At a glance
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.
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
- 20 minutes of intense labour without birth
- If the mother has been in labour, and possibly delivered one or more kittens, but labour has stopped
- The mother is in active labour but has not delivered any kittens
- Gestation lasting longer than 68 days. I would recommend staying in close contact with your veterinarian before your cat is due
- If you see any dark or bright red discharge coming from the vagina
- Fever above 103F
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.
- X-Rays to look at the number, size, and position of the fetuses.
Before surgery, your 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 of great importance in caesarean sections to save the lives of the mother and her kittens. Your veterinarian needs to be very careful with the type of anesthetic he gives the pregnant female as this can pass through the placenta and affect the unborn kittens.
Shave and prepare the area and insert an IV catheter followed by a general anesthetic. A midline incision will be 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 female is to be spayed.
The female cat will be stitched up with internal stitches to avoid potentially hurting newborn kittens as they nurse.
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
- Your 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.