So, you have a very pregnant cat on your hands and you have everything that you need for the birth ready. Now, how to tell when the kittens are really going to pop out?
Important note: If your cat has a medical problem or is experiencing trouble while giving birth - stop reading online and call your veterinarian immediately. Also, do not leave ask questions on this page because this article is not monitored for comments. If you have questions, post them in this forum instead.
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The gestation period of cats is an average of 64 days from the time of mating. Do you know when your cat mated? If so, you should have a pretty good estimate of her due date. However, 64 days is only an average, and your cat can be a few days early or late. Once eight weeks have passed and she has entered the ninth week, it's time to look for the telltale signs that birth is imminent.
Changes in Behavior
A cat's temperament often changes during pregnancy. Some cats become more reclusive, but most usually become more affectionate. Many owners report a significant change in their cat's behavior in the days and hours before birth. The cat seems to want them around, demanding extra affection and calling them to be with her.
Here is how our member Abstract described her cat's behavior the day of the birth: "Shinobi got very clingy and very restless. Didn't want me out of her sight, but couldn't sit still in one room with me either." Another member, klsylvester, said: "Sophia just wanted a lot of attention, she didn't cry or meow before or during, but she did however chirp and constantly lick my face."
Pregnant females usually display an increase in appetite during the last weeks of their pregnancy. Yet in the days and hours prior to the birth itself, many owners report a significant decrease in appetite. This could be the result of the kittens pushing on the mother's stomach or simply another sign of general anxiety as the cat senses the coming event.
This usually begins 24-48 hours before the kittens are born. You may see some thick cream-colored secretion from her nipples. This is early milk, also known as colostrum. The cat may lick it off or it may dry up and show as small whitish scabs on the nipples. Our member HeavensKitty described this in a recent post: "Her milk is coming down a little; she has like dried up white scabies on the tip."
Some cats begin displaying nesting behavior weeks before the actual birth, while others may wait until the last day to find a spot they like. Some owners don't see any nesting behavior at all, only to have the cat climb into their lap for the actual birth.
A Drop in Temperature
A cat's normal body temperature is higher than that of us humans. It is normally within the range of 100-102.5°F or 37.7-39.1°C. A day or two before birth, a pregnant cat's body temperature drops by a couple of degrees, usually to just under 100°F.
Please don't take your cat's temperature rectally during this time, especially if this isn't something you and she are used to. It would only bother her and could possibly hurt her too. If you insist on trying to track her temperature, here are a couple of suggestions -
1. Take her temperature in her armpit, if you can do that without causing her any discomfort. Remember the temperature there is lower by a couple of degrees than her internal body temperature. Start your measurements a couple of weeks before her due date, to get a good baseline.
2. Use a special ear thermometer for pets such as the Pet Temp Ear Thermometer. It's not cheap, but it provides you with a safe, quick, and accurate way to take a pet's temperature.
The Kittens Are Coming!
The signs listed so far give you a general estimate of when the cat is about to give birth. The birth process itself can start hours to minutes before the first kitten shows up and it will be hard to miss.
Don't be surprised if you see a discharge coming out of the cat's vulva in the hours before birth commences. This is the mucus plug leaving the birth canal. The cat is likely to lick the discharge so you may not even notice it. As the amniotic sacks get pressured, your cat's water may break too. This could be a slow drizzle or a more dramatic gush.
As the birth process itself begins, your cat is likely to get very agitated and restless. Many cats begin to vocalize in the hours before the kittens show. This is probably due to either the pain of the contractions or the general anxiety they experience. Owners report chirping, meowing, and howling from their cats. Some cats do not vocalize and births can also be surprisingly quiet.
Your cat is likely to start pacing around the room too. You may see an increased rate of breathing, even to the point of panting. Contractions can sometimes be visible too and the cat may sit or lie down when a contraction arrives.
From TCS Members
When the kittens come, it really is hard to miss. While some cats do deliver their kittens quietly and privately, here are a few quotes from birth stories by our members showing that it's usually a fairly dramatic event:
The morning she had them she became very restless and vocal. She had chosen to nest upstairs, and a couple of hours before kept going to the stairs and meowing (but not her normal meow, a really distressed, long meow). She wouldn't settle until we followed her upstairs and she went and laid down near her box. I sat down fussing with her and she was purring loudly and rolling over for me to rub her belly (which she normally hates), and every time I stopped would let out that same meow.
When she got closer you could see visible waves of contraction and she panted with her mouth open a lot, and this is when she started getting a discharge. - Tigger_2801
A few hours before the birth, she stood up, startled and started meowing non-stop. It reminded me of a dog barking. She ran to the bedroom. I joined her and she was all over me, then in the nest, then back on me. Meowing the WHOLE time, and wanting lots of affection. She also had a lot of discharge. Light pink to clear. It got on everything! Then when she was really close it changed to drips of red blood. - nursedoggett
That evening she started having a discharge (kind of reddish-brown & clear combined) & she was also very clingy. She was also lying in her nest I had made for her that she hadn't ever stepped a foot into until that evening. She was making biscuits in her blanket as well. So I slept in the nursery with her yet again that night...expecting kittens & still none by that afternoon. But at about 8:45 that night she started meowing over & over so I went in to her and she had a lot more discharge & had her 1st baby at 9:11 & Her last at 10:41. She had 5 healthy little ones without a hitch. - cookandcompany
The cat was sleeping on my lap when she started having contractions. I put her in the nesting box and went into the other room for a second. She came in and meowed at me, then ran back out about three times until I realized she wanted me to be there. I sat next to the box, and she gave birth to the first one. - CommonOddity042
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If you have questions about your cat giving birth please click here to post in the cat forums and don't post your question in the comments section here. The comments section is not monitored as frequently as the forums. Of course, if your cat has a medical problem or is experiencing trouble while giving birth—call your veterinarian immediately.