Dealing with feline pregnancy can be challenging in its own right, but it's only the beginning. The real challenge often comes after the birth. Just like with humans, newborn kittens are extremely fragile, and there are a number of things that can go wrong. If you are caring for a pregnant cat, please read this guide and learn the signs and symptoms of various complications. Some of these could be medical emergencies, so be prepared in advance.
Remember - spaying your cat is the best way to avoid potential complications which could end up being stressful and expensive to deal with. Read more about the importance of spaying and neutering cats here.
Possible Complications After the Kittens Are BornKitty had her kittens and now things should go smoothly, right? Not necessarily. There are a number of complications that you need to watch out for.
DysgalactiaThat is the medical term for insufficient milk to feed the kittens. If the kittens are restless or constantly crying, it could be because they are hungry. Milk supply should increase as Kitty feeds them—if not, you’ll have to supplement the supply and bottle feed them every couple of hours.
GalactostasisSwollen and full mammary glands can be a problem, too. You’ll need to apply warm compresses to ease Kitty’s pain. Symptoms, besides the visual, are general discomfort and tenderness to the touch.
MastitisThis is often seen in combination with Galactostasis and means there is a bacterial infection in one or more of the mammary glands. Symptoms will include glands swollen and hot to the touch, discolored milk (brown or reddish) that indicates white or red blood cells in the milk, lack of appetite, listlessness and refusal to nurse the kittens. Kitty will need a vet visit and the kittens will have to be fed by bottle.
If you don’t treat this, the kittens will be prone to infection, malnutrition and even death. Kitty can have further complications. This calls for immediate veterinary care.
EclampsiaThis is when Kitty suffers a severe loss of calcium which is known as hypocalcemia. What to look for: trembling of the muscles, high fever, loss of appetite, agitated behavior, excessive panting, and difficulty walking. If left untreated, it will be followed by muscle spasms, pale gums, drooling, seizures and general lack of coordination.
This is an emergency situation. If calcium is not replaced, death may occur in a matter of hours. Some cats have a pre-disposition for eclampsia and if so, it will occur with each litter.
MetritisIf a fetus or the placenta is not delivered, Kitty will develop a uterine infection. The symptoms are fever, loss of appetite, refusal to nurse the kittens and lack of energy or interest.
Do not leave this untreated. See the veterinarian at once.
Postpartum HemorrhageBleeding after the birth of the kittens, which may be extreme, is life threatening to Kitty. Seek immediate veterinary help.
AgalactiaThis is a failure to produce milk. Most often it is a failure to express the milk. Encourage the kittens to try, while supplementing with bottle feedings. This condition can be brought on by premature birth or stress.
Be on the AlertThe birth of the kittens is not the end. It’s just the beginning. Have milk supplements and bottles on hand in case Kitty can’t feed the kittens. Be watchful for symptoms.
With some problems, a wait-and-see attitude is only a matter of feeding the kittens by bottle - every couple of hours, day and night - while other complications call for immediate veterinary help, even if it’s after hours or the weekend. Know where the emergency clinic is and be sure someone can bottle feed the kittens while you’re at the clinic. The kittens will need to be kept warm, too - and even when ill, Kitty may not want to be separated from them, so plan on taking them along. The vet may want to examine them as well, to make sure the infection or bacteria hasn't been passed along to them or to make sure they are eating properly. This will add to your vet bill considerably.
Pregnancy and the ensuing litter of kittens is not for the faint of heart or the squeamish. Know what to expect and be as prepared as possible. The lives of your cat and her kittens may depend on it.
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