There are a lot of reasons you may not know if your cat is pregnant, whether your cat went on a neighborhood jaunt for a few nights, you took in a stray, or you have an intact male and female in the home. Maybe you breed cats and are having trouble determining if your queen is pregnant. Unfortunately, cat pregnancies aren’t as noticeable and easily detected as human pregnancies, especially in the early stages of pregnancy. To properly plan, it’s important to know if your cat is pregnant, so here are the things you need to know about cat pregnancy.
8 Signs That a Cat is Pregnant
1. Heat Cycle Changes
If your cat is pregnant, her heat cycle will stop. This may not be evident at first, but you will likely notice when she doesn’t come back into heat for more than 3–4 weeks. If your cat has seemed to suddenly stop having her heat cycle, then you should be suspicious of a pregnancy.
2. Teat/Nipple Changes
One of the first physiological changes you’ll see in your cat if she is pregnant is changes to the teats. Specifically, you’ll note a darkening or increase in pink tints of the teats. As your cat’s pregnancy progresses, you’ll begin to see swelling around the teats. If your cat has been pregnant before, teat changes will likely be more pronounced than in a first-time pregnancy.
3. Behavioral Changes
You may notice your cat becoming more cuddly or loving if she is pregnant. She may begin seeking you or other family members out for some snuggles and pets. However, you may see similar behaviors in a cat that is in heat, so this isn’t a surefire indicator of pregnancy. The main behavioral change you’ll see is that your cat will begin to “nest”, especially later in her pregnancy. This behavior is stimulated by hormones and helps your cat prepare for the arrival of her kittens by selecting safe, cozy places to spend time.
4. Weight Gain
Later in pregnancy, your cat may increase in body weight by a few pounds, although this rarely exceeds 4–5 pounds. If you aren’t familiar with the exact weight of your cat, weighing her is unlikely to help you figure out if she’s pregnant. However, you will likely begin to notice a fuller, rounder appearance of the abdomen as the kittens grow. This is far easier to spot in smaller cats than in overweight or obese cats. It is also usually easier to spot in shorthair cats than in longhair cats.
5. Increased Appetite
If your cat is pregnant, she’s eating for more than just herself, so her caloric needs increase significantly. During pregnancy, your cat’s caloric needs increase to approximately 1.5 times more than when she is not pregnant. To meet your cat’s caloric needs, as well as to support healthy development of kittens, your cat should be fed a cat food that is formulated specifically for kittens or pregnant or lactating cats. Due to the decreasing space in her abdomen, your cat is likely to begin eating multiple small meals throughout the day and night instead of a few larger meals.
This is a slightly atypical sign of pregnancy in cats, but just like in people, cats may develop nausea and vomiting related to hormonal changes. This is unlikely to be significant vomiting, though. Your cat should still have a good appetite and be keeping most of her food down.
7. Increased Napping
Pregnancy is hard work! There are multiple reasons your cat may take extra naps while pregnant, but the main reason is simply the amount of energy required to grow new bodies while maintaining all normal functions of the pregnant cat’s body. Hormonal changes and difficulty getting comfortable can also lead to an increase in fatigue and inadequate sleep.
- Related Read: Can Cats Sense Pregnancy? Do They Understand it?
8. Visit the Vet
There are multiple reasons your cat could exhibit any combination of these symptoms, with pregnancy being only one reason. A vet visit is the only way to know if your cat is pregnant, unless she is actively having kittens. There are dozens, if not hundreds, of medical conditions that can lead to symptoms like fatigue, weight gain, nausea and vomiting, and behavior changes, so having your cat examined by your vet will rule out serious medical concerns, like kidney disease, hyperthyroidism, diabetes, and cancer.
Your vet will be able to palpate your cat’s abdomen to feel for kittens or swelling in the uterus. An ultrasound can identify kittens, and if your cat is far enough along that the kittens’ bones have begun to calcify, then an x-ray will also help you determine if your cat is pregnant and give you a good idea of how many kittens to expect.
