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Preparing for Kittens

cat_longhair_sittingIf your queen (non-neutered female cat) becomes pregnant, there are some things you should know about what is normal and what can be done to prepare for the arrival of the kittens.

Normal Pregnancy in the Cat

The length of pregnancy in queens is about 64-66 days, though there is a wide range around this time of what is still considered normal. During the first 1/3 of her pregnancy, she will not change much in appearance. In the last 1/3 of the pregnancy, switch her to kitten food unless she is overweight. This will help her meet her increasing needs for nutrients as the pregnancy progresses and will be the diet offered to her kittens as they are prepared for weaning. You can learn more about the development of the kittens here: "Kittens Birth to Weaning."

There is no need to change your cat's usual lifestyle except for offering more food during late pregnancy. During the mid pregnancy, she becomes rounded in her tummy. As birth approaches, the nipples of her mammary glands will get progressively larger and pinker and may appear a bit swollen. When birth is about 4-6 days away, she will undertake nesting behavior and may appear a bit restless, with grooming of her belly and back end being an emerging pastime. If she pulls some hair out on her belly, that is not a concern.

As the time for birth approaches, a box with nice soft absorbent bedding like cotton bath towels should be provided, tucked away in a safe dark corner somewhere (like a closet) so hopefully, she will not choose your granny’s special handmade quilt on the bed for her spot to give birth. Providing some paper for her to tear up may help her be satisfied with the nesting.

As she gets close to her time, be prepared for her to deliver the kittens at night, when all is quiet. For some cats that are closely attached to their owners, though, in spite of a nice box in the closet, only right next to their human companion will do, and the bed or couch throw next to you may be her top pick. Some people like to monitor the queen’s temperature, since in many cases, a drop from the normal temperature (of a few degrees) occurs about 12 hours ahead of birthing.

Special Concerns About Feline Birth

If you are not sure whether your cat is pregnant, a visit to the veterinary hospital will confirm it. By about 20-25 days into pregnancy, the veterinarian will be able to feel lumps along the uterus. After the first 1/3 of pregnancy, the lumps are not distinct, so it is harder to get a fetus count or pregnancy diagnosis. At around day 44, it is again easier to feel the individual lumps, and by then, an x-ray can identify fetal skeletons inside the uterus. Ultrasound is an excellent way to determine pregnancy early and even watch the developing kittens' hearts beat, but is more costly than palpation or x-rays.

Your veterinarian may suggest keeping a birth kit handy, just in case of trouble. This may consist of sterile gloves, sterile lubricating gel, a clean towel, and an ear syringe. You should ask them ahead of time what they recommend be kept on hand.

You May Also Like These Articles:

How to Care for Orphaned Kittens

Normal Feline Birth and Dystocia

Kittens Birth to Weaning

Preparing For Kittens

Early Neutering for Cats

Worms in Cats: Feline Intestinal Parasites

Queen Cycling and Mating

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