Tips for a Healthy Cat Pregnancy
Your cat is having kittens – what wonderful news! Amongst all of the excitement, remember that your cat may need extra care, comfort and affection when pregnant.
Feeding and nutrition
- Switching to kitten food
- Increasing food intake
- Making water available
Extra protein and energy keep your cat strong throughout pregnancy. Standard adult formula cat food is great for everyday feeding, but won’t have the additional nutrients that mum needs. We recommend switching her back to kitten food, from the start of her pregnancy until after her kittens have been weaned.
Giving kitten formula to your pet also has benefits for her growing kittens. Not only will it mean that they get high-quality milk, but it will also help them wean, as they will copy her and try some of the food she eats.
Change your cat’s food slowly, by gradually adding more and more of the kitten formula to her usual food over 7-10 days until the two foods have been completely swapped over. Taking your time will help your cat avoid an upset stomach.
If your cat is on a special diet for health reasons, or has a sensitive stomach, speak to your vet before making any changes to her feeding routine.
Pregnancy is a hungry time for your cat, and typically a pregnant cat’s food portions might double by the end of her pregnancy. You should see a steady increase in your cat’s body weight as her appetite grows. It is normal for her weight to increase by around 40-50% during pregnancy, so speak to your vet if you notice her appetite is waning or she is losing weight. Your cat should lose this excess weight during her 3-4 week nursing period.
Giving your cat more frequent but smaller sized meals throughout the day will help her stay energised. You can also leave dry food out for her to snack on throughout the day, to fit in with your daily routine.
See feeding during pregnancy and nursing for more information.
Ensuring that your cat has access to fresh water is just as important as increasing her food intake, especially if she is on a dry food diet. Drinking lots is essential for mum to stay hydrated and healthy.
You may wish to have a couple of water bowls in areas of your home that she spends a lot of time in, so that it’s easy for her to get to.
Caring for your pregnant cat
As your cat’s pregnancy hormones come into effect, she is likely to be more loving and looking for more cuddles. Love and affection is a big part of caring for a pregnant cat, and it’s important to remember that as her body changes, you will have to be careful how you handle her.
Whilst it’s safe to stroke your pregnant cat, make sure that you avoid her tummy. This area will be very sensitive, and any touching there could cause her discomfort or hurt her unborn kittens. If you do have to pick your cat up, make sure to “scoop” her up from her bottom, rather than touch her stomach.
Avoid any boisterous activity towards the end of your cat’s pregnancy, and try to leave her be if you can. You will need to help her stay as calm as possible at this time, and anything too energetic could cause her stress.
Ideally, your cat will be up-to-date with all her vaccinations prior to breeding. Healthy mothers pass on immunity to their kittens through their milk, so it's good to ensure her antibody levels are at their peak. Your vet can conduct a blood test to check her antibody levels to confirm if she need to be vaccinated or not.
Remember that if your cat is already expecting and her vaccinations are due, some vaccines cannot be used during cat pregnancy. Speak to your vet to confirm what vaccinations are safe for both mum and kittens.
If your cat isn’t vaccinated when she has kittens, then don’t worry. Everything should still go smoothly, but if you have any concerns, speak to your vet.
As worms can be passed from mum to kittens, it’s important to continue worming treatment throughout her pregnancy. You should also keep up her flea treatment – just confirm with your vet that any medication you use is safe for her and her kittens.
Cats are lucky to enjoy pregnancies that are usually very straightforward and go smoothly. Complications during pregnancy in cats are uncommon, and are usually limited to miscarriages early on.
If your cat does miscarry, she won’t be upset by it and you’re unlikely to notice unless it is later into her term.
If your cat does miscarry later on in pregnancy, take her to the vets for a check-up to make sure she isn’t at risk of infection.
Cats are much less likely than dogs to develop a problem with low calcium during or after pregnancy (eclampsia).
However, to be safe, keep an eye on your cat in case she shows signs of twitching, nervousness and agitation – these are all signs of eclampsia which can eventually result in seizures if left untreated.
While problems during labour are rare, occasionally a caesarean section may be required. This can be the case if mum has experienced previous trauma to her pelvis (such as a fracture) or if her breed is known for an unusually large head or body size, as is the case with Persians.
Your cat may also need a caesarean section if she is in labour but has been pushing for longer than an hour without producing kittens. If this happens, contact your vet immediately for help.
Building a ‘nest’
In the final two weeks of feline pregnancy, encourage your cat to stay indoors to ensure that she doesn’t deliver the kittens outside. You can help your cat prepare for labour by building a ‘nest’ where she can comfortably rest, and use during and after birth.
A cardboard box filled with clean sheets, bedding or towels is ideal. Make sure that the box is big and tall enough for mum and her litter to comfortably fit in, without any adventurous kittens escaping! Keep the nest in a warm place at room temperature to keep her comfortable.
Don’t be surprised if your pregnant cat chooses a location other than the nest you have prepared to actually have her kittens. If this happens, don’t be afraid to move the kittens to the nest once they are born. It’s perfectly fine to handle the kittens once they have arrived - handling them will not cause your cat to abandon or injure her kittens. Mum may pick up her kittens and bring them back into her nest once you’ve moved them, but feel free to move them again if you think they would be more comfortable elsewhere. Make sure that the new area you move them to is kept warm if they won’t have mum there to keep them cosy – we recommend using a microwavable beanie bag rather than a hot water bottle, so that the kittens don’t burst it with their little teeth or claws!