It is always a great feeling to know that you are going to be blessed with kittens!
As a cat parent, you need to know how to know whether your cat is pregnant or not. I’ve mentioned many ways you can determine that below.
A pregnant cat will show many signs of her pregnancy, including an increased appetite, sleeping longer, becoming more affectionate towards the owner and swollen abdomen. She will also gain a lot of weight, her nipples will enlarge and will show nesting behaviour.
Let’s look at each of these points in detail below.
I have closely witnessed over a dozen cat pregnancies – right from the mating till the delivery and weaning of the kittens.
The points I have mentioned below are from my personal experience and what I used to look out for in my pregnant females.
Changes in Behaviour
There are certain behavioural changes that a cat goes through when she gets pregnant. These changes are the easiest to notice and can be easily noticed even by a newbie cat keeper.
Since pregnant cats have babies developing inside their bodies, they will naturally become a lot hungrier than usual. They need all that extra nutrition to develop healthy babies with strong immune systems.
During the course of the pregnancy, a female cat will gradually increase her food intake until she eats up to 1.5 to 2 times her usual amount.
Kibble designed for kittens are more nutritious than kibble for adult cats. So, it is a good practice to gradually shift your pregnant cat to a kitten food – only diet until she gives birth.
When I used to breed my cats, I would continue the ‘kitten food only’ diet until the kittens were weaned off their mother’s milk. That’s about 2 months after they were born.
This is because a nutrient – rich diet will enable the mother to produce nutrient – rich milk, which will make the kittens healthier and stronger.
Becomes More Affectionate
When cats become pregnant, their maternal instinct kicks in even before the kittens are born.
So, they will become more affectionate towards you, her guardian; and other kittens if they are around.
I distinctly remember one of the females that I had. Whenever she would get pregnant, she would always come and rub against my legs when we would be in the same room. She would also ‘chirp’ at me and purr while doing this.
Pregnant cats will also seek more and more attention from you. They will call you to pet and cuddle with them way more often. Sometimes, they will just want you to be close by.
No Longer Comes in Heat
Adult female cats come in heat every 2 – 3 weeks or so. Basically, the ‘heat’ is a period when the cat becomes accepting of males and when they mate, she gets pregnant.
When they are in heat, cats will yowl loudly, rub their backs against the floor, and rub their sides against you and furniture.
Female cats no longer come in heat once they get pregnant. Now, they will only come back in heat after the kittens are born.
The gestation period for cats is about 63 days, give or take a couple of days. So she won’t come in heat for at least 2 months at a stretch.
Now, it is possible for a female to not come in heat for 2 months without being pregnant, so this is not a sure shot sign of pregnancy. But if she doesn’t come in heat, you may want to keep an eye on her for other signs, or take her to the vet to be sure.
Will Sleep Longer
Cats sleep a lot – up to 15 hours a day. But pregnant cats sleep even longer!
Cats can sleep at literally any time of the day, but they tend to sleep at certain times during a 24 hour period, for roughly a certain amount of time at every nap.
So it is easily noticeable when a female starts sleeping longer every day. However, they only sleep longer after about half of their gestation period is over, so it is a late indicator of a cat’s pregnancy.
Be wary, though! If she is not pregnant, there could be a health issue that is causing her to sleep longer. It’s best to take her for a check up to the vet.
Pregnant cats can also have morning sickness during the early stages of their pregnancy.
They can vomit in the morning due to it. If your female cat vomits once or twice in the morning, it is fine. But if it happens more often, take her to the vet.
While this can be a very early indicator of a cat being pregnant, it doesn’t happen all the time.
In fact, my cats rarely, if ever, had morning sickness. And I’ve witnessed well over a dozen pregnancies and kitten births.
This behaviour is very easy to notice. It also happens with every cat during every pregnancy, so it is a sure indicator that you cat is pregnant.
But nesting behaviour begins very late into the gestation period, which means the cat is going to give birth soon – in about a week or so.
During this time the pregnant cat will begin to look for possible ‘nesting sites’, meaning places she can give birth in.
She will look out for quiet areas around the house where people (or other pets) don’t pass through frequently. The area should not be noisy, and ideally be soft and comfortable.
