Is My Cat Pregnant? How to Tell & Tips for Care
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Has your female kitty always been on the slender side but is now packing on the pounds? If so, it's natural to wonder if she might be pregnant. Luckily, how to tell if a cat is pregnant usually comes down to a few common signs, such as:
- Noticeable weight gain in a few weeks (she'll gain about 2 to 4 pounds in all)
- Swollen and pink nipples (called "pinking up," this occurs around week three of pregnancy)
- Distended abdomen (noticeable around week five)
- Increased appetite
- Personality changes (she may become either more affectionate or, less common, more reclusive)
If you have a female cat that is still intact, meaning she has never been spayed, and checks off some or all of these boxes, you'll want to confirm the pregnancy with your veterinarian right away. They can perform a blood test, an X-ray and an ultrasound to identify if your cat is pregnant and how many kittens she's carrying.
How to Care for a Pregnant Cat
Now that you know that your cat is pregnant, you'll next want to ensure she has everything she needs to stay safe during this time. While even pregnant cats can be quite independent, here's how you can care for a pregnant cat during the 58 to 67 days of gestation (the period of time that a kitten is carried in the womb).
Amp Up Routine Care
It's tempting to cuddle your cat's pregnant belly, but this can be hazardous. As Animal Planet points out, pressing on or squeezing her stomach in any way may be uncomfortable for the cat and potentially cause a miscarriage.
And if you aren't doing so already, clean her litter box at least once a day — twice, ideally. If her current litter box cannot accommodate her pregnancy weight, replace it with one that's lower to the ground and has a wider entrance.
Focus on Nutrition
Cat nutritional requirements change during pregnancy and while nursing. Pregnant cats need "approximately 25% more food" than other cats, according to the Cats Protection National Cat Centre of Britain — but resist the urge to overfeed. Pregnant cats also have high-energy needs, so look for foods that contain the nutrients she needs. Consult your veterinarian for specific feeding instructions about what food to feed, as well as how often to ensure both your cat and her kittens will receive proper nutrients to be healthy.
Create a Nesting Environment
Provide your cat with a safe, comfortable place in which to labor and give birth. As they prepare to deliver, "most mother cats will seek their own nesting area in the last week or so of pregnancy," explains Veterinary Partner. "If you wish to help her, expect her to require soft bedding, an area with minimal human traffic, and separation from other pets in the home." Additionally, ensure that everyone in the home respects her privacy and boundaries.
Best Practices for Pregnancy Prevention
You now know how to tell if a cat is pregnant and how to care for her when she's expecting, but what if raising a litter of kittens isn't your dream scenario? There are a couple of ways to prevent unexpected cat pregnancies.
Get Your Cat Spayed
Yes, spaying your female cat prevents pregnancy, but there are other great reasons to do it. For example, spaying your cat prevents:
- Health issues such as uterine infections, cancer and breast tumors
- Your cat going into "heat"
- Cat overpopulation (the ASPCA reports that 3.2 million homeless cats and kittens enter shelters in the United States annually)
If your cat has just given birth, wait until the kittens are weaned to speak with your vet about the spaying procedure and post-surgery recovery.
Keep Your Cat Indoors
Keeping your cat indoors and away from male suitors may be an effective way to prevent cat pregnancy. Pet Health Network says that indoor cats have a reduced risk of other potential health hazards, including a shorter life span; injuries from fights with other animals or from entering traffic; and illnesses from exposure to pesticides, and viruses (including feline leukemia).
Knowing how to tell if a cat is pregnant is the best way to ensure she gets the love and care she needs if she's expecting. By recognizing these signs, you'll be able to get your vet involved in the care process sooner so that you can properly set up your home for a safe and healthy delivery.
Christine O'Brien is a writer, mom, and long-time cat parent whose two Russian Blues rule the house. Her work also appears in Care.com, What to Expect, and Fit Pregnancy, where she writes about pets, pregnancy, and family life. Find and follow her on Instagram and Twitter @brovelliobrien.