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There are endless books and blogs dedicated to explaining the ins-and-outs of parenthood to expectant moms.
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Unlike humans, it is not possible to determine a pregnancy via a blood or urine test in cats. By the fourth week of pregnancy she should have gained enough weight to make her pregnancy visible.
By 3-4 weeks your veterinarian should be able to palpitate the abdomen and feel the babies. An experienced veterinarian will be able to palpitate the abdomen and feel the kittens around 17 - 25 days. Keep her indoors for the last two weeks of pregnancy to ensure she doesn't give birth to the kittens elsewhere. You should take your queen to the veterinarian early in pregnancy for a health check, your veterinarian will also advise on the care of your queen during pregnancy.
During the last week of pregnancy, the kittening box should be placed in a warm, quiet, draft free room which is off limit to children and other pets.
The kittening box can be lined with old newspapers which can easily be changed or an old blanket.
Some medications can cause birth defects and or abortion in pregnant cats so it is vital that you speak to your veterinarian before giving your cat any medications. Do not use human antiseptics and the like - such as Dettol etc as these can be poisonous to cats and also burn the skin. Do not handle the newborn kittens a lot in the first two days - minimal handling - let the mother bond with her babies.
Reminder - Female cats can again become pregnant within as little as 2 weeks after giving birth but more usually between 8 weeks and 10 weeks so great care that the queen is kept safely confined during this time. If it is intended to get her de-sexed - around 7 weeks is a good time - she can still nurse her kittens afterwards. Breeding a cat is a huge responsibility and should only be carried out by breeders with experience. Mother rejecting the kittens, this will mean that the kittens will have to be hand raised for the first few weeks. Remember that microchipping is mandatory in some states in Australia, and all kittens must be microchipped before they go to their new homes. If both the male and female haven't been tested, there is a possibility of contracting FIV and FeLV.
Please remember that there is a huge problem with unwanted cats and the shelters are overflowing with cats desperately in need of a good home, so don't contribute to the over population of cats unless you are a registered breeder.
Unless a mature female cat is spayed early (prior to attaining puberty) or kept housed in a strictly indoors environment well away from male cats, it is very likely that she will become pregnant at some stage in her life. Do NOT attempt to do this at home as you may cause miscarriage or damage to the developing kittens.
During the last week or so your queen may become either reclusive and seek out a secluded place or she may become more affectionate, especially if she is particularly bonded to one carer.
Cats have been known to kill and eat their babies if threatened by other animals or too much human interference. In many cases everything will go along fine, but there are risks involved to both the queen and the kittens. Hand raising kittens is a rewarding but challenging job, which requires around the clock feeding for several weeks. Cats are rampant breeders and it is not uncommon for cat owners to bring "suddenly-fat," entire, female cats into the veterinary clinic for reasons of pregnancy diagnosis.
DON'T ever use a flea product on a pregnant or nursing cat without the okay from your veterinarian.
Generally, such cat breeders are seeking to confirm whether or not a deliberate mating between cats has resulted in a pregnancy (i.e. Commercial cat breeders typically want to know additional facts about the feline pregnancy such as: how many kittens are present, what size the kittens are and whether the cat pregnancy seems viable, healthy and normal. This page contains detailed information about how to diagnose pregnancy in cats, including: feline pregnancy signs, cat pregnancy ultrasounds (cat pregnancy scan), abdominal radiography and certain other cat pregnancy tests. Information on how to determine numbers of kittens present (litter size), sizes of kittens present and assess the basic health of the kittens in utero is also included.
Information on the feline 'background' histories and on the clinical signs and symptoms that may be supportive of a cat pregnancy diagnosis are all included, as is information on the specific cat pregnancy tests that can be performed in order to confirm that diagnosis .
1a) Your cat's medical and environmental background history - does it fit with a likelihood of your cat being pregnant?There are certain historical facts (events in your cat's history) and background details that may or may not support a likelihood of your cat being pregnant. This list is just a small sample of some of the historical points and background information that you should think about when trying to decide if your female cat could be pregnant or not. This checklist is just a guide and is certainly not all-inclusive (I am sure you could think of a number of additional points to think about). Incorrect sexing of pet cats occurs all the time and your Jessie may in fact actually be a Jerry.
The long and the short of it is: make sure that your cat is actually sexed correctly (see our great cat sexing pages) before you book the cat in for a feline pregnancy test.Is the cat entire? If you have had the cat in question since it was a kitten, then you should have a fair idea of whether she has been desexed or not.