Once she selects an area, she will begin spending more and more time there.
Now, she is likely to select an area where you don’t want her to deliver her kittens. It could be under a stairwell, inside a storage box, etc. It is best if you provide an ideal place for her.
It could be a soft cloth or cotton laid out in a cardboard or a decent sized cage. You could place this in an area which is suitable to both the cat and you.
Always ensure that the entry/exit to this place is unrestricted 24*7, and she can freely come and go as she pleases.
Physical signs of a pregnant cat
Apart from behavioural changes, there are a few physical changes on a pregnant cat. These are very obvious signs for anyone to see, but they happen during the later stages of the pregnancy.
Darkened and Enlarged Nipples
Cats can have 6 or 8 nipples. During pregnancy, the cat’s nipples become swollen and a darker pink in colour.
During the second month of the gestation period, the abdomen of the cat appears more and more swollen and the due date nears.
This is because the babies inside her develop rapidly and grow in size during this time.
The pregnant cat’s weight also increases due to the babies’ growth.
It is always a good idea to regularly weigh your cat, whether male or female. If there is a drop in weight something is likely wrong and you can get it checked.
If you are feeding your female a fixed amount of food daily, and her weight begins to rise consistently, she probably is pregnant.
Clinically Check if Your Cat Is Pregnant
To be 100% sure whether your cat is pregnant or not, you can get her checked with your veterinarian.
These are the methods vets use to ascertain a cat’s pregnancy.
Vets can tell if a female cat is pregnant 17 days after the mating. If a longer time has passed, the vat can determine it with better accuracy.
They feel the abdomen of the female, and can notice a slight bulge in it.
You can get an ultrasound scan done about 25 days after the mating takes place.
Ultrasound scans are much more reliable at telling whether a cat is pregnant. However, you cannot precisely determine how many kittens are in the litter.
The kittens’ skeletons harden at around 45 days, so it’s best to wait around 50 days before you get an X-Ray done.
An X-Ray will show the little kittens’ skeletons inside the mother cat. However, since this is very late into the pregnancy, you will likely have many other signs already that your cat is pregnant.
Behaviour Just Before Giving Birth
A female cat will start showing these signs around 48 to 24 hours before giving birth.
When you notice any of these signs, you should get ready with the supplies you will need!
Changes in Body Temperature
When the due date gets closer, you should start taking the female cat’s temperature every 4 to 5 hours.
This is because her temperature will increase to 101.5 °F for about 2 days.
Then it will suddenly drop to 98 or 99 °F about 24 hours before giving birth. This is a sure sign that the delivery is about to begin soon.
If she’s not in her nesting place, you may need to place her there.
Become Restless or Anxious
A female cat that is about to deliver her kittens will become very restless or even anxious. She will constantly change the position she is sitting in and won’t be able to sit still for more than a few seconds at a time.
Sudden Loss of Appetite
It is not uncommon for pregnant cats to skip their last meal before delivering their kittens.
Naturally, their energy levels will take a hit due to this, coupled with the already tedious task of labour.
If I would notice my females straining too hard, I would give them 1 ml to 1.5 ml of good quality honey to drink using a syringe. And then repeat after 2 or 3 kittens were born.
Yes, honey isn’t a part of a cat’s natural diet, and I never fed my cats honey either, apart from this situation. Honey, that too in such small quantities, won’t harm your cat but will provide a much needed boost of energy.
Also, if the mother cat starts breathing heavily or panting like a dog, give her some water. If she doesn’t drink it on her own, feed it to her using a syringe.
May Start Meowing Loudly
The female cat will be in a lot of pain and her body will be under a lot of stress. So it is natural that she will feel very uncomfortable. She may meow loudly.
She may also meow at you for comfort. Every cat is close to 1 or 2 people in the house. At least one of these people should be with her to comfort her.
You should pet her, talk to her in a calm tone and keep an eye on the nesting area – is she too hot or cold; or is there anything else you can do to comfort her?
Shortly before the delivery commences, some liquid will start to discharge from the mother cat’s rear.
It may be difficult for you to see, because she will keep licking it as it comes out. So if you cat licks herself constantly, she needs to be placed in her nesting area.
And you need to be ready for some kittens very soon!