Breeding And Caring For Your Pregnant Cat
Another article you might find helpful you can read here.
If you need help with kittens, try this one.
Ron Hines DVM PhD
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Less than one in ten of the cat pregnancies I see at my office are planned events. What generally happens is that a client become suspicious that a blessed event might be about to occur when their adolescent cat is 4-5 weeks pregnant and beginning to look a bit too chubby. Cats become fertile at a remarkably young age and it is quite easy to put off having them spayed too long.
There are so many unwanted and uncared for cats in this World, desperate for homes, that I try to talk all of my clients out of breeding their cats. But I understand that your situation and aspirations may be different from mine. When you have thought things out and are fortunate enough to be able to plan ahead, here are some guidelines that you can follow:
First, be sure the momma cat is over one year of age. Many cats are accidentally bred on their first heat when they are not much more than kittens themselves. I advise my clients to breed their cat on its second or third heat period. Cats generally have their first heat when they are five to six months old or when their weight reaches 4.5-5 pounds.
Take the potential mother in for a veterinary examination prior to having her bred. Besides a thorough examination you should be certain the cat is free of intestinal parasites. If it has been over six months since it received a vaccination for feline rhinotracheitis have a booster administered. If it has been over two years since it received a feline panleukopenia and feline leukemia vaccination have these shots repeated. If the cat is overweight it will be susceptible to more complications than a lean mother. So place the cat on a diet, if it needs one, six month prior to having it bred.
Someone who has experience breeding cats should oversee the actual mating this will usually but the owner of the male cat. You can locate these people in your area through grooming shops and boarding kennels. Some veterinary hospitals also specialize in breeding cats but I do not recommend that cats be bred at hospitals because sick animals are often present there.
How Will I Know When My Cat is In Heat ?
Most cats have a very distinctive behavior when they are ready to be bred. They typically roll around playfully on the floor and rub their posterior against you and the furniture. They often become vocal and try to escape outside. They stand arched with their tail strait up and their back and rear legs stiffen whenever they are touched. Heat periods will usually last 4 to 7 days. They become longer and more frequent if the cat is not bred. A female cat will mate several times during her heat cycle so kittens in the litter may have different fathers.
How Long Does A Normal Pregnancy Last ?
Gestation or the length of pregnancy of a cat averages 64 days. It is generally between 62 and 67 days or about nine or ten weeks. When litters are large, length is often less. When litters are small, the length of the pregnancy may increase.
Cats that are bred should be negative for intestinal parasites. Bring a sample of their stool by your local veterinarian for a parasite check prior to breeding. If not, it should be wormed at least twice with pyrantel pamoate before it is bred. Mother cats that have intestinal worms can pass these worms on to their kittens through the womb and through their milk. Some of the cats that do this are negative on fecal examinations because the parasites are encysted in their muscles. This is particularly true of cats that live in kennels with many other cats. When kenneled cats are involved the kittens should be wormed at six, nine and eleven weeks of age with pyrantel pamoate.
Flea control is especially important once the kittens are born. Since Frontline, Advantage and Advantix have warning about their use in pregnant animals, I would skip application of these products during pregnancy and resume again when the kittens are born. Do not apply these products to the newborn kittens – just pick any fleas off of them with tweezers and place the fleas into a jar of alcohol. During pregnancy rely on methoprene premises sprays to control fleas.
The Importance of Good Nutrition During Pregnancy And Lactation
Late pregnancy and nursing vastly increase the nutritional needs of cats. Nursing mothers require even more nutrients than growing cats. The first six weeks of pregnancy the mother should not eat more than its usual pre-pregnancy amount. But starting at the sixth week the cat’s weight and appetite should begin to increase. Start to put down twenty-five percent more food. I like to switch the mother over to a diet designed for kittens and growing cats at this time but she should do well on a high-quality cat chow that is marketed for all life stages. Home-cooked diets are also acceptable, but you must be absolutely certain that they contain adequate calcium to meet the needs of both the mother and the kittens. Because the kittens are pressing against her internal organs the mother may not be able to eat as much at one sitting as before her pregnancy. Feed her several small meals instead of one or two large ones or better still, keep her food out at all times. Be sure plenty of clean water is available at all times. There is no need to give a vitamin or mineral supplement. If the cat begins to loose weight despite being offered the added food, supplement her diet with canned cat food. As pregnancy progresses the expectant mother will eat more and more. Give her all that she desires unless she has a tendency to get fat as some cats do. There is no need for a vitamin supplement if name brand foods are fed.
