If your cat is pregnant or you’ve come upon a foster or stray cat who may be expecting, you might wonder how long cats stay pregnant. How long cats are pregnant can vary, but is usually about the same general average. Learn how long your cat should stay pregnant for, as well as how to help your cat get through all five stages of cat pregnancy.
How to Tell When Your Cat Got Pregnant
Before knowing how long your female cat should stay pregnant, you first need to know when the pregnancy occurred. You can figure this out in multiple ways. If your cat was purposefully mated (not recommended unless you are a professional cat breeder), then you should know the time period in which your cat became impregnated. Other ways to tell involve knowing when your cat was in heat and/or when she may have mated without your knowledge or by accident. If you are observant of your cat, these will be obvious. Queen (female) cats can actually be impregnated by multiple tomcats (males) at the same time if all of them were successfully mated with during the same heat cycle. Therefore, cats born in the same litter can potentially have different fathers.
Should I Mate My Cat?
Most cities have laws requiring a female cat to be spayed (and a male cat neutered) once they reach a certain age, but there are exceptions or instances in which this doesn’t happen, such as an illness that guards against spaying, the cat is not yet old enough, or you came upon an already-pregnant stray, and so on. Also, licensed professional breeders are able to mate cats. Cats can get pregnant as early as 4 months of age, even though many don‘t get their heat cycles until 6 months and are not spayed until this stage.
How Long Are Cats Pregnant For?
Assuming you know when your cat became pregnant, she should be pregnant for about 58 to 72 days on average. Different experts will give different dates. This is the average between those dates. If you are unsure, pay attention to the five stages of cat labor to estimate when your cat might deliver and how many days might be left in your cat’s pregnancy. A pregnant cat should also be taken to the vet to ensure a healthy pregnancy. The vet will be able to tell you a more accurate number, regarding when your cat might deliver.
Cat Pregnancy Stage One: Fertilization
This is the stage when your queen successfully mates with one or more tomcats. You may or may not be aware of the exact timing of this stage, depending upon the circumstance. Spaying and neutering cats can help responsible pet parents take as much control over this situation as possible. As soon as your cat is 6 months of age, she should be spayed. But if you’re learning about how long cats are pregnant, you may already have missed this window and have a pregnant cat.
Cat Pregnancy Stage Two: Early Cat Pregnancy
Stage two of your cat’s pregnancy is when you should notice there is something going on with your female cat. Your queen may experience morning sickness during her pregnancy and this is the stage when that would appear. You may also visibly notice her appetite increasing after her nausea subsides. It is perfectly normal for her to eat less in the very beginning when her morning sickness is at its worst. By the third week of pregnancy, this should give way to that appetite increase. It is also during this third week that you might notice lumps (kittens) forming and be able to feel them.
Cat Pregnancy Stage Three: Middle Cat Pregnancy
During the middle stage of a cat’s pregnancy (week 4 and on), she will start to gain weight much more visibly. By the end of this stage, it will be difficult not to tell she is expecting a litter of kittens. They will be moving around and you can feel (and even see) them do it! Your cat’s vet may suggest a radiographic x-ray or an ultrasound to take a look at the kittens, as well as to count how many there are. The vet will know which of these is best for your cat and for her unique situation.
Cat Pregnancy Stage Four: Pre-Labor
When estimating how long your cat should be pregnant, it is also important to know the signs of pre-labor. This will help ensure you and your cat are prepared when she delivers her kittens. In the week prior to active labor, your cat will start looking for hiding places to have her kittens. A pregnant cat can be picky on where she has her babies, so don’t be upset if she doesn’t choose the spot you created. It will be easier if she does, but is not required.
The most important thing is that your pregnant cat is happy and calm during labor. Watch where she goes and try to place nesting boxes in those places. In telling how long your cat will be pregnant, you can also observe your cat’s appetite. She may stop eating a couple days prior to labor. This should alert you to how many days are left in your cat’s pregnancy.
Cat Pregnancy Stage Five: Labor & Delivery
This is the stage when your cat is in active labor and birthing her kittens. You may or may not be present for this, as many cats prefer to do this in hiding. If your cat wants help, she will ask you by coming to you or yowling for you during. In the instance that you get to witness this, signs of labor in your cat include licking genitals, pacing, breathing hard, noises of discomfort, acting anxious, and more. It should be obvious what is going on, but if not, it will be when the first kitten arrives!
Preparing Your Cat for the Birth of Kittens
You should begin preparing your cat for labor and delivery around the early stages of cat pregnancy to be sure your cat knows where to potentially go. If you do not know when your cat became pregnant, but you are seeing the signs, it’s best to help your cat prepare for the birth early. You should also take your cat to the vet right away to make sure her and her kittens are doing well.
Prep your cat with a safe hiding place equipped with a comfy box and soft blankets. She may or may not choose your spot but you can try to convince her by showing her as many times as necessary and staying away from the spot so that she knows she is safe. Most cats prefer to labor alone. However, when the time comes, if she does want you to help, it will be obvious.
You will also need some emergency birthing supplies, as well as your vet’s phone number handy, in case of emergency. In most cases, your queen should be able to handle everything herself. But in the event she does not, ask your vet for a cat-safe antiseptic. You should also have scissors for the umbilical cords, surgical gloves for any handling of the mom or kittens during labor delivery, dental floss for ties, sterile eye-droppers in case aspiration of eyes, nose, and mouth is needed, clean towels, and kitten milk replacer (just in case your mom cat is unable to nurse the babies or refuses to) with kitten bottles.
Once you have figured out how long your cat should be pregnant, there is some prepping to do. You should also buy extra food! Beyond the preparation and getting your cat to the vet, once your pregnant cat has her babies, enjoy! Also, be sure to talk to your vet about proper kitten care and rehoming procedures. You should now know a bit more about how long your cat will be pregnant, the stages of her pregnancy, and what to expect. Now, relax, get to the vet, and enjoy loving on your pregnant queen!
I originally wrote and published a version of this here on 9/4/2019 that has since been removed and rewritten to create this updated version.
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