Wondering how to tell if a cat is pregnant? Discover facts about the cat gestation period and how to care for pregnant cats in our video guide. Remember, it is always advisable to speak to your vet if you're worried about your pregnant cat.
Cats reach sexual maturity (and are therefore able to breed) from around four months of age. To avoid unwanted pregnancies, have your cat neutered before they reach four months of age.
Cats are prolific breeders. If you let your female cat outside before she is neutered, it is highly likely that pregnancy will result!
Cats are usually pregnant for 63 days, or around nine weeks. During this time, there’s plenty you can do to take the very best care of your cat.
Make an appointment with your vet if you think your cat may be pregnant. You can find out more about the signs of pregnancy in our guide to cat reproduction.
Nine weeks might not seem like long, but during this time you’ll notice a lot of changes in your cat.
For the first couple of weeks, you might not notice any changes in your cat. This is because the fertilised eggs only implant themselves in your cat’s uterus towards the end of week two, so your cat will likely still be unaware that she is pregnant. Her heat cycles may continue during this time and if she mates again she could have kittens from different fathers.
At this point, the fertilised eggs have implanted and the kittens will begin growing. This causes a hormone surge in your cat’s body which will start to cause some visible changes that you might notice.
It is likely that your cat’s heat cycles will end, and you may notice her nipples become darker and slightly larger. This is called ‘pinking’.
Just like humans, cats can get morning sickness when they are pregnant. Around four weeks into her pregnancy your cat may vomit and seem to go off her food (not just in the morning – it can happen at any time of day). While this is normal, if it’s happening a lot and she’s not eating anything it’s best to call your vet for advice.
During week four, you’ll notice your cat gaining weight and your vet will be able to confirm her pregnancy with an ultrasound. You should avoid picking your cat up at this stage so you don’t accidentally harm her or her growing kittens. Speak to your vet about the proper way to handle a pregnant cat.
By now your cat’s kittens should be growing well. You’ll notice her gaining weight and your vet may even be able to tell you how many kittens she is expecting by feeling her tummy. Don’t try to feel this yourself, though, as it takes a practiced hand to do it safely.
At this stage your cat will have a very round tummy! You might be able to see the kittens moving around.
Your cat will also be feeling very hungry as she starts to build up all the nutrients she needs to nurse her kittens. Make sure she’s eating a balanced diet suitable for a pregnant cat and allow her to eat as much as she needs.
Your cat might start ‘nesting’ now – looking for a comfortable, safe place to have her kittens. You can provide her with a warm, quiet area with lots of blankets as she is more likely to choose this spot to give birth.
You might notice she purrs more often and seeks out your attention more. She’s just feeling a little needy – give her a fuss when she asks for it.
Not long now! Your cat’s nipples will be quite swollen as she’s nearing giving birth. You’ll also notice she’s grooming a lot more, so much so that the fur might fall off her tummy. Don’t worry – this is normal! It’ll grow back once she has finished nursing her kittens.
There may be a small amount of red-coloured discharge around your cat’s vulva . This is normal and nothing to worry about, it’s just a sign she’s getting close to giving birth now.
She might seem quite anxious and pace a lot, or seek you out for attention and reassurance. That’s a sign she’s getting ready to go into labour. If she goes to her chosen nesting spot there’s a good chance the kittens could be on their way soon.
While a cat’s pregnancy usually lasts for nine weeks, there is a chance you could be waiting into week 10 for her to give birth. Unfortunately, it’s just a waiting game now – if you’re worried or there’s still no sign of the kittens at the end of week 10, give your vet a call.
Once you are sure your cat is pregnant, it’s best to feed her a good quality kitten food. As her kittens develop and she prepares to nurse them, she’ll need lots of extra nutrients which kitten food will give her.
Your cat will look for somewhere warm, clean and quiet to give birth. This is known as nesting and you might find her looking in all sorts of places in your house.
Naturally your cat will feel vulnerable when she gives birth even though she is safe in your home. Try finding a quiet area of the house she prefers and create a kittening area for her. The ideal kittening area for your cat will be:
As your cat’s hormones change while she is pregnant, so will her behaviour. You may notice her heat cycle ends – see our cat reproduction guide for more information on heat cycles.
Some behaviours you might notice while your cat is pregnant include:
You might notice your cat’s behaviour change after they’ve given birth, too. She might prefer space and want you to stay away from her kittens. Read more in our after birth guide.
If your cat usually goes outdoors, being kept in for nine weeks may be really stressful for her. For the first few weeks, try to supervise her outside if you can and give her a quick check when she comes back inside to make sure she’s not hurt.
In the final two weeks of her pregnancy, it is best to keep her inside so she is safe when the kittens come. It’s likely that she won’t want to go out during this time anyway as she’ll be nesting.
We recommend talking to your vet before your cat breeds, to make sure that your cat is fit to breed and properly vaccinated.
If your cat is already pregnant, ask your vet for advice on caring for your cat, including feeding, worming and flea treatments. You must use treatments that are safe to use during pregnancy.
Talk to your vet about the best time to neuter your cat after the kittens are born. Neutering is the safest and most effective way to prevent future unwanted pregnancies.