The time after the kittens are born begins the most nutritionally challenging time in a cat's life: Her food consumption will steadily increase over 20 to 30 days following birth as the kittens grow and nurse more and more. By the time the first month is over, the mother should be eating two or four times the amount of food she ate before she became pregnant Give her all she wants to eat. If she begins to become too thin you can encourage her to eat by moistening the food or supplement it with more flavorful canned cat food.
The Pregnancy Examination
For the first two or three weeks of pregnancy you probably will not notice any changes in your cat other than the lack of repeated heat cycles. Around the fifth week of pregnancy the mother’s abdomen will begin to swell. Queens with small litters take longer to 'show' than mothers with a larger litter.
When the expectant mother is about thirty days pregnant schedule an appointment with your veterinarian if the cat was not examined prior to becoming pregnant. This will be a “wellness” examination at which time the veterinarian will either palpate and confirm that kittens are present manually or by use of an ultrasound apparatus. Ultrasound can detect kittens as early as the 14-15 day of pregnancy. Ultrasound will detect fetal heartbeats after day 24. By thirty days the cat’s nipples should begin to swell. Some veterinarians suggest an X-ray of the mother three weeks prior to delivery to count the number of kittens so you will know when labor is over and all the kittens are out. I do not feel that exposing the dog to radiation for this procedure is warranted.
Regular exercise and walks will help your pregnant cat keep her muscle tone and general health. Obesity is potential danger in pregnant cats when delivery time comes so control any tendency to fatness with exercise and careful attention to her revised caloric needs. It is much safer to restrict diet before the cat becomes pregnant than after. During the final three weeks of pregnancy the mother should be separated from other cats in the household as well as cats from outside the family.
How Should I Prepare For The Kittens ?
Prepare a room for the birth to occur. This room should have an impervious floor that makes cleaning easy. It should not be drafty and should be in a quite area of the home. Prepare a bed for the cat, a laundry basket lined with towels or unused clothes works well. Get her used to using it. If the mother won’t stay in it, you can encourage her to by petting her and giving her small food snacks. You can lead her to the designated nursing area when labor begins but don’t expect her to stay there. She will almost certainly have her kittens outside of the pre-assigned area, let her. When she has completed the delivery, move them all into the designated bed. Cats don’t like to be bothered when they are having their kittens. There is no need for you to spend time comforting her. After the birth of the first few kitten, the mother usually is preoccupied with her babies and not as upset at your presence. Give her the space she needs, but keep checking in on her regularly. It is quite possible that you will miss the birth process entirely. You will probably wake up one morning or return from work only to find you have a brand new litter of offspring contentedly nursing on their mom. If your nursery room is not warm enough, you can warmer it by wrapping a heating pad in a towel, setting it on "low," and placing it under one half of the nursery bed. This allows the mother and kittens to move away from the heat source if they choose to. If you wish, you can read some of my other articles on birthing and caring for newborn kittens. Here is one and here is the other.
When labor is eminent the mother’s appetite will disappear. By their third or fourth week the kittens should be starting to eat on their own. Encourage them to eat solids by themselves in order to remove the stress of milk production from the mother. By six to eight weeks the babies should be fully weaned so the mother’s food can revert back to the amount she ate prior to pregnancy. When you wean the offspring you help the mother’s milk supply to dry up. Do this by withholding food and only offering her half the water she normally consumes. The following day, give her only a quarter of her pre-pregnancy food supply and one half the water. From the second day on give her all the water she wants. Slowly increase her food over five days until it is back to her pre-pregnancy level. If she has lost weight during the pregnancy adjust her food intake upward to make up the lost weight.