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  1. cats health and wellness

How to Support a Cat in Labor

Posted by Dr. Roth on March 30, 2022

Wellness Care
What to do if?
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There’s nothing in the world quite like kittens. Pet parents with a pregnant cat may eagerly anticipate the day their cat gives birth. At the same time, if they’re new to the process, the prospect can be a bit overwhelming if they’re not sure what to expect, or how to help them. Here’s what pet parents with pregnant cats need to know. 

A Brief Look at Pregnancy in Cats

Cats have a short gestation period. Fertilization occurs one to ten days after mating, and the embryos begin developing around two to four weeks. The organs start developing at week five, the tissues and claws by week six, and the bones and fur by week seven. By week eight, the kittens’ bones start hardening, and by week nine, it’ll be time to welcome the new babies. 

The Stages of Labor 

A mother cat goes through three stages of labor:

  • Stage 1: At first, the contractions begin, and her temperature drops. She may pace, pant, or exhibit “nesting” behavior. This stage of labor can last or be be interrupted or stalled for up to 36 hours. 

  • Stage 2: Kitten delivery! Contractions grow stronger as a kitten enters the birth canal. This is when contractions are visible and pet parents may notice the mother straining. The passage of each kitten can take anywhere from five to thirty-five minutes. Kittens can be born head or feet first.

  • Stage 3: Passage of the placentas. This will happen right after the birth of each kitten. It is not uncommon for the mother to eat the placenta however, pet parents should monitor her for any health issues.  

How to Support a Cat in Labor

A pet parent may be nervous about their cat giving birth and want to help them in every way possible. Most cats won’t want to be bothered, but there are still plenty of things a pet parent can do to support their cat throughout the process. 

Create a Safe and Comfortable Environment

One of the best things a pet parent can do for a cat about to go into labor is to prepare a safe and comfortable space. They can place towels, blankets, and other cozy materials in a separate room, and there should be access to water and food. When she’s ready to give birth, pet parents can close off the room to keep other curious pets, children, and adults out. 

Leave the Mother Cat Alone

As much as a pet parent might want to be with their cat during the birth of her kittens, they should leave her be. Cats rarely need help during labor, and constant interruptions, loud noises, and bright lights can disrupt the process. Instead, pet parents should check for signs that the mother cat might actually need help.

Give the Mother Cat and Her Kittens Time to Bond

Finally, after a mother cat finishes birthing her kittens, pet parents should continue to wait for a while. As exciting as kittens are, the mother cat and her kittens should be able to bond before any humans enter the room. However, if pet parents notice that the kittens aren’t suckling after the first hour, they can step in and guide the babies to the mother cat’s teats.

When to Contact a Vet

Again, most cats won’t need any help from their pet parents during the birthing process. However, there are some instances in which pet parents might need to step in or seek professional cat health advice:

  • The mother cat is experiencing strong contractions but hasn’t delivered a kitten after 30 minutes of trying.

  • The pet parent can see the kitten physically stuck in the birth canal. 

  • The pet parent’s gentle pulling of a kitten causes the mother cat pain.

  • The mother cat has become lethargic and has a high temperature.

If a pet parent notices any of these issues during the birthing process, they can reach out to the Fuzzy Veterinary Team 24/7 or their primary vet right away. The sooner they seek advice, the easier it will be to help the mother cat and ensure both mother and babies come through the process.

Welcoming New Kittens Into the World

For pet parents with cats, there’s nothing quite like kittens. While a pet parent may want to be there to witness the birth of the newest family members, female cats need privacy. That doesn’t mean there’s nothing a pet parent can do. In fact, the best thing they can do is create a warm and comfortable environment for their cat. The safer and cozier she feels, the better equipped she’ll be to bring their babies into the world.

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