Our veterinarians have developed this handout to give you some basic information about the reproductive pattern of the cat and guidelines to help you through the pregnancy, delivery and post delivery periods. Please feel free to contact Alta Rancho Pet & Bird Hospital at (909) 980-3575 if you have any questions relating to this handout or any aspect of your pet’s health care.
Reproductive Cycle of the Cat
Cats go through a “heat” cycle (the time during which they are reproductively active) generally in the spring and summer.. The heat cycle lasts 21 days and repeats itself throughout this time of year..
Cats don’t generally have much vaginal discharge during their heat cycle. However, they do have distinct behavior changes during their heat that include:
- Wanting to go out
- Arching the hind end into the air
In order to ovulate (and become pregnant) cats must have intercourse. If they do not have intercourse they will continue to cycle.
If you are planning to breed your cat, it is important to make certain that she is in peak condition prior to breeding. This will help ensure a safe and productive pregnancy. Our veterinary clinic recommend all of the following be done well in advance of the heat cycle beginning:
- Pre-Breeding Physical Examination
- All vaccinations updated if necessary
- Testing for the feline leukemia and feline A.I.D.S. virus
- Checking stool for internal parasites
In the cat, pregnancy will generally last from 59 to 65 days (averaging 63 days), counting day 1 as the first day of breeding. Diagnosing pregnancy can be done by ultrasound examination beginning around day 20 of the pregnancy. Radiographic (x-ray) diagnosis of pregnancy can be done from day 42 on. Ultrasound allows us to see the internal organs of the kittens and evaluate if they are alive and healthy. Radiographs are best for counting the number of kittens and checking their size.
During pregnancy our veterinary team recommend the following:
- Feed Select Balance Kitten Diet twice daily starting at 3 weeks
- Beginning at 6 weeks, increase to 3 times daily feeding
- Give 1 Nutrived chewable vitamin supplement daily throughout pregnancy and lactation
- Have ultrasound and/or x-rays taken after 42 days to determine health of kittens and prepare for delivery
Pre-Delivery (week 8)
- Prepare “queening box” & clip hair around vagina and nipples.
- Begin taking resting temperature and record daily
- Prepare Delivery Kit:
- Betadine Soap
- Bulb Syringe
- Heating Pad
- Clothes Pins
- Milk Replacer
- Strong silk or nylon thread (for tying off umbilical cords)
- K-Y jelly
- Nursing Bottles
Cats deliver their kittens in sacs. When the sac appears at the vagina, it should rupture and the kitten will be delivered. If the kitten gets stuck in the birth canal, you must gently help it out. Use a liberal amount of K-Y jelly to lubricate the kitten and pull with a steady gentle pressure. (Caution! Pulling too hard may cause the skin to tear or the body part to come off!!)
The time between kitten deliveries can vary from 1 minute to 5 or 6 hours.
After each kitten, there should be a bloody “placenta” delivered. It is normal for the mother cat to eat this tissue. If your cat is straining and yet no kittens are coming out, call us at (909) 980-3575 or the Emergency Clinic at (909) 981-1051 after hours!
Assisting the Newborn
When the kitten comes out, it will have a sac around it and a long umbilical cord connected to the placenta. You must do the following:
- Remove the sacs from the kitten
- Use a bulb syringe to suck the mucus out of the nostrils
- Stimulate it by rubbing vigorously in a terry cloth towel
- Clamp off the umbilical cord with a clothes pin
- Cut the cord on the side of the pin away from the body. Leave about 2 inches of cord attached to the kitten.
- Tie the umbilical cord with the thread
- Dip the entire umbilical cord in iodine
- Place the kitten on the teat if the mother is not delivering.
- Keep all kittens warm by placing in box with heating pad set on low and towels over it. Make sure the room temperature is at least 72 degrees.
- Kittens should be placed on the mother every 2-4 hours. If the mother isn’t lactating, use kitten milk replacer as instructed on the bottle.
- Bring in mother and kittens for exam and “clean out” shot the day after delivery.
- Feed Select Balance kitten food 3-4 times daily for 3 months
- Give Pet Cal Calcium supplement daily (1 tab per 20 pounds)
- Give Palavite vitamin mineral supplement daily
- Begin weaning kittens onto kitten food at 5-6 weeks.
- Bring kittens in for first vaccinations at 6 weeks of age.