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Post Natal Complications in Cats

Post natal complications can arise in any cat and it is prudent that the cat owner is aware of potential problems and know what to look out for after your cat has given birth.  Being alert and watching closely for signs of symptoms of possible problems will mean that these problems will be picked up, and treated as quickly as possible.

  • Postpartum haemorrhage: As mentioned above, some discharge is normal, but if the discharge is bright red, or there is an excessive volume seek immediate veterinary help.
  • Mastitis: Mastitis (inflammation of the mammary gland) occurs when the lactating queen's mammary gland(s) becomes inflamed, blocked or infected. Symptoms include pain, heat, and swelling of the affected gland(s), fever,  milk may be bloody, yellow or thick, the queen may refuse to let her kittens nurse from the affected gland, the queen may become depressed and lose her appetite and become dehydrated, lethargy, sick or dying kittens.
  • Acute Metritis: This is inflammation of the lining of the uterus (endometrium) post partum. It is most commonly caused by a bacterial infection. It can be caused by retained placentas or kittens, or unsanitary conditions. Symptoms include; lethargy, vomiting, diarrhea, anorexia, fever, foul smelling, dark discharge from the vagina.
  • Agalactia (complete lack of milk supply) and dysgalactia (decreased milk supply): This may be caused by inadequate nutritional support of the queen,  large litter size, deformed nipple(s) or occasionally caesarean sections. Suckling should be encouraged as this assists with milk production (the more stimulation, the more milk is produced). Fresh drinking water should be available at all times, and she should be provided with as much high-quality food as she wants. By the second week of lactation, she will require up to three times the amount of calories as a non-pregnant cat. Kittens may cry and fail to thrive. Your veterinarian may recommend you supplement the litter or he may prescribe a medication to assist with milk production or both.
  • Eclampsia: Also known as milk fever or puerperal tetany, eclampsia is a life-threatening condition which occurs in late pregnancy or after birth as a result of blood calcium levels becoming dangerously depleted, leading to  hypocalcemia. Signs of eclampsia include restlessness, anorexia, walking with a stiff gait, high temperature, increased respiration rate, trembling, convulsions.

How are post natal problems in cats treated?

Obviously, treatment will depend on the cause, it may include:

  • Blood transfusions for postpartum haemorrhage. Your veterinarian may also wish to spay (ovariohysterectomy) the cat to stop further bleeding.
  • Antibiotics to treat mastitis. If abscesses are present, they will need to be lanced and drained.
  • Removal of retained products if your queen has acute metritis. Antibiotics will also be prescribed. Your cat may also need to be spayed.
  • Supplementation of milk to kittens who are not receiving enough milk due to low/no supply from the queen. She may also be given medication to assist with milk production.
  • Slow intravenous administration of calcium gluconate in the case of eclampsia.

Supportive care such as rest, IV fluids may also be required while your queen recovers.

Also see:

Estrus in cats   Cat giving birth   Pregnancy in cats   Dystocia in cats

Postpartum Care For Cats - How To Care For The New Queen

Most queens (mother cat) require little or no assistance during the delivery and are able to successfully raise a litter without our assistance. However, the prudent carer should be aware that there will be some requirements to help the queen stay healthy and well so she is able to care for her new family.

Immediately after the birth:

Count how many placentas have been delivered, ie; two kittens, two placentas, three kittens, three placentas etc., to ensure that none have been retained. If you are not sure that they have all been delivered, check with your veterinarian.

Once the kittens have been born, the soiled bedding should be replaced with clean, dry bedding, but try to do so with as little disruption to the queen and kittens as possible.

General Care:

Mother cat and her kittensEnsure the queen is provided with comfortable, warm area to care for her kittens. It should be in a quiet and safe area. The new mother will rarely leave the nest over the next few days.

Within 24 hours of the birth, your queen should see a veterinarian for a check up. He will be able to feel for any undelivered kittens and make sure everything is healing as it should. A small amount of vaginal discharge is present for 7 - 10  days post queening. The discharge is reddish brown in colour and should not be odorous. Discharge which has an offensive odour is bright red, profuse, or lasts longer than 3 weeks should be immediately reported to your veterinarian. This is a medical emergency.

Feeding during lactation:

The queen has delivered her kittens, a meal should be offered to her, she may or may not eat it

A lactating queen will need to consume two to three times the number of calories that she required prior to becoming pregnant. Without these additional calories, she cannot produce enough milk to feed her kittens.  She should be provided as much food as she wants and has constant access to fresh water.

A high-quality food designed for kittens is recommended.

