The process of a mama cat getting ready to have kittens is called “queening.” A female cat can get pregnant when they are as young as 4 months old, unless they have been sᴘᴀʏᴇᴅ to prevent that.
Queens can keep going into ʜᴇᴀᴛ every 2 to 3 weeks from the spring through the early fall, making them ready to reproduce more often than not.
A cat’s pregnancy lasts about 63-65 days. So, a cat can have kittens when they are only 6 months old.
How to tell if a cat is pregnant usually comes down to a few common signs, such as:
- Noticeable weight gain in a few weeks (she’ll gain about 2 to 4 pounds in all)
- Sᴡᴏʟʟᴇɴ and pink ɴɪᴘᴘʟᴇs (called “pinking up,” this occurs around week three of pregnancy)
- Distended abdomen (noticeable around week five)
- Increased appetite
- Personality changes (she may become either more affectionate or, less common, more reclusive)
If you have a female cat that is still intact, meaning she has never been sᴘᴀʏᴇᴅ, and checks off some or all of these boxes, you’ll want to confirm the pregnancy with your veterinarian right away. They can perform a ʙʟᴏᴏᴅ test, an X-ray and an ultrasound to identify if your cat is pregnant and how many kittens she’s carrying.
Caring for Your Pregnant Queen
It’s rare, but in the earliest stages of pregnancy, your cat may have “morning sɪᴄᴋness” that might show up as a lack of appetite or vomiting. If that keeps happening, take them to the vet. With the surge of hormones and changes to their ᴜᴛᴇʀᴜs, they may show signs of ꜰᴀᴛɪɢᴜᴇ. This phase will eventually fade after those first few weeks pass.
Just like many other females in the animal kingdom carrying a bun in the oven (or for a cat, an average of 4 buns per litter), your cat may need extra food and calories while they are expecting.
They’ll eat about 1.5 times their normal diet as their pregnancy draws to a close, so make sure they have constant access to their normal fare. Your vet will probably recommend that you feed your pregnant cat kitten food or food that’s labeled for pregnant and lactating cats throughout their pregnancy and during the period they nurse their young one.
ᴠɪʀᴜsᴇs can spread to kittens before they’re born, so keep up with your cat’s ᴠᴀᴄᴄɪɴation schedule. If your pregnant cat is due for their regular ᴠᴀᴄᴄɪɴation and deworming/flea treatment or needs medication, check with your vet first to make sure the treatment is safe for them. It is best to ᴠᴀᴄᴄɪɴate prior to breeding, as most ᴠᴀᴄᴄɪɴes are not safe to give during pregnancy.
When Your Cat Is Ready to Give Birth
Once your cat has chosen the area where she will give birth, it’s best to leave her alone and observe from a safe distance. Fortunately, most cats need little if any human intervention when it comes to queening. However, you may need to assist if she is in distress.
Keep track of the time in between each birth and make sure you know how many kittens to expect. Contact your vet if your cat is having obvious ᴄᴏɴᴛʀᴀᴄᴛɪᴏɴs for more than 60 minutes without kitten birth. Also, get in touch with the vet if more than two hours go by without the next kitten birth.
If a kitten remains in the birth canal without being pushed out for more than a minute or two, it’s best to bring your cat right to the vet. Call your vet’s office for advice if anything else seems wrong.
Avoid separating mom and kittens for the first few days and be sure to continue to provide adequate amount of food for the momma cat who’s caloric needs will increase significantly while she is lactating and feeding her kittens. Instead, bring them all into the vet’s office for a check-up at about 6 weeks of age. If you are not a purebred cat breeder, talk to your vet about having your cat sᴘᴀʏᴇᴅ as soon as possible. This is often done after the kittens are weaned.