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From the end of winter, the heat season begins for cats. Gestation is a process that lasts about 9 weeks and during which your cat undergoes significant changes in order to give birth to her young.
Let’s discover together the warning signs and the course of gestation until parturition, as well as the good gestures to adopt during cat pregnancy so as to support the expectant mother during this particular period.
How Does the Sexual Cycle of the Cat Take Place?
A cat reaches sexual maturity at the age of 6 months. The heat period generally extends between the end of winter and autumn and for periods of 10 to 15 days separated by 2 to 3 weeks. During this period, the cat tends to emit a different, more loud and husky meow. She rubs on floors and furniture and searches for hugs by lifting her rump to your touch.
It is ovulation that triggers mating in the cat, hence the need not to leave a female in heat (not sterilized) in contact with males when you do not want her to give birth to kittens. If you prefer to permanently avoid your cat becoming pregnant, choose sterilization; it is preferable to the contraceptive pill. How long is cat pregnancy you might ask? Well, let’s start with its gestation and signs first.
What are the Signs of Pregnancy in Cats?
The gestation of the cat lasts between 60 and 69 days. As the cat is very fertile, she can be pregnant at any time and several times during the year. The signs are not immediate, you will have to wait several weeks to see the first evidence of gestation.
- The cat suddenly shows itself more cuddly and it seeks your contact,
- The nipples of the cat take a pinkish hue and swell slightly,
- Her belly swells,
- The cat can take one to two kilos, her pelvis widens and her back widens,
- Some morning sickness is possible as well as a refusal to eat,
- Over time, she will start looking for a comfortable place to give birth to her young in peace.
As soon as you notice the first signs, consult the veterinarian to confirm gestation. He will also be able to advise you on the follow-up to be carried out.
The Course of Gestation in the Cat
If the gestation of the cat can last up to 69 days, or about 9 weeks, it is not noticeable until the third week by means of the first warning signs. An ultrasound can then confirm his condition. You will, however, wait until the 40th day for an X-ray to be possible because the skeletons of the kittens will be trained enough to be visible.
There are several stages in the gestation of the cat.
From Week 1 to Week 3
- Eggs fertilized descend into the uterus of the cat at the end of the 6th day.
- On the 12th day, the implantation is carried out, that is to say, the cell clusters (blastocysts) which constitute each kitten are implanted into the uterine wall. The sex and appearance of each pup, no larger than a pinhead, have already been determined.
- On the 15th day, the placentas are formed. The embryos are then connected to the cat’s blood network in order to receive the nutrients essential for their development.
- 21st day, an embryo is about 2.5 cm. Their C shape is visible on ultrasound. The veterinarian can already feel the fetuses under his fingers during palpation and count the number of pups to be born.
- The cat is more affectionate and cuddly and it seeks your contact. Others will be on the contrary more sulky, according to their habitual character. These variations are normal and need not be a concern.
From Week 4 to Week 6
- From the 28th day, it is possible to see by ultrasound that members of future kittens are formed. However, they still measure only 3 to 4 cm.
- The mother’s behavior begins to change. Her activity is reduced and she leaves little because she seeks to save her efforts. Her back widens and her belly is rounded.
- The veterinarian will prescribe deworming and flea treatments adapted to pregnant cats to prevent it from transmitting parasites to its young.
- Start feeding your cat with food suitable for pregnant females or simply kitten food. These richer foods are ideal for providing it with the energy and nutrients necessary for gestation.
From Week 7 to Week 9
- On the 38th day, the sensory organs that are the ears, nose, and whiskers grow, like the nervous system and muscles. At this stage, a fetus measures almost 5 cm.
- On the 50th day, future kittens are covered with their hair and measure 7 cm.
- At the 60th day, they measure 13 cm. Their physical development is complete, they just have to wait a few days before parturition.
- The attitude of the cat is changing again. She is preparing for the arrival of her young by looking for a comfortable, soft, warm place away from noise and light. Help her by fitting out the space she has chosen so that she will feel good there.
- During the last days before birth, the cat frequently licks the belly and the vulva. She meows and purrs loudly during contractions and she can be aggressive towards her masters. Leave her alone while discreetly making sure she is doing well.
Farrowing the Pussy
Several signs will announce the imminent birth:
- The belly lowers and the sides widen to form a pear-shaped body to facilitate childbirth.
- Drops of milk form on the udders.
- The vulva of the cat expands.
- The mucous plug is removed. These are thick, opaque secretions that flow from the vagina of the cat. If these secretions are tinged with red, dark brown or green, contact the veterinarian immediately to avoid complications.
- The cat is very thirsty, but not very hungry. She may start to vomit.
- The cat urinates frequently. She breathes hard and tries to lie on her side.
Farrowing generally goes well in cats. Just leave her alone so that she is not stressed and watch her discreetly. Do the same after giving birth; she will need calm and rest. Do not move her, let her take care of her little ones quietly.
Cesarean sections are very rare in cats, but it is important to remain vigilant and act as quickly as possible in an emergency.
Farrowing can last between 2 and 6 hours on average, depending on the number of unborn kittens (2 to 6 in general) and the age of the cat. The new mother takes care of tearing the membrane that surrounds each kitten, licking it so that it starts to breathe and cutting the umbilical cord. On the other hand, if it is too weak or too busy giving birth to the next cubs, take care of it with care.
How to Take Care of a Pregnant Cat?
To take care of your cat during gestation, here are some tips on gestures, attitudes, and care to be taken.
- Remember to give your cat a suitable diet for pregnant cats or kittens from the fourth week of gestation. His nutritional needs are higher while his appetite is reduced. A quality, richer and highly digestive diet is important. Prefer kibble type premium kibbles so that they follow the model of their mother during their weaning.
- Consider continuing to apply deworming and flea treatments during pregnancy to avoid contamination of the kittens and to strengthen the mother’s immune system. However, buy them from the veterinarian to administer formulas for pregnant females; conventional dewormers can be dangerous for kittens.
- Consult the veterinarian to perform control ultrasounds from 4 to 5 weeks.
- Stay attentive to the needs of your cat when she requests caresses or when she wants, on the contrary, to be quiet. Her behavior changes during gestation.
- Help her prepare a cozy nest for her young. Let her choose a place that suits her and arrange the space for her comfort.
- Always keep the contact details of your veterinarian nearby in order to contact him in case of an emergency.
- When giving birth, provide a disinfectant to clean your hands if you are forced to intervene, and towels to clean and stimulate the kittens if the mother is unable to do so. Finally, consider providing a heat source (infrared lamp, heating pad, hot water bottle, etc.) to warm kittens and their mothers during the first days after birth.
Always remember that during cat pregnancy these felines are always vulnerable so as a guardian it is up to you to take care of them, follow the cat pregnancy timeline and ensure you are there for them throughout this period.