How To Tell If Your Cat Is In Labor
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In most cases, a pregnant cat will handle the situation herself without any need of assistance from their owners or a vet – after all they were designed to do this long before they were domesticated. But it never hurts to understand the basics of the process so you can spot if there is a problem and intervene or get help.

Final stages of pregnancy

In the last two weeks of the pregnancy, it is wise to keep the cat away from other animals and from kids. Part of this is to ensure she doesn’t pick up any illnesses from other animals and to keep her as calm as possible, without surprises and loud noises that often come with younger kids. By this time, you will have presented her with a maternity bed, which hopefully she is happy with thought she may elect to use a spot of her own choosing such as the corner of a cupboard. Don’t try to change her spot but do try to make the maternity bed the best option.

The maternity bed should be a cardboard box around 2 feet by 3 feet, around one and a half feet high. This allows her to have enough movements in the box and to accommodate the kittens. A lid is a good idea and cut a hole in the side high enough for mum to use and to keep wandering kittens inside. Add some shredded newspaper then a blanket or old shirt in the box and place it somewhere warm and quiet.

Giving birth

It is a balancing act during birth to monitor proceedings without overcrowding the cat and making her feel uncomfortable. How close to get will depend on your cat and their behavior towards your presence.

There are three stages of labor and the first often goes by without being noticed as this is where the body is getting ready for birth. Contracts may not be visible from outside but the cat may pace and become restless, even calling out. Trips to the litter box without producing anything is also common and she may make a last minute change to her birthing spot if she isn’t totally happy with the maternity bed.

The second stage is where the kittens emerge and can take from two to twenty-four hours. Keep a bowl of water to hand, lukewarm, as well as cloths and towels, disposable gloves and some dental floss. Keep some petroleum jelly to hand and make sure the cat carrier is nearby in case of an emergency.

Kittens can come out head first or feet first and either is normal. There is normal a 30-45 minute gap between them arriving, which can be as long as an hour. If the cat strains excessively, there is a bloody discharge or the kittens come quickly, without time to care for them, then you may need to intervene or call the vet.

After the birth

The last stage of labor is where the placentas are passed and these normally follow each kitten so there should be an equal number. The mother will care for the kittens, washing them and removing their umbilical cord but if this doesn’t happen, you may need to help. Otherwise give her space and don’t handle the kittens at first unless absolutely necessary – most of the time, their mum really does know best.


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