How to Help a Pregnant Cat During Labor

How to Help a Pregnant Cat During Labor

Posted by Minna cui on

There's not so much you can do for a pregnant cat when she's about to give birth. The best you can do is to encourage her. Often, cats hide when they're about to give birth—so it's possible for them to give birth independently. It's often said that "Nature controls everything in life." So, you shouldn't be surprised in the morning when you realize your cat delivered her kittens the previous night. And what's more—your cat is comfortably nursing her kittens.

That said, it's essential to ensure to pinpoint the problems your pregnant cat may experience and know-how to address them:

Signs to help you recognize your pregnant cat is in labor

A cat's pregnancy lasts for about 65 days or approximately nine weeks. While you may not be sure of the exact date, recognizing the signs of your cat's impeding labor is critical. Here are some of the signs:

  • Mammary glands will enlarge: Typically, your pregnant cat's mammary glands will enlarge during the final weeks of pregnancy. A pregnant cat's mammary glands are found along the outside body wall that runs from the groin area to the bottom side of the chest. Cats have four pairs of mammary glands that begin to produce milk two days before birth.
  • Nesting behavior: Like humans, a pregnant cat may start nesting behavior when nearing the birthing process. Your help(putting the nesting box in a quiet and warm room) may come in handy for your pregnant cat. Importantly, ensure that the room is draft-free since kittens can't regulate their body temperature. The nesting box should be out-of-the-reach for children and other pets. Encourage your pregnant cat to rest in the nesting box immediately you recognize any nesting behavior.
  • The decrease in your cat's body temperature: The cat's normal body temperature ranges between 37.7º and 39.1ºC (100º to 102.5ºF). Usually, your cat's temperature will fall to 37.2ºC (99ºF) when it's one or two days shy of giving birth. You can check her temperature. But if she doesn't let you, there are other labor telltale signs to give you a clue.
  • Reduced Appetite: While a pregnant cat develops an increased appetite during the last weeks of pregnancy, she's likely to have a reduced appetite when delivery is imminent. This is because the kittens tend to exert increased pressure on the pregnant cat's stomach. Besides, it could be a result of general anxiety.
  • Behavioral quirks: A pregnant cat is likely to display a change of behavior patterns when she's about to give birth. She may appear withdrawn and try to hide as much as possible during the last week of pregnancy. Sometimes, she becomes highly affectionate with her primary caregivers. The cat will want more of the caregiver's attention in this case. As much as the cat might be clingy, she would also be pretty restless.
  • Licking, pacing, howling, and chirping:When a pregnant cat is about to deliver, you'll notice a discharge from her vulva. The cat will appear to lick her genitalia frequently. Also, when your cat's water breaks, she'll start pacing, howling, and chirping.

Birthing Supplies

Often, a pregnant cat will try to hide when she's about to give birth. If you notice this, you should prepare a birthing space—place a cardboard or laundry basket within the area. Remember to line up towels or blankets within the birthing area. It will be easier to monitor and attend to the cat's birthing process if she decides to use this area.

Let's take a look at the supplies you'll need for your cat's birthing process:

  • Towels: You should get clean towels to use when stimulating the kittens.
  • Absorbent pads: You must line up the delivery area with absorbent pads.
  • Heating pad: You need to place a heating pad below the nesting box and cover it with a blanket or towel to keep the kittens warm. Placing kittens directly on the heating pad is extremely dangerous; it will burn them.
  • Nesting box: If you've visited a vet and you already know how many kittens you're expecting, finding a sizable nesting box is a must. A pregnant cat is likely to deliver between one and 12 kittens. Therefore, a 16-inch by 24-inch nesting box will be fine for an 8-pound cat. As a rule of thumb, a large cat would require a giant nesting box and vice versa.
  • Dirt bin: You're likely to have a bunch of forty towels after the birth. So, ensure a refuse bin to dispose of the dirty towels.
  • Dental floss and clean scissors: When cats hide to give birth, they break off the umbilical cord independently. However, if the cat experiences problems, you'll need dental floss to tie the umbilical cord and use the scissors to cut it.

The Birthing Process

It may not be possible to notice the exact time when the birthing process is likely to begin. However, some factors trigger the birthing process. These factors include:

  • The size and weight of the uterus
  • The size and weight of the fetuses
  • The hormonal imbalances between the fetuses and the mother

When birthing begins, the pregnant cat will experience a gradual increase of rhythmical uterine contractions. These contractions push the fetus out of the womb to the birth canal.

It takes 5 to 30 minutes for one kitten to be born, with each kitten occupying its amniotic sac. The mother will tear the sacs, deliver the kittens, and clean them with her tongue to stimulate breathing. She will also cut the umbilical cord one inch from the kitten's body.

However, if the kitten is still in its sac, it would be necessary to help the mother. You'll have to tear the amniotic sac and stimulate the kitten to breathe. Note that you should use a rough, dry towel to rub the kitten's nose to facilitate breathing. Also, you'll be required to use dental floss to tie the umbilical cord and cut it one inch from the kitten's body.

Sometimes, the placenta may not come out immediately after birth. If that happens, you should ensure it's out in 24 hours after the kitten's birthing. Remember that each kitten has its placenta. So you should count all the placenta to verify whether all of them are out of the mother's womb. Otherwise, you must see a vet if a placenta remains in the cat.

Most importantly, it would help if you visited the vet for the mother and kittens' examination whether or not the birthing process was successful.


It's necessary to encourage and attend to your pregnant cat when she's about to give birth. While it's difficult to notice when a pregnant cat is about to give birth, there are specific signs to consider. Once you know the signs, you should prepare a birthing area and get the necessary supplies. Doing so will ensure that you're prepared to help the pregnant cat when problems arise.

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