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Pet Health Articles
Pregnant Cat Care
By Rose Springer
Virginia-based veterinarian Dr. Katy Nelson has three words of
advice for cat owners thinking about breeding their cats: Don’t
do it. “Just because your cat is cute and your neighbor’s cat is
cute does not mean they should get together to make
kittens,” says Nelson. “You need experience and know-how to
breed. It’s not something to be taken lightly.”
Nelson suggests spaying and neutering to avoid unplanned pregnancies. If you do find yourself tasked
with the care of a pregnant kitty -- known in the cat world as a queen -- there are important steps you
can take to ensure a healthy pregnancy and delivery. Below, Nelson weighs in on how to provide the
best prenatal and postnatal care for your pet.
When you first suspect your cat is expecting, it is important that her veterinarian examine her in order to
confirm the diagnosis. “Infections to the uterus can mimic pregnancy, with an enlarged midsection and
discharge,” says Nelson. “These infections can be life-threatening, so it’s important to rule this out.”
Once your vet establishes your cat is indeed pregnant, her vaccination schedule should be checked to
make sure she is up-to-date. “Maternal antibodies last 12 weeks in kittens. They benefit from having a
fully vaccinated mother,” explains Nelson.
Queens gestate their babies for about nine weeks. Your cat will see her doctor two or three times
during this period. The veterinarian can help you anticipate what to expect during labor, including how
many kittens may be in her litter.
Nutrition and Exercise
Because her most pressing need during pregnancy is for more calories, a pregnant cat should be fed a
nutrient-dense kitten formula immediately after her status as a mother-to-be is confirmed. She should
also have access to plenty of water.
Like a pregnant human, a pregnant cat can benefit from regular exercise. “It’s hard to get a cat to
exercise, but present her with toys that she enjoys,” says Nelson. Play with her in ways that keep her
moving. If her muscles stay toned, she’ll have a safer labor and delivery.”
In advance, prepare a private, quiet place for the birth to occur, and keep the room warm. “Like human
females, a female cat doesn’t want 10 people in the room when she’s in labor,” says Nelson. She
suggests providing your pet with a birthing area -- a comfortable bed or box filled with newspapers she
can shred. Nelson also suggests a room with a tiled floor to make cleanup easier.
Your veterinarian should speak with you about the signs that your cat is going into labor. “She may
become very aloof, or on the flip side, very clingy,” says Nelson. Follow your queen’s lead: if she doesn’t
want company, don’t force it on her. “Her hormones are raging. She’s very protective of these arriving
babies. Read her body language and take it seriously.” Keep the number of a 24-hour veterinary clinic on
hand in case there are labor complications, such as strong contractions without a delivery for more than
The most important consideration for your new mother is nutrition, specifically a higher caloric intake.
She should continue to eat kitten food until her babies have weaned (about eight weeks after birth). “If
the litter is more than three kittens, intense nutritional support is in order,” says Nelson. Consult your cat’
s veterinarian about how much food she’ll need.
You should also be tuned in to the mother’s overall health. Postpartum cats can develop eclampsia,
which results from a calcium imbalance and can be life-threatening. It usually happens within a week of
delivery, and signs include shaking, seizures and lethargy. If your cat exhibits these, get her to the vet
With the right medical and nutritional support, every cat can have a healthy pregnancy and a happy
Mother’s Day -- every day.
Rose Springer is a writer for The Daily Cat and The Dog Daily. She lives in New York City.