Once you’ve verified that your cat is pregnant, you should begin making things more comfortable for your cat and preparing for the arrival of kittens. Slowly switch your cat over to an appropriate diet for pregnancy and ensure she has access to multiple meals every day. She should always have access to clean water, even when not pregnant. Provide safe, quiet spaces for your cat to spend time. Set up a nesting area where she feels safe enough to give birth. This area should be away from other pets, children, and loud noises. Keep in mind, though, that some cats will surprise you when it comes time to give birth. You may make a lovely nesting area, only to wake up to kittens in the bathtub.
Once you suspect your cat may be pregnant, you should begin setting aside money for pregnancy and kitten-related expenses. C-sections may be necessary for some cats, and emergency c-sections can be prohibitively expensive for most people. Kittens will require veterinary care before going to new homes, and you’ll also need to be financially prepared for costs associated with raising the kittens, like food and toys. If you feel you are not in a place financially to properly support your cat through her pregnancy, afford emergency expenses, and care for a litter of kittens, then you need to have a discussion with your veterinarian about the options that may be available to you.
How Do I Know if My Cat is in Heat?
In order to become pregnant, a cat must be in heat. You may also see this referred to as estrus or being “in season”. While in heat, a female cat will experience hormonal and physiological changes that prepare the body for pregnancy. Female cats begin having heat cycles as early as 4 months of age, so it’s important to know what to look for, whether you’re attempting to prevent pregnancy, breed, or determine when your cat should be spayed.
Listen for Clues
A female cat in heat will often become very vocal, spending much of her time yowling loudly. You may note behavior changes, like an increase in cuddliness or attention seeking. Although it’s not known if heat cycles are painful for cats, some people take their yowling and unusual behavior as an indicator that they are uncomfortable at the very least. Regardless of if your cat is indoor or outdoor, you may see cats you’ve never seen before spending time around your house. It’s not unusual to see tomcats fighting when a female cat in heat is nearby.
How Long is a Cat in Heat?
You may have heard that once a cat goes into heat, she won’t come out of heat until she is spayed or bred. This is a bit of a misnomer because cats do go into and out of their heat cycle. A female cat will typically be in heat for anywhere from 2-19 days, during which time she will exhibit the symptoms discussed above. The average length of time a cat is in heat is approximately 6–7 days. If not bred or spayed, your cat will come out of heat. However, cats only stay out of heat for around 2–3 weeks before going back into heat again. For comparison, dogs tend to go into heat approximately every 6 months.
How Long is a Cat’s Gestation Period?
The gestation period of a cat typically lasts between 63–65 days, but some cat pregnancies have been known to exceed 70 days. However, you’re unlikely to see any indications that your cat is pregnant until she is at least 2–3 weeks into her gestation.
How Can I Prevent Cat Pregnancy?
The only way to guarantee your cat will not get pregnant is to have her spayed. No matter how careful you are, it is possible for your cat to slip out a window or door that hasn’t been latched properly. There are no guarantees that your intact female cat will not have an opportunity to come into contact with an intact male cat. If you have a purebred cat with a breeding contract, then you should discuss with your cat’s breeder and your veterinarian how best to protect your cat from an unwanted or unplanned pregnancy.
Many people feel like they can’t afford to have their cat spayed, and it can be an expensive procedure. However, if you are unable to afford to have your cat spayed, then you need to seriously consider the probability that you are unable to afford proper care during and after pregnancy. There are many low-cost spay/neuter programs, and many animal shelters provide discount vouchers to area vets. Medical credit cards and regular credit cards may provide you with the opportunity to get your cat spayed with interest-free payments.
If you have an established relationship with your cat’s vet, then they may be willing to work with you on a payment plan. Remember that if your vet is able to work with you on payments or offers you a discount, it is a courtesy to you. They are not obligated to do this, and many vets don’t offer these options for many reasons. It does not mean they don’t care about your cat’s wellbeing.
The only way to prevent cat pregnancy is to have your cat spayed, and the only way to know for sure that your cat is pregnant is to visit the vet before you wake up to a litter of kittens. Cat pregnancy can be tricky and unpredictable. Just like with humans, cats all have different experiences with their pregnancies. Depending on your cat’s age, size, instinct, health status, and number of kittens, you may see vastly different behaviors and signs than you might in another cat. If you have any question about whether or not your cat is pregnant, it’s best to discuss your concerns with your vet to get answers, guidance, and support.
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