Has your female cat started to put on some weight and you're wondering if she may be pregnant? Today, our Echo Park vets share some signs that you may have a pregnant cat on your hands and how to care for them.
When Cats Can Get Pregnant
If you have a female cat who hasn't been spayed and managed to escape the safety of your home, there is a good chance that she may be pregnant. Around 4 - 7 months of age your female cat is likely to experience her first heat cycle, meaning that she is physically mature and able to produce her first litter of kittens.
Depending on where you live, your undoctored female cat may go into heat as often as every 3 weeks until she either becomes pregnant or is spayed. An unspayed female cat could have as many as 4 litters of kittens a year, with between 4-12 kittens in each litter. This means that if your cat is an unspayed adult female that has had access to the outdoor world, there is a good chance that she is expecting kittens.
Signs of a Pregnant Cat
Pregnancy in domesticated cats lasts about 2 months, so the first question to ask yourself is whether your cat has been outside over the past 8 weeks. If so, below are some other signs of pregnancy in cats that can indicate that kittens are on the way. Note that your cat may not display all of the signs below, depending on how far along she is in the pregnancy.
- Notable weight gain
- Pink, swollen nipples
- Distended abdomen
- Increased appetite
- Becoming more affectionate
- Hiding more often
- May sleep more than usual
If your kitty is exhibiting the signs above and has not been spayed, it's time to head to the vet for an examination to confirm pregnancy and/or check for signs of any underlying health concerns that could be causing these symptoms.
How a Vet Will Confirm a Cat Is Pregnant
There are a few different tests that vets can do to confirm whether your kitty is pregnant:
- The first thing your vet is likely to do is to palpate your cat's abdomen. This means that the vet will very gently feel your cat's belly to determine whether they can detect the presence of fetuses. If your cat is more than 17 days pregnant your vet may be able to confirm pregnancy in this manner.
- Your vet may recommend a quick and easy ultrasound test to look for fetuses if your vet suspects that your cat is 14 days pregnant or more. Heartbeats can be spotted using ultrasound sometime after 21 days of pregnancy.
- If your vet believes your cat is fairly far along in her pregnancy (further than 42 days) they may recommend an X-ray. Digital X-rays or radiographs are considered very safe and can help to determine a due date for the kittens and how many there are.
Caring for a Pregnant Cat
Once your vet has confirmed that your feline friend is pregnant they will provide you with specific recommendations on how to care for your pregnant kitty. That said, several things are generally recommended to help a cat have a healthy and safe pregnancy and birth.
- Do not squeeze or press on her belly, since this can cause pain and in some cases may lead to miscarriage.
- Clean her litter box once or twice daily, and make sure that her litter box is easy for her to access as her tummy continues to expand and drop.
- Provide your pregnant kitty with plenty of high-quality food. Your cat may eat as much as 25% more than normal while she is pregnant and nursing. Ask your vet to recommend the best food for your pregnant cat.
- Ensure that your cat has a cozy, clean area that she can use to give birth and care for her kittens. This spot should be in a warm and quiet spot in your home, well away from kids, other human traffic, and other pets.
Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. Please make an appointment with your vet to accurately diagnose your pet's condition.