Did you know that an unspayed female cat can have as many as 4 pregnancies a year? If you're wondering whether your cat may be pregnant, our Ambler vets are here to explain the signs to look for.
How old do cats have to be to get pregnant?
If your unspayed female cat 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 upspayed 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.
Is my cat pregnant or just chubby?
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 you may want to look for. Note that your cat may not display all of the signs below, depending on how far along the pregnancy is.
- Notable weight gain
- Pink, swollen nipples
- Distended abdomen
- Increased appetite
- Becoming more affectionate
- Hiding more often
- May sleep more than usual
Book an appointment for your kitty to see the vet if she is exhibiting any of the signs of pregnancy listed above. Your vet will perform an examination to confirm pregnancy and/or check for signs of any underlying health concerns that could be causing these symptoms.
How can I tell for certain whether my 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 are able to 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.
How do I care for a pregnant cat?
Once your cat's pregnancy has been confirmed your vet will provide you with specific recommendations on how to care for your pregnant kitty. That said, there are a number of things that are generally recommended in order 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. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.