Cats are known for their self-sufficiency and relatively low care and that extends to the feline pregnancy too. However, there are certain areas in which the future cat mum (known as a queen) will need a little more care. Before we start, here are some quick pregnancy stats.
63-67 days – Length of a cat pregnancy
4-6 months – Age when cats reach sexual maturity
2-6 – Average number of kittens
19 – Largest recorded litter of kittens
15-21 days – The queen’s nipples will become pink and enlarged
22-28 days – The queen should now be notably pregnant (this may vary depending on how many kittens she is carrying)
17-25 days – Time when a veterinarian can confirm a pregnancy
The first thing you should do if you suspect, or you know that your cat is pregnant is to take her to the veterinarian for a check-up. By 17-25 days he should be able to feel the kittens by careful palpitation (do not try this at home). During the visit, he can discuss how to care for the pregnant cat.
What to feed a pregnant cat
A pregnant cat needs more calories to nourish her growing kittens. The best food is a premium brand of adult cat food for the first four weeks of her pregnancy. As the queen’s pregnancy progresses she will need a greater amount of food and should be switched to kitten food around the fourth week of pregnancy as this is higher in calories. Make the change over a few days as sudden changes in diet can cause a stomach upset.
Towards the end of the queen’s pregnancy, the queen will be eating 1.5-2 times the number of calories, and this will increase to 2-4 times during lactation. The queen should eat several smaller meals per day as the growing kittens will be taking up room in her abdomen making it harder for her to eat larger meals.
Provide your cat with fresh, clean drinking water.
Generally no, if she is being fed a premium diet she should not need any additional supplementation, in fact doing so can be extremely dangerous. Having said that, some queens can develop a condition known as eclampsia or milk fever, which is due to low blood calcium in the latter stages of pregnancy or more commonly during lactation.
Speak to your veterinarian about this, particularly if you are feeding a home-made diet. Calcium supplementation is contraindicated during pregnancy as it can depress the parathyroid gland’s sensitivity due to chronic high levels of calcium. Your veterinarian may, however, recommend calcium supplements during lactation. Never institute this or other vitamins without veterinary advice.
Worming a pregnant cat
The most common worms in cats are roundworm, hookworm, and tapeworm. All cats should be on a regular worming schedule, this is especially important during pregnancy as hookworms can encyst in the cat’s tissues where they remain dormant, when she becomes pregnant they migrate to the queen’s mammary glands and are passed in the milk when the kittens feed. It may also be possible for roundworms to infect kittens during pregnancy by passing through the placenta. Worming products can’t kill worms encysted in the tissues or the mammary glands, but they can kill worms in the queen’s intestines.
The recommended protocol is as follows:
Every three weeks during pregnancy
Every three weeks during nursing (until weaned)
However, you should speak to your veterinarian before treating your cat for worms. Don’t use over-the-counter worming products, follow your veterinarian’s guidelines on products and frequency of worming.
Treating a pregnant cat with fleas
If your cat has fleas, speak to your veterinarian about safe treatments to use in pregnancy. Many medications are unsafe to use during pregnancy.
Vaccinating a pregnant cat
It is not advisable to vaccinate a pregnant cat as certain vaccinations can cause problems with the unborn kittens. If however, your cat has never received any vaccinations, speak to your veterinarian who can advise you on the best plan of action. He may recommend vaccinating the queen with a killed vaccine, or waiting until the kittens have weaned.
Can cats get morning sickness?
Yes, some queens can get morning sickness around the third week of pregnancy and may go off their food for a week or two. If this happens, try to encourage her to eat by offering her some poached chicken breast. You may also try warming up her food.
How to carry a pregnant cat
Your cat can be carried the same way you normally would with one hand underneath the belly, supporting it, hind legs tucked in, and your other arm around her chest. Don’t let a cat dangle, pregnant or not.
As your cat’s pregnancy progresses she will become increasingly uncomfortable. It is not uncommon for a heavily pregnant cat to have the occasional accident.
Please remember that your queen will be very large, very uncomfortable and moving around won’t be as easy as it usually is. Provide her with a litter tray she can climb into and out of easily.
It is highly recommended that all pregnant cats be confined indoors, especially in the last two weeks of pregnancy. She should be provided with a sturdy box or a laundry basket in which to give birth in and raise her kittens for the first few weeks of their life. This should be in a quiet, draft-free room away from children, other pets and day to day hustle and bustle of the house. The room should not be too warm or too cold as kittens aren’t able to regulate their body temperature. The nesting box should be set up 2-3 weeks before her estimated date of delivery to allow her to get used to it.
Your queen’s litter tray and food/water bowls should be placed close to the nesting box but not inside it. The box should be large enough for the queen to stand up and turn around in, as well as accommodate her kittens. A hole should be cut on one side, approximately nine inches from the ground so that the queen can jump in and out to visit her litter tray and eat or drink, but high enough that the kittens are unable to climb out.
Line the box with a 1-inch layer of old newspaper and then place a blanket on top. After the queen has given birth remove any soiled newspaper and blankets and replace with clean. Bedding should be replaced every day or so.
Don’t be surprised if your cat chooses to give birth elsewhere. They have their own thoughts on this and it is not uncommon for a cat to choose a drawer or the back of a wardrobe. If this does occur, once she has given birth move the queen and her kittens to the nesting box you have provided. Unless you are happy for her to stay where she is!
Changes in behaviour
Some pregnant cat may become more clingy with their family members, other cats may become more distant. Allow your cat to decide how much attention she gets. If she wants extra cuddles, give them to her, but also allow her space if that is what she wants.