat pregnant?

If your unspayed female cat managed to escape the safety of your home, there is a good chance that she may be pregnant. Around four to seven months of age, your female cat is likely to experience her first heat cycle, meaning that she is physically mature and able to produce her first litter of kittens.

Depending on where you live, your undoctored female cat may go into heat as often as every three weeks until she either becomes pregnant or is spayed. An unspayed female cat could have as many as 4 litters of kittens a year, with between 4 to 12 kittens in each litter. This means that if your cat is an unspayed adult female who has had access to the outdoor world, there is a good chance that she is expecting kittens.

How to Tell if My Cat is Pregnant

Pregnancy in domesticated cats lasts about two months, so the first question to ask yourself is whether your cat has been outside over the past eight weeks. If so, below are some other signs of pregnancy in cats that you may want to look for. Note that your cat may not display all of the signs below, depending on how far along the pregnancy is.

  • Notable weight gain
  • Pink, swollen nipples
  • Distended abdomen
  • Increased appetite
  • Becoming more affectionate
  • Hiding more often
  • May sleep more than usual

Contact your vet if you spot any of the signs above. They will perform an examination and diagnostics to confirm pregnancy and offer care recommendations and advice.

What is the clinical diagnosis of pregnancy in cats?

There are a few different approaches your vet could take to confirm whether your feline family member 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 can 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 can I care for my pregnant cat?

Once your cat's pregnancy has been confirmed your vet will provide you with specific recommendations on how to care for your pregnant kitty. Below are a few dos and don'ts to help your kitty have a safe and healthy pregnancy.

  • 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.
  • Feed your pregnant kitty healthy portions 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.
  • Provide 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.

Signs That My Pregnant Cat Will Give Birth Soon

You will notice some obvious signs if your pregnant cat is going into labor. These include:

  • Nesting behavior and appetite loss
  • Restlessness and increased vocalization
  • Rapid breathing and temperature changes
  • Visible contractions and straining

Possible Complications During Delivery

If your cat is showing any signs of complications during labor or delivery of their kittens, please contact our emergency vets right away. Some of the signs of complications include:

  • No kitten after an hour of straining
  • Fresh bleeding 10 or more minutes after delivering a kitten
  • Abrupt lethargy and fatigue
  • Labor ends and your cat is agitated
  • More than two or three hours between kittens

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.

If your cat is in labor and showing signs of birthing difficulties please contact our emergency vets in Springfield right away. 

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