Disclosure: We may get commissions for purchases made through links in this post.
So you know your cat is pregnant. This means she's actually going to have kittens and you need to be there for her for the delivery.
Cats make good mothers and they're generally very proficient (and alas, prolific) mothers. Around the world, feral cats deliver kittens with no human help and usually with no problems. However, your cat is your responsibility and her safety and well-being, as well as those of the kittens, depend on you. So, a few weeks before the due date, you have to start preparing for the big event.
Many sites will give you lists of items such as towels and nesting boxes to prepare. We'll do that later in the article, but first, let's focus on the real challenges of preparing for kitten delivery.
Prepare Yourself Mentally
The most important thing in most cat births is simply to keep your cool. Stay calm and don't panic. If you stress out, your cat will sense it, and the last thing she needs during delivery is added stress.
The birth is going to be messy. There will be some discharge, water breaking and blood. The kittens will be born wrapped in a sac, giving them a rubbery look. That's all perfectly normal. The mother cat will tear the sacs with her teeth and lick the kittens to help them breathe. Each kitten will be followed by a placenta - a red-looking lump of flesh. The mother cat will tear the umbilical cord which connects the kitten to the placenta and yes, she will eat the placenta and whatever else comes out. This is all part of the natural process of birth.
While this article does not deal with a detailed description of the birth process, it's important to keep the above in mind so as to be mentally prepared for the sights and sounds of birth. Do not panic when you see this happening. Do not scream, shout or express disgust, so as not to stress out the cat. Just stay calm and quiet and be there for her to reassure her.
Prepare for Emergencies
99% of cat births go on without complications and with no need for human intervention. However, you need to be aware of and prepared for the other 1%. Learn about signs of problems during birth, what you can do about them and when to seek veterinary assistance.
Prepare your vet. Let them know your cat's due date and ask about emergency calls. If your vet does not provide an emergency service, have them refer you to the best and nearest emergency animal clinic. Add the numbers and addresses to your phone's contacts list. Have them available in writing, too, and put that note in a place where you can't lose it.
Set aside the money for vet treatments. This one cannot be stressed enough. You should always have an emergency fund for your cat's health issues, but even more so before a cat is about to give birth. You need enough money to take her in to the vet without delay. If you don't drive yourself, include the cost of a taxi, too.
Cat about to give birth? Here are the things to have at home
A Nesting Box
The most important thing your cat needs is a quiet safe place where the birth can take place. You can prepare a nesting box for her ahead of time. Use a large box and place it on its side, creating a small cave for your cat. Keep in mind that your cat may or may not use the box for the birth.
Fill the box with a thick layer of clean old towels, linen etc. Don't use anything you're not willing to throw away because it will get messy in there. Our member and site advisor catwoman707 recommends covering the bottom of the box with alternating layers of peepee pads (Amazon link) and old towels. You can later peel off the top layer quickly and discreetly, in a way that will be less stressful for the mother cat and kittens.
Place the box in a room that's not too hot or cold and away from drafts. It needs to be a quiet place where children and house pets are not allowed. Have a bowl of fresh water and some food available nearby. A clean litterbox should be placed in the same room, but far away from the nesting box and from the food and water bowls.
Prepare the nesting box a few days before delivery and let your cat find it and make herself comfortable. If she doesn't go there, don't worry and leave the box there. Limit her access to other potential birthing spots, such as dark closets and drawers, so that she ends up using the nesting box.
In Case You Need to Help the Mother Cat
Prepare the following items in advance and have them in your home. Remember that you're not supposed to intervene unless there's an actual problem. Please read up about interventions during cat birth and be prepared for those.
Here's what you need to have at home in case there's an emergency during the delivery that you have to deal with. A list of possible scenarios and how to deal with them is available here. Please read through it to make sure you know what to do when.
- More clean towels and sheets. Our member and forum advisor StefanZ suggests sticking with fleece and flannel if you can. As the kittens develop they will be less likely to get their claws tangle in the material as they crawl around the nesting box. You can even get a packet of baby flannels.
- A notebook and pen or pencil. You should document the process, carefully noting the birth time of each kitten and its placenta. This would be a good place to document the kittens' birth weight and other important data. Our advisor EB24 suggests writing the names, numbers and addresses of your vet and an emergency vet on the front cover.
- A suture removal set, including blunt scissors and forceps. You'll need them if you have to deal with cutting umbilical cords.
- An antiseptic solution.
- Gauze pads.
- Non-waxed dental floss.
- Disposable gloves for handling newborn kittens if necessary.
- Milk replacer formula for newborn kittens and the appropriate bottles, as well as an eye dropper or a small 1.0 ml syringe (no needles!) for feeding newborns who can't yet latch onto a bottle. You shouldn't need these unless there's a problem with the kittens' nursing.
- An accurate weigh scale for weighing small kittens
Sounds scary? Having a cat deliver kittens is not for the faint of heart. It's only one more reason for recommending spaying and neutering all pet cats. There are other reasons, too, and you can read about them in this article about spaying and neutering. Please don't let your cat become pregnant if you're not mentally and financially prepared to deal with the consequences.
Next, read our article Help! My Cat Is Having Kittens! to be fully prepared for the birth itself.
Comments? Leave them using the form below. Questions? Please use the cat forums for those!