you know that cats can become mothers in their first year of life? While more
and more pet parents spay their cats early in life, many good Samaritans have
gotten more than they bargained for, after finding that the stray they adopted
is pregnant. As a matter of fact, we here at the Life’s Abundance office found
ourselves in a similar situation when a sweet little stray showed up at our door
a while back. Of course, food and water were the first order of business. After
a few days, she began to trust us enough to pet her. That’s when we discovered
that she was pregnant. To make a long story short, we took good care of her and
her kittens, and now the whole feline family lives with their new adoptive
parents. If you have a pregnant cat, you may be wondering what to expect and how
best to care for the expectant mother.
First, take her to your veterinarian for a full checkup. Your veterinarian will
be able to determine how far along she is and if there are any health concerns.
Second, provide complete and balanced nutrition. More than any other factor,
nutrition will influence the health of mother and kittens. Cats are pregnant for
approximately 8-9 weeks. Like humans, cats gain weight gradually throughout
their pregnancy. By the end of her pregnancy, your cat should be eating 25-50%
more than her normal amount.
To ensure that she is getting enough food, the free-feed method is advisable,
but be sure to measure the amount you feed daily and provide fresh food each
day. Feed a diet that is nutrient-dense like Life’s Abundance. Consider also
feeding a high-quality canned food, to provide extra protein and water.
Additionally, providing fresh, clean water is a must. You should not need to
increase the amount you are feeding until the fifth or sixth week of pregnancy,
and mother cats should not gain more than 15-25% of their body weight by the end
of pregnancy. Remember, overweight cats can have a higher risk of difficulties
during labor and delivery.
Pregnant cats lose 40% of their pregnancy weight after giving birth; however,
they still require two-to-three times their normal amount of food after giving
birth in order to produce enough milk to feed their kittens. The protein and fat
concentration of their milk is very high, so good nutrition is critical not only
during pregnancy but also until the kittens are weaned. As we mentioned,
continual access to fresh, clean water is also very important, as dehydration
can affect the milk supply. Change the water out daily or provide a water
Mother cats should deliver in a quiet, familiar area where they will not be
disturbed. Usually, a mother cat will choose her space - all you need to do is
provide blankets or towels for her comfort, she will take care of the rest.
Unfamiliar surroundings, noise or strangers may cause problems by impeding
delivery or milk letdown, or even negatively affect the mother’s instinct to
care for her kittens.
A day or two before birth, your cat may stop eating – this is a good sign that
delivery is near and she has started stage one of labor. Stage one usually lasts
12-24 hours, and during this time she may become reclusive or restless and nest.
If she doesn’t eat for more than a day and shows no signs of delivery, contact
your veterinarian, as cats should not go more than a day without a meal. Normal
stage two labor is when the kittens are delivered! The entire delivery can take
up to a full day, depending on the litter size. There should not be more than
one-to-two hours between kittens. If it seems like delivery is taking longer, or
if you have any concerns, call your veterinarian immediately for advice.
A single unspayed female cat and her offspring can account for the birth of
420,000 kittens in a seven-year period. There is an estimated 70 million
homeless cats in the United States, and four million cats and dogs—about one
every eight seconds—are put down in U.S. shelters each year. Spaying and
neutering your pet is a proven way to reduce the number of homeless pets and
ensure every pet has a family to love them.
Thank you for all you do to make the world a better place for your dear
Dr. Jane Bicks, DVM