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Feline Pregnancy & Birth – Part 1

We have a duty as cat owners to provide everything our furry companions need for a healthy & happy life. If you choose not to neuter your cat(s) or find your queen pregnant – it is your responsibility to provide care for her & her babies. Cats do make wonderful mothers & they usually deal with pregnancy & birth perfectly by themselves. Humans getting over-involved with the birth can upset the queen or harm her relationship with her kittens. There are many places to get help & advice, starting with your vet for your queen’s health.

Me loving Julio (he wasn’t too impressed!)

Litter Size

How many kittens a queen has in her litter depends upon multiple factors, such as the age of your queen, breed & genetic history. For more information, including average feline litter sizes – please go here.

Becoming Pregnant

Traditionally the Oestrus Season lasted from around January until August. Now, however, with human influence such as central heating & weather changes, this has become a year round cycle. This cycle comprises of the queen being in heat for 5-8 days, followed by 3-14 days off. A queen will be in & out of heat until she is either pregnant or spayed.

It is not until a queen mates that she ovulates (ovulation is triggered by mating, via projections on a tom cat’s penis which stimulate vaginal nerve endings in the queen). It takes 2 days for the eggs to move from the queen’s ovaries to her uterus, therefore litters can contain kittens from different fathers. Queens are promiscuous creatures, if given the opportunity; they will mate with more than one tom cat to ensure the strongest litter.

Gestation Period

The length of time a queen is pregnant is usually 63-65 days. I would strongly recommend seeking vet attention if no labour is obvious after 66 days (even though some queens can go up to 74 days).

During Pregnancy

  • Your queen’s stomach will swell to accommodate her growing foetus
  • Her nipples will swell & become a darker pink (known as ‘pinking’)
  • Ultrasound can confirm pregnancy & estimate litter size at approximately 21 days gestation
  • Your queen will nest towards the end of her pregnancy
  • It is recommended that modified live vaccines NEVER be given to pregnant queens. This is because they can cause abortions or birth defects, such as Feline Panleukopenia. You can have your queen vaccinated after she has weaned her kittens.

Caring For Your Pregnant Queen

How your queen is feeling should be your priority. A fresh, clean supply of water should always be available. Your pregnant queen should be fed a correct maintenance diet (her normal amount of food) until the last 3rd of pregnancy or around 42 days. At around 42 days she needs an increase in energy & protein for foetal growth.

Your queen’s uterus will be enlarged, meaning she’ll have a smaller stomach capacity, so feed her an increased amount of food, in small portions & frequently. Kitten food is a good option to give her added protein, fats and nutrients.

Your Queen’s Accomodation – Preparing The Kittening Area

There are many options for kittening / nursing areas and a whole host of different beds etc. So here I will go over the basics.

In the wild a queen would be vulnerable whilst giving birth, her newborns are also extremely vulnerable, so the place she chooses to give birth & raise her litter would naturally be quiet, comfortable, warm & private. I’ve heard many stories of queens choosing areas to give birth that her owners are not too pleased with, such as piles of ironing, in wardrobes, cupboards & even behind the fridge!

It is often difficult to find the balance between keeping your queen’s area hygienic & keeping her important scents (which can comfort her & provide enrichment), for this reason I would recommend you have a small room, which is private for your queen, especially if you have other cats or animals. Where this is not possible the corner of a quiet room can work.

Disinfect the room/ area Before moving your queen into it. (I use Safe4 disinfectant, which is DEFRA approved & contains No Phenols – which are toxic to cats. Or Zoflora Pet, which also contains No Phenols). Please follow manufacturer’s instructions for use.

If your queen does not already love the room/ area, move her into it around 10 days before she’s due. After moving her clean only where dirty, avoid disinfectant & harsh cleaners, leave her scents where you can.

Your Queen’s Room

The area/ room for your queen & her kittens should be secure, so that newborns are not at risk of either: falling out, getting cold or separating from mum & litter. It is vital that newborns are protected from other cats, other animals & danger. Ideally the area is quiet & private for your queen to give birth & nurse her kittens.

Always provide access to clean, fresh water for your queen. Along with the usual food bowls, litter trays, toys & scratch post, you will need:

  • A den or area for giving birth & nursing in – indoor crate / large dog cage / large play pen / large cardboard box
  • Plenty of cloth towels / newspaper / paper towels / puppy pads
  • Blankets (I would recommend having plenty spare!)
  • Heat pad – should always be made available

So long as the area is cosy and prevents newborns crawling out, falling out, becoming cold, getting into danger or separating from mum, it should suffice.

Peaches & Julio in their safe play pen

To continue reading about The Birth, Please see Feline Pregnancy & Birth – Part 2.

The Kitten Consort is a small, specialised rescue, I receive no funding & rely on sales from this online shop and donations. If you found this article helpful/enjoyable or you love what I do, please consider a small donation or purchasing something from the shop. Every bit helps me to save more neonates and tiny kittens.