Postpartum complications:

  • Postpartum hemorrhage: As stated above, some discharge is normal, but if the discharge is bright red, or there is an excessive volume seek immediate veterinary help.
  • Mastitis: Mastitis (inflammation of the mammary gland) occurs when the lactating queen's mammary gland(s) becomes inflamed, blocked or infected. Symptoms include pain, heat, and swelling of the affected gland(s), fever,  milk may be bloody, yellow or thick, the queen may refuse to let her kittens nurse from the affected gland, the queen may become depressed and lose her appetite and become dehydrated, lethargy, sick or dying kittens.
  • Acute Metritis: This is inflammation of the lining of the uterus (endometrium) postpartum. It is most commonly caused by a bacterial infection. It can be caused by retained placentas or kittens, or unsanitary conditions. Symptoms include; lethargy, vomiting, diarrhea, anorexia, fever, foul smelling, dark discharge from the vagina.
  • Agalactia (complete lack of milk supply) and dysgalactia (decreased milk supply): This may be caused by inadequate nutritional support of the queen,  large litter size, deformed nipple(s) or occasionally caesarean sections. Suckling should be encouraged as this assists with milk production (the more stimulation, the more milk is produced). Fresh drinking water should be available at all times, and she should be provided with as much high-quality food as she wants. By the second week of lactation, she will require up to three times the amount of calories as a nonpregnant cat. Kittens may cry and fail to thrive. Your veterinarian may recommend you supplement the litter or he may prescribe a medication to assist with milk production or both.
  • Eclampsia (milk fever, puerperal tetany): This life-threatening condition occurs when the levels are depleted in the lactating queen resulting in hypocalcemia. Signs of eclampsia include restlessness, anorexia, walking with a stiff gait, high temperature, increased respiration rate, trembling, convulsions.

What to look out for:

  • Fever.
  • Loss of appetite (anorexia).
  • Lack of interest in kittens.
  • Vaginal discharge which is odorous lasts longer than three weeks or excessive bleeding. Excessive loss of blood can lead to shock and death.
  • Swelling, heat or discomfort from the breasts.


If you notice any of the above, seek veterinary help immediately.

Pregnancy:

Cats will come into heat quite quickly after the birth, therefore it is important to ensure she is kept away from entire male cats to prevent another pregnancy too quickly.

Related articles:

Estrus in Cats  Pregnancy in Cats  Birth in Cats

Cat Pregnancy - Care For a Pregnant Cat

pregnant catHow long is a cat pregnant?

The gestation period for a cat is 63-65 days. This varies between cat though, and anywhere between 60 to 70 days is normal.

What are the signs of pregnancy in cats?

Unlike humans, 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, some signs of pregnancy in cats include:

  1. By the  third week of pregnancy the cat's nipples will become enlarged and pink. This is known as 'pinking up'.
  2. By the fourth week of pregnancy, she should have gained enough weight to make her pregnancy visible.
  3. By 3-4 weeks your veterinarian should be able to palpitate the abdomen and feel the babies.

How does my veterinarian confirm pregnancy?

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 can be seen on x-rays around the 43rd day. X-ray should be avoided in early pregnancy.

Pregnancy can also be detected by ultrasound. By around day 26 the fetus and heartbeats can be seen.

Do cats suffer from morning sickness?

Yes, cats can experience morning sickness. They may also go off their food around the third week of pregnancy.

Does a pregnant cat have any special requirements?

A good quality, nutritious diet is important. 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.

Over feeding and excessive weight gain should be avoided as this can complicate labour.

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.

Do I need any equipment for the cat's birth?

  • Kittening box. This 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 for ties.
  • Antiseptic to apply to the umbilical stumps.
  • Scissors.
  • Clean towels.
  • Your vet's phone number in an easy to reach place.
  • An emergency vet's phone number.
  • Kitten milk replacer.

How to prepare for the birth:

During the last week of pregnancy, the kittening box should be placed in a warm, quiet, draft free room which is off limit to children and other pets. She should be encouraged to sleep in this box.

Obviously, food, water and a litter tray also need to be placed in this room.

The kittening box can be lined 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. The bedding should be changed regularly.

Do not let the pregnant cat outside in the final week or two of pregnancy.

How do I know when my cat is going into labour?

  • 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 either reclusive and seek out a secluded place or she may become more affectionate, especially if she is particularly bonded to one carer.

Danger signs:

Seek veterinary attention immediately if you notice the following signs:

  • If your queen stops eating for more than 24 hours
  • If she has an elevated temperature
  • If she becomes depressed or lethargic
  • If she has any unpleasant smelling discharge coming from the vagina

Can I give my cat medications while pregnant?

Some medications can cause birth defects 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.

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:

Do not use human antiseptics and the like - such as Dettol etc as these can be poisonous to cats and also burn the skin. If you need to use any antiseptics, use one recommended by your veterinarian.

Do not handle the newborn kittens a lot in the first two days - minimal handling - 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 it is intended to get her de-sexed - around 7 weeks is a good time - she can still nurse her kittens afterwards.

Unplanned cat pregnancy:

Breeding a cat is a huge responsibility and should only be carried out by breeders with experience. In many cases, everything will go along fine, but there are risks involved to both the queen and the kittens.

If this is an unplanned pregnancy are you prepared for the unexpected? Some problems which may be encountered are:

  • Difficulty giving birth, requiring an emergency c-section.
  • Death of the mother.
  • Death of the kittens.
  • Mother rejecting the 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?
  • Are you prepared to keep hold of the kittens until they are at least 10 weeks old?
  • Remember that 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.
  • Kittens will also need to be wormed and vaccinated prior to going to their new homes.
  • If both the male and female haven't been tested, there is a possibility of contracting FIV and FeLV.


