If you have a pregnant cat, you want to know and understand the stages so that you can help her prepare for her babies. Nothing is more important than the health and happiness of your fur baby and her little ones.
The typical cat pregnancy will last between 63 to 65 days, or about nine weeks. However, there are exceptions to the rule. Just like humans, cats can sometimes give birth a little early or a little late.
If you think your cat is pregnant, it is best to confirm it with your veterinarian. If you would like to understand more about how long cats are pregnant, look no further than this article.
What Are the Stages of Feline Pregnancy?
There are five stages of pregnancy in cats. It starts with the estrus cycle and ends with the miracle of birth. You may already suspect that your cat is pregnant and want to know for sure. In each stage, specific symptoms will help you to determine how close the cat is to having her babies:
To become pregnant, a cat must be on her heat cycle, otherwise known as her estrus cycle. Female cats experience their heat cycle every two to three weeks for about six days. During the estrus cycle, the queen becomes receptive to the male cat. When a feline of the female persuasion is in heat, she can become pregnant quickly.
Upon successful mating, gestation begins. The first week of pregnancy is conception. The sperm fertilizes the egg, which takes about ten days. The fertilized eggs travel to the uterus through the fallopian tube. It takes around two weeks for the fertilized eggs to move. Once the eggs arrive in the uterus, the placenta begins to take shape, and the embryo develops.
The organs begin to develop in the embryo. Placenta formation supports the exchange of waste and nutrients between the embryo and the mother cat. Her hormones are soaring during this time.
Quick Interesting Fact
Some female cats can mate with more than one tomcat during their heat cycle, which leads to distinct fathers within the same pregnancy. When more than one male cat has fathered a litter of kittens, it is known as superfecundation, and the same litter can have kittens that look unique from one another.
Early Stage of Pregnancy
During the early phases of feline pregnancy, the queen begins to demonstrate sure signs that she is pregnant:
- Weight gain (Increase in appetite)
- Morning sickness/vomiting
- Enlarged pink nipples
- Swollen belly
- Increased signs of affection
It takes a couple of weeks for the cat to show signs of pregnancy. If you suspect your cat is pregnant, take them to the vet to be sure.
By the fifth week of pregnancy, organ development is almost complete. Hormonal glands become operational, and the nervous system develops. By the sixth week of gestation, some signs indicate that the pregnancy is in the later stages:
- Weight gain continues
- Morning sickness has subsided
- Breasts continue to grow
- Abdomen grows rapidly
Another behavior that expectant cat mothers can have is called “quickening.” Quickening is an abrupt or “quick” burst of excitement from the mother cat. She may run around or demonstrate other signs of excitement that seem unusual. It is a time of great anticipation. Your cat will start to prepare for the arrival of the kittens.
Early Labor Signs
Early labor signs tend to start about one week before delivery. You may notice the following signs that your cat is almost ready to give birth:
- Drops of milk in the nipple area
- Loss of appetite
- Movement of kittens in the abdomen
- A decrease in rectal temperature
The expecting mama cat will also look for a safe place to nest and have her babies. You may be able to help your cat find the right spot. She will settle down in the area of her choice and begin to prepare for the upcoming labor. The process of a mother cat preparing to have kittens is called “queening.”
Your cat is ready to give birth. Ensure she has a comfortable nesting box with cozy towels and blankets and that it is in a suitable area where the kittens cannot wander off. As she prepares for birth, she may have the following signs:
- Excessive grooming
- Larger, pinker, darker teats
- A drop in body temperature to about 100 degrees Fahrenheit
- Vaginal discharge of blood (in the hours leading up to birth)
Kittens come into the world with amniotic sacs, which the mother cat removes. She helps the kittens to breathe on their own by licking them. The mother cat will eat the placenta of her kittens. However long the labor process goes on is determined by the number of kittens born.
During the process, the kittens should come every 15 to 20 minutes until the final baby has been born. However, if more than 3 hours have passed between births and kittens are left, get in touch with your veterinarian. Your vet should see your cat and her kittens within 24 hours after delivery.
How Long Are Cats Pregnant?
On average, cat pregnancy lasts for 63 to 65 days. However, some cats can carry an average litter for more or less time. The typical range is between 60 to 70 days. If it is your cat’s first litter, she could be pregnant for a few days longer. Cats are like humans in that their babies can arrive early as well.
Early labor can be triggered by the following:
- Hormonal imbalances
- Ovarian cysts
- Stressors, like a changing environment or disarray in the house
If your cat is pregnant for fewer than 60 days, there is a chance that the litter will not survive. Both older and younger cats tend to produce smaller litters, two or three kittens. A three or four-year-old cat will often have four to five kittens per litter. A cat can become pregnant and give birth when they are just six months old.
Why You May Want to Consider Spaying Your Cat
You should not overbreed your cat, as it is not responsible. Most responsible breeders will limit breeding to three times a year. If you are not breeding your cat, she should be spayed around five months old to prevent the heat cycle. Cats can have multiple litters throughout their lifetime, but it may be advantageous to your cat’s health to have them spayed.
If your female cat just had a litter of kittens, you will need to wait until she stops nursing to have the procedure done. Ideally, you should wait between five and six weeks after her kittens to have your cat spayed. Some of the health benefits of having your cat spayed include:
- Eliminating the risk of ovarian cancer
- Removing the risk of uterine cancer
- Reducing the risk of breast cancer
Unspayed female cats can also develop a condition called pyometra. It is a fatal illness of the uterus that requires surgery to treat. Diabetic cats should also be spayed to protect them from any hormonal changes that may interfere with their medication.
When your cat is pregnant, it is a time for the two of you to get ready to share in the love and warmth of her beautiful babies. Helping your fur baby welcome tiny kittens into the world is a privilege and an exciting experience!