In ‘Is my cat pregnant? What can I do? we looked at how to work out if your cat is pregnant and how to prepare. In this part we look at the birth and after-care.
What to expect during birth
Mostly cats do this well by themselves. Leave her alone, limit spectators and make regular checks, especially for first-time mums. Let her pick her preferred place, even if it’s not the place you prepared.
Once birthing starts it can take anything from a couple of hours to a day. Kittens normally come every 30 to 45 minutes.
Kittens can emerge tail-first, generally without problems.
When labour starts, she might yowl in pain and you can usually see or feel contractions by watching or by gently placing your hand on her belly.
Warning signs during labour
Experienced breeders may deal with some of these problems themselves but for the rest of us it is a phone call or an urgent visit to the vet if you notice that:
- there are no kittens 3-4 hours after her labour starts
- there are an hour of contractions without producing a new kitten
- there is a kitten at her vulva but not coming out despite her straining
- the number of placentas are less then the number of kittens
- all of the kittens are not delivered within 24 hours
- mum appears exhausted or appears to give up
Experienced breeders may also assist if the mum is not cleaning off the birth membranes and cutting the umbilical cord.
In the case of serious problems your vet can perform a cesarean. If you decide that you are not going to breed from her, he can remove her reproductive organs during the same operation.
What to do afterwards
Mum will normally chew through the umbilical cord, clean up the kittens and start to feed them by herself.
If one of the kittens is lethargic, not feeding or appears distressed, wrap it up warmly and get it to a vet quickly.
Handling the kittens gently is OK. It starts getting them used to people. You may help a hungry kitten find its way to a vacant nipple if needed.
In the first day or so after birth, watch out for a bad smelling discharge from the mum’s vulva, or fever, depression and neglect of her kittens. This could indicate an infection of her uterus. The most common infections are metritis and pyometra, both of which can be treated by your vet.
Watch her nipples for mastitis. This can appear as small cool blockages or inflammation and abscesses. This is treatable by your vet.
Try to keep mum and the kittens away from other cats for 2-3 weeks after birth to minimise the risk of infection.
Some breeds of kitten can come into season as young as three to four months of age. Mum can come into season in about 8 weeks after birth, usually when kittens are weaned. Desexing of kittens can occur as early as two to three months provided they are over 1.1kg.