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 over population of cats unless you are a registered breeder.

Also see:

Cat Giving Birth   Dystocia in Cats   Mating in Cats   Feeding a pregnant cat

Cat in Heat (estrus) - Signs, Duration & Prevention of Cats in Heat

What is a cat in heat?

Also known as 'estrus cycle or calling' a cat in heat is when the female cat (female cats are also known as queens) is fertile and receptive to mating. Estrus is usually seasonal but also depends on a number of factors including the number of daylight hours, age and general health of the cat.

There are actually four phases to the cat's heat cycle:

  • Proestrus
  • Estrus
  • Metestrus
  • Diestrus

This article will look at the second phase estrus, where the female is receptive to mating.

At what age does estrus begin?

Estrus begins at puberty when this starts varies from cat to cat and breed. Some breeds such as the Siamese can call as early as four or five months. Other breeds may not reach sexual maturity until 10 months or older.

Cat mating season:

Cats tend to be seasonal maters, although they may go into heat and produce a litter at any time of the year. Typically the feline mating season begins in spring when the days start to become longer and runs through until autumn. Cats are polyestrous, which means they will have more than one heat cycle in a year.

What are the signs of estrus in cats?

Signs of estrus include:

Your cat may become extra affectionate towards people and other cats, rubbing against their legs, or weaving in and out between their legs or rolling on the floor.

  • 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.
  • Persistent vocalisation. This is often louder than usual and can be described as a yowl.
  • Licking of the genital region.
  • There may be a clear discharge from her vagina.
  • Loss of appetite.
  • She may spray on vertical surfaces.

Some cats are what is known as silent callers and may display none of the above signs.

If your cat is in heat, keep her indoors. If she is an indoor cat already, be extra careful to keep windows and doors closed because she will be keen to get to a male cat and mate.

How long does a female cat stay in heat?

Estrus typically lasts between 7 to 10 days. If your cat doesn't become pregnant then it will repeat every 14 to 21 days until she does become pregnant or the season's change.

There are three possible outcomes:

  • The cat mates and becomes pregnant.
  • The cat mates, doesn't become pregnant, has a pseudopregnancy (also known as a 'false pregnancy') and comes back into heat 30 or so days later.
  • The cat doesn't mate or become pregnant and comes into heat 14 to 21 days later.

How often does the female cat come into heat?

If the cat doesn't become pregnant during a period of 'heat', she will go out of season for 2 - 3 weeks and then come back into heat. This can continue until the days shorten in autumn (around September in the Northern Hemisphere and March in the Southern Hemisphere).

Can I prevent a cat coming into heat?

The only guaranteed way to prevent a queen from coming into heat is to have her desexed (spayed). Not only will this prevent 'calling' and ensure no unwanted kittens are brought into the world but there are also health benefits to desexing a female cat. Entire cats are at risk of developing cancer of the uterus or ovaries, pyometra, and breast cancer.

Do sibling cats mate?

Yes, brothers and sisters will mate, fathers and daughters, mothers and sons. Cats do not discriminate when it comes to mating.

Is it possible for a litter of kittens to have different fathers?

Yes, cats are induced ovulators, their eggs are released after they have mated and can survive for up to 24 hours. If your cat mates with multiple male cats, then the kittens born can potentially have different fathers.

What should I do if my cat comes into heat?

Keep her indoors and away from any entire (Tom) male cats and book an appointment with your veterinarian as soon as possible.

If she does get out and mate, it is not too late. She can still be desexed. Speak to your veterinarian about this. He may also wish to test for FIV and FeLV if she has mated with an unknown/untested tom.

Should I let my cat mate when she is in season?

Unless you are a registered breeder, and this is a planned mating then no, you should not permit your cat to mate.

There is a huge cat overpopulation problem and breeding your cat just contributes to this. For every kitten you have, which you may pass on to friends or neighbours, that is one kitten in a shelter who could have been rehomed.

Also, unless you have tested the tom (male cat), there is no way you will know if he has either FIV or FeLV, both of which are viruses which are fatal in cats.

Desexing (also known as spaying) can be performed while your cat is in heat, but veterinarians typically prefer to spay a cat who isn't in estrus.

My female cat has been spayed but she is still coming into heat:

This sometimes happens in spayed cats if there are any remnants of the ovaries left behind during her spaying operation. This tiny portion of the ovary continues to produce hormones which trigger the estrus cycle in the cat. It is not possible for her to become pregnant, however.

What are the signs of pregnancy in cats?

The first sign of pregnancy is pinking-up, where the nipples become pinker and slightly swollen. This happens around the third week of pregnancy.

Weight gain occurs around the fourth week of pregnancy.

My cat is already pregnant, how long does pregnancy last in cats?

A cat is pregnant for approximately 63 days.

How many kittens are in a litter?

This depends. First-time mothers may have a small litter of one or two. The average number of kittens in a litter is approximately 4 - 6.