If you have an unspayed kitty who has been spending lots of time outdoors or around intact males, there's a good chance that you will end up with kittens. But what are the signs? Here, our Nashua vets talk about how to tell if your cat is pregnant and how you can help keep her safe and healthy during this time.
Is my cat pregnant?
If you have a female cat that spends any amount of time outdoors, the odds are good that she will end up pregnant at one point or another. When your female cat is around 4 - 7 months of age, she is likely to experience her first heat cycle, meaning that she is physically mature and able to produce her first litter of kittens.
Depending on where you live, your undoctored female cat may go into heat as often as every 3 weeks until she either becomes pregnant or is spayed. An unspayed female cat could have as many as 4 litters of kittens a year, with between 4 - 12 kittens in each litter. This means that if your cat is an unspayed adult female who has had access to the outdoor world, there is a good chance that she is expecting kittens.
How to Tell if My Cat is Pregnant
If your cat is pregnant, her pregnancy will last around 8 weeks. So if your cat has been exploring during that time then you may want to consider that they might be pregnant. If so, below are some other signs of pregnancy in cats that you may want to look for.
You should keep in mind that not all cats show all signs, and some cats may show no signs at all. So when you ask 'How to tell if my cat is pregnant?', here are some of the most common signs that your pregnant cat may or may not display:
- Notable weight gain
- Pink, swollen nipples
- Distended abdomen
- Increased appetite
- Becoming more affectionate
- Hiding more often
- May sleep more than usual
If your cat has not been spayed and is showing any combination of the signs listed above, it's time to head to the vet for an examination and diagnostics, such as an ultrasound, to confirm pregnancy and/or check for signs of any underlying health concerns that could be causing these symptoms.
How are pregnant cats diagnosed?
Some of the diagnostic tests that your vet will perform to help diagnose your cat include:
- The first thing your vet is likely to do is to palpate your cat's abdomen. This means that the vet will very gently feel your cat's belly to determine whether they can detect the presence of fetuses. If your cat is more than 17 days pregnant your vet may be able to confirm pregnancy in this manner.
- Your vet may recommend a quick and easy ultrasound test to look for fetuses if your vet suspects that your cat is 14 days pregnant or more. Heartbeats can be spotted using ultrasound sometime after 21 days of pregnancy.
- If your vet believes your cat is fairly far along in her pregnancy (further than 42 days) they may recommend an X-ray. Digital X-rays or radiographs are considered very safe and can help to determine a due date for the kittens and how many there are.
How can I help care for my pregnant cat?
Once your cat has been diagnosed with pregnancy, your vet will likely offer some recommendations for their care throughout pregnancy and for delivering her new kittens.
Some key advice that you may be recommended include:
- Do not squeeze or press on her belly, since this can cause pain and in some cases may lead to miscarriage.
- Clean her litter box once or twice daily, and make sure that her litter box is easy for her to access as her tummy continues to expand and drop.
- Provide your pregnant kitty with plenty of high-quality food. Your cat may eat as much as 25% more than normal while she is pregnant and nursing. Ask your vet to recommend the best food for your pregnant cat.
- Ensure that your cat has a cozy, clean area that she can use to give birth and care for her kittens. This spot should be in a warm and quiet spot in your home, well away from kids, other human traffic, and other pets.