"How can I tell if my cat is pregnant?"
Unfortunately, it's a question we get quite often in the Care for Pregnant Cats and Kittens forum. It is unfortunate because if it's your cat, you should spay her at 4-5 months of age and not have to ask whether or not she's pregnant. There are of course cases where people take in a stray cat, not even knowing if she is spayed or not, and they want to try and assess her condition. Either way, we're here to help.
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Has the cat mated?
If you know that a female cat was in heat and outside, then in all likelihood she is pregnant. Mating is not a long process, and if you let a female cat in heat outside, local tom cats will home in on her like heat-seeking missiles. Consider taking her to the vet ASAP for a spaying procedure before any early signs of pregnancy even appear.
If you don't know whether or not the cat was outside or has mated, then there are signs you can look for.
Physical Signs that Your Cat May Be Pregnant
A growing tummy is the most noticeable sign that a cat is pregnant. It's a gradual process in which the cat gains two to five pounds of weight.
The mass of the enlarged uterus and the kittens is centered in the cat's abdomen. As her tummy grows, it becomes more visible from every angle. Longhair cats may be able to hide their growing tummy for a while longer, but eventually the pregnancy shows.
Behavioral Signs that Your Cat May Be Pregnant
The hormonal changes preparing a cat for motherhood can affect her behavior, too. If you were trying to keep a cat in heat indoors, you might notice her repeated heat cycles have ended.
Changes in appetite could also be a sign of pregnancy. During the first weeks of pregnancy, some cats experience decreased appetite due to morning sickness. During the second half of the pregnancy, most cats eat more food than usual. Make sure you provide Kitty with adequate quality food.
If your cat stops eating, do not ignore this as "merely a symptom of pregnancy". Not eating can have serious medical consequences for cats, so if your cat stops eating for more than a day or two, call your vet immediately.
Some people report their cat becomes more affectionate during pregnancy. Follow your cat's cues and provide increased attention, or more privacy, as may be required.
Advanced pregnancy is easy to identify. If you're not sure, you can visit your vet and have her or him assess your cat's condition. Your vet will visually inspect your cat's body shape and nipples and may carefully feel the abdomen for the kittens.
Breeders sometimes have an ultrasound test done to confirm a pregnancy and see how many kittens are expected. With most healthy pregnant cats this isn't necessary, but it can be done if you can afford it.
There are pregnancy test kits available for cats. However, these kits require a sample of the cat's blood, so this is not a practical solution for most cat owners. You need a veterinarian or a veterinarian technician to draw the blood for you, and you may as well have the vet confirm the pregnancy by other means.
I Think My Cat Is Pregnant - What's Next?
Consider a spay-abort procedure. This is a personal choice, but keep in mind that by letting the kittens be born, you are adding to the death toll of kittens and cats. Even if you're sure you can find homes for the kittens, there will be other kittens put to death that could have been adopted out to these homes. By allowing a cat to give birth, you are not protecting life but in fact may be inadvertently contributing to the problem of unnecessary euthanization of healthy cats.
If you decide to let the cat bring the pregnancy to term, start reading up on the birth process and caring for newborns. Try to get an emergency fund in place for a possible medical emergency during delivery or caring for the fragile newborn kittens. Last, but not least, start looking for potential forever homes for the kittens on the way. Read these tips on how to find good homes for kittens. Good luck!
Have more questions? Post them in the Pregnant Cat & Kitten Care forum.
TheCatSite.com is officially a pro-spay/neuter community. We advocate spaying and neutering of all cats other than those that are part of an ethical cat breeding program in a registered cattery.
Images in this article are by TCS members.
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