Are you thinking of breeding from your cat? Or maybe the cat escaped and now her belly looks suspiciously round. Whether it’s a deliberate mating or an accidental encounter, a cat-guardian needs to know what to expect when their cat’s expecting.
From the cat mating to giving birth takes around 63 – 68 days, but this is an average. A perfectly normal pregnancy may last as little as 61 days, whilst another stretches to 70 days. Mother Nature dictates the kittens will put in an appearance once they’re ready and not before!
Cat Pregnancy Stages: Physical Changes
What will you see in a cat pregnancy week-by-week?
Weeks 1, 2, & 3
Actually, for Weeks 1, 2, and 3 of the pregnancy, the cat looks pretty much as she always did. Whilst a lot of changes occurring internally, on the outside, there are a few clues she’s expecting. Things start to get exciting around the end of Week 3 and beginning of Week 4. This is when the placentas that nourish the growing kittens now produce a hormone called prolaxin. If you’re keen to confirm she’s pregnant, a blood test for this hormone will tell you.
Cat Pregnancy Stages | PetPace
Weeks 4 & 5
By Weeks 4 & 5 each kitten is a small swelling in the womb. This gives the womb an appearance often described as a ‘string of pearls’. It’s at this stage that the vet is best able to feel the pregnancy. Detecting a cat pregnancy by feeling her belly is tricky and depends on timing. Before around Day 28, the fetal swellings are too small to feel through her belly wall. After Day 35, each fetus is bathed in a ball of fluid and easily confused with food in the intestine. As the day's tick passed and the expectant mother reaches Day 30 (early in Week 5) a noticeable external change happens. This is known as ‘pinking up’ and is when her nipples become more obvious. It’s around this time the teeny-tiny kittens can move and flutter in the womb – although these movements are too small to be noticeable except on ultrasound. Later in Week 5, for the first time, you might stand back and think the cat’s belly looks swollen. From now onwards, the mother looks more obviously pregnant.
As the kittens grow and take up more space, this squishes the mother’s stomach. When she eats, she feels full quickly, so divide her meals up. Instead of feeding twice a day, give the same amount but little and often. But it’s only in Week 6 you increase the total amount of food offered each day.
Weeks 7 & 8
Moving through Weeks 7 & 8 the cat starts to look heavily pregnant. She may sleep more and visit the tray more often. Her mammary glands start to enlarge as they prepare to produce milk after the kittens are born.
Nearing the end of the pregnancy in Weeks 8 & 9 the mother cat may start to nest, in preparation for the birth. The big day (or night) comes late in Week 9.
PetPace as Midwife
As an owner, it can be disconcerting to see your fur-friend cope with the rigors of pregnancy. When a mother is carrying kittens, she may be lethargic and sleep a lot, which can be worrying. An easy way to monitor the cat’s health is to use a PetPace collar. The mother won’t even know she’s wearing a monitoring device, whilst you get a full readout of her temperature, heart and respiratory rate, and activity levels. Should she become ill, and develop a fever or her heart struggle with the pregnancy, the PetPace app alerts you that her vital signs have changed. This valuable early warning may pick up problems before the mother shows overt outward signs of distress. Remember, it’s not just the mother but her unborn kittens that need looking out for.
Cat Pregnancy Week by Week: The Kitten’s Perspective
What’s happening inside the womb?Week 1: Five days after ovulation, eggs enter the womb and space themselves evenly along the uterine horns. Those eggs that get ‘crowded out’ die off at this stage. Week 2: The fertilized egg implants in the womb lining on day 12.
Cat Pregnancy Stages | PetPace
Week 3: Each kitten has their own placenta. From Day 20 these placentas produce prolaxin, a hormone which can be tested to confirm pregnancy. Also, on an ultrasound scan, the movement of each kitten’s heart can be seen. Week 4: The kittens‘ movements in the womb can be seen on an ultrasound scan. This is also the best week for the vet to confirm pregnancy by feeling for kittens in the womb. Week 5: The kittens now take up a lot of space and the mother’s belly starts to look swollen. Week 6: This is a period of rapid growth when the kittens are fully formed and continue to grow and mature. Week 7: Entering the final third of pregnancy, the growing kittens drain a lot of energy from the mother. Week 8: Hormones released by the kittens in the womb, stimulate enlargement of the mother’s mammary glands. This prepares her to start producing milk once the kittens are born. Week 9: Birth is imminent! Watch for a tell-tale drop in her normal body temperature, which signals impending labor.Top trivia! The kittens are well-developed enough that their teeth now contain enough calcium to show up on an x-ray. This can be used as a guide for the safe timing of cesarean in breeds that have difficulty birthing.
How to care for a pregnant cat
Above all else the mother cat needs to feel safe and secure. Provide a warm, clean, and welcoming home where she can relax during her pregnancy. If the cat normally goes outside, it’s a good idea to keep her indoors This protects her health and that of the unborn kittens from infectious diseases. Getting feeding right is crucial. Too much food early on and the mother gains weight too soon. This can make birthing more difficult. In late pregnancy, the kittens drain the mother’s energy reserves, but her stomach is compressed. So in the final trimester, switch to offering energy-dense kitten food and feed little but often.
The Last Stages of Cat Pregnancy
A heavily pregnant cat is less agile than usual. Make sure she has easy access to a litter tray, and that her food and water are kept topped up. Other than that, keep a discrete watchful eye on her for signs of distress or ill health. This is where PetPace monitors her vital signs and wellbeing without disturbing the mother-to-be. Indeed, if her body shows signs of distress, such as a raised heart rate, the collar sends an alert via the app. Throughout all these cat pregnancy physical changes, PetPace keeps watching over the mother-to-be, allowing you to enjoy the experience without worry.