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Is There A Morning-After Pill For Cats? Our Vet Answers

close up of a tabby cat lying on the floor

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Dr. Joanna Woodnutt Photo

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Dr. Joanna Woodnutt

MRCVS (Vet)

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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Accidents happen, even with the best intentions! Cats are known for their fertility, and if your cat has reached maturity and been outside or around an unneutered male, she may well already be pregnant. If you suspect your cat may be pregnant with an unexpected, or unwanted litter, there are some options to consider.

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All about cat pregnancy

Cats become sexually mature around four months old. They are known as seasonal breeders – meaning they tend to mate as the days start to get longer so that there will be plenty of food available when the kittens are born. This means that cat pregnancies and births increase around spring to summertime and reduce in the fall and winter.

Female cats go through multiple ‘heats’ or estrus cycles, with each lasting around 14 days. They will display certain behaviors such as rubbing themselves against the floor or furniture, scent or pheromone marking, and rolling around on the floor. They also make a loud plaintive noise known as ‘calling’. Male cats who are not sterilized will be constantly receptive to a female cat in season and can pick up on the tell-tale signs of scent, sound and behavior much quicker than us humans can. This means that your cat may well have mated before you could even realize that she was in season, and so accidental pregnancies are common.

Cat pregnancies last around 63 days and for the first few weeks there will be very few changes to see. As the pregnancy progresses, there will be ‘pinking’ of the nipples, which become more obvious as she starts making milk ready for the birth. You may notice her putting on weight and making a nest somewhere cozy and quiet.

tabby cat rolling on its back signaling to play
Image Credit: Inge Wallumrød, Pexels

Preventing accidental litters

The safest and easiest way to prevent unwanted kittens is to spay your female cat. This is a surgical procedure performed by a veterinarian that removes both the ovaries and the uterus, so pregnancies are impossible. This is permanent, and therefore is not an option if you may wish to breed from your cat. Spaying can be performed even if your cat may have already been mated or is in season.

Medications can prevent or shorten estrus cycles but must be used under close veterinary supervision due to the risk of side effects. Drugs such as estrogens can suppress pregnancies by preventing fertilized eggs from moving down into the uterus and establishing a pregnancy. They do not always work and can cause several side effects such as suppressing bone marrow function and causing uterine infections (pyometra). They may also cause future infertility.

Whoops! I think my cat mated, is there a morning-after pill for cats?

Taking on a litter of kittens is no easy feat – it requires time, patience, and space and is quite the commitment. Many owners do not want the responsibility of taking on kittens and the necessity of looking after them, feeding them and finding them new homes. However, what happens if you think your cat may be pregnant accidentally? Is there a morning-after pill for cats?

First things first: confirming there is a pregnancy to terminate is essential, as it can be difficult to tell just from looking at or examining your cat. An ultrasound scan performed by a veterinarian at least around 20 days after the mating can give us this crucial answer.

There are some drugs that can be used to terminate a pregnancy in cats. Unfortunately, none of them are failsafe, and cats can still carry on with the pregnancy once they have been given. They also all carry the risk of side-effects, as do all medications. A discussion with your veterinarian about whether to keep this pregnancy and then neuter her afterwards to prevent future kittens may be advisable at this stage.

There are three main classes of drug that can be used to end a pregnancy in cats.

bengal cat lying on the floor
Image Credit: lshman000, Pixabay

Estrogens

Used in early pregnancy, estrogens can prevent a pregnancy from developing. They need to be given very soon after mating to work so are not routinely used. They also have some quite severe side effects.

Prostaglandins

These drugs reduce the levels of progesterone, which is a hormone necessary in maintaining a pregnancy. The drugs take up to a week to work, and in some cases will not be enough to terminate a pregnancy or can be only partially successful. A follow-up ultrasound is needed to see how well they have worked. Their main side effect is the potential for a uterine infection to develop after use.

Glucocorticoids (steroids)

Another option for pregnancy termination is to use an injection of the steroid dexamethasone. It is fairly effective at ending pregnancies. Side effects are usually mild but can include excessive thirst and urination.

Is using a morning-after pill for cats safe?

All medications can have side effects, and hormonal intervention into pregnancy is no exception. The process of abortion itself can also be unpleasant and can carry risks, as depending on the stage of pregnancy there may be significant blood loss. A thorough discussion with your veterinarian is recommended to understand all the options if your cat is already pregnant, and what to expect if you go down this route.

cat at vet with owner and veternarian
Image Credit: 4 PM production, Shutterstock

Should I get my cat spayed?

Spaying is a routine and safe procedure that veterinarians perform daily. Female cats can start cycling around 4 months of age and can breed with any entire male cat, including their brother or father. They can easily have multiple litters a year. The spay procedure will prevent unwanted litters and sexually transmitted disease, as well as mean you can let your cat have some freedom without worrying they will get pregnant. Cats can be spayed from an early age, and even during estrus, pregnancy or lactation.

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Conclusion

There are medical options for preventing kittens if your cat has already been mated accidentally, but they are not fail-safe, and can carry the risk of side effects. If you are concerned your cat may be pregnant, always contact your veterinarian to confirm a pregnancy and discuss options of how to proceed.


Featured Image Credit: ingewallumrod, Pixabay

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