If the cat came to you as an older animal of unknown surgical history, then there is a chance that she may have been previously desexed. The image on the right shows a pale grey spay scar on a cat's belly (you can even see the scar-holes running alongside the spay line where the skin sutures were placed).
Female cats generally start breeding from 6-9 months of age, however cats as young as 4-5 months have been known to fall pregnant on occasion. If your cat is about 5 months old or more, then there is a chance that she could be pregnant. If your female cat is a completely (and I mean completely) indoors-living animal with no possible access to other cats, then there is little chance of her falling pregnant. Cats that live or at least spend time outside are much more likely to become impregnated by male cats in the area.Be aware, however, that indoors-only means indoors only.
If the cat in question has any free, unsupervised access to the outside world, even if it is only for thirty minutes a day or via a come-and-go cat-door, then the cat is not strictly an indoors cat and there is every chance of her becoming pregnant.
A fertile mating can take place in seconds and so a female cat that is outside, unwatched, for thirty minutes could easily be mated by a male cat in that time and fall pregnant.
It is not that unusual for tom cats (particularly domesticated toms) to wander into a female cat's house through a cat door (cat-flap).
The mating could take place inside of your home without your own female cat ever leaving the indoors environment.Also be aware of the incredible lengths some cats will go to in order to procreate with the opposite sex.
Male cats will scale the "seemingly-unscalable" walls of roof-less cat runs in order to access female cats in heat. Female cats have been known to push their bottoms up against open-mesh wire cat runs and cat aviaries in order to mate with male cats on the outside.
The cats essentially mate through the wire and the female cat becomes pregnant (an seemingly 'immaculate conception') without ever having left the cat enclosure. If your female cat has recently escaped from your house or yard or cat-run into the local environment (i.e.
The female cat generally displays the signs of being "in heat" (feline estrus signs) just before the onset of pregnancy.
The estrus period (in heat period) is the time that the female cat will 'stand' to be mated by a male cat.
Being the time of mating, it is, consequently, the time that cat pregnancy is most likely to begin. If you noticed your cat showing signs of being in heat or "in-season" just before she became fat and "pregnant looking" then there is every chance that she could truly be pregnant.Were there male cats lurking around your house and yard within the last 2 months?
Male cats are expert at detecting the scent of a female cat in heat even if we ourselves, as pet owners, can not yet detect the signs.
If you noticed a number of male cats lurking around your house or garden just before your female cat became fat and "pregnant looking" then there is every chance that your cat could truly be pregnant.Was the cat deliberately mated?
Obviously, if you intentionally had your female cat mated, then there is every likelihood that she could now be pregnant. This is the situation seen with most cat breeders - they place the male cat in with the female cat and so witness the matings that could result in the pregnancy.Was the female cat seen to mate? Sometimes pet cat owners will chance upon seeing their female cat copulating with a male cat in the house or yard.
This scream and attack will often be very short lived, after which the female cat will roll on her back affectionately (termed a post-coital or post-copulatory roll). Did the female cat recently become involved in a cat fight (she might have developed an abscess)?
Because of the violence inherent in feline mating and breeding activities, it is not uncommon for a female cat to suffer from mild bites and scratches as a direct consequence of her copulation activities. An entire female cat who comes back from an outdoors adventure with signs of being in a cat fight (bites, wounds and scratches) could well have been mated. Some cats may even go on to develop nasty cat fight abscesses on their bodies, which will need treatment by a vet. 1b) Are there supporting feline pregnancy signs?Most cat owners start querying whether or not their feline friend could be pregnant after observing various external signs (usually a "fat belly" or "pot belly") that "fit with" a diagnosis of cat pregnancy. Feline pregnancy signs pictures 1 and 2: These are pictures of a heavily pregnant cat in the later stages of cat pregnancy (she has since gone on to have her litter). Cat pregnancy signs pictures 3 and 4: These are pictures of a heavily pregnant cat in the later stages of cat pregnancy (she has since gone on to have her litter).
Her udder (mammary gland chain) is now well developed with large, well-developed nipples and enlargement of the mammary blood vessels. The disadvantages of abdominal palpation as a way of diagnosing cat pregnancy: Abdominal palpation is less accurate at diagnosing pregnancy than certain other modalities of cat pregnancy test.
At this stage, the fetuses are too small to detect with accuracyand the surrounding fetal fluid bags (uterine swellings) are too enlarged and 'floppy' to palpate clearly. Please note: Kitten sizes and uterine-swelling sizes can vary somewhat with the number of kittens in the litter.
The veterinarian places the ultrasound-wave emitting probe on the animal's abdomen and uses the reflection of the ultrasound waves bouncing off the various tissue surfaces to detect the fetal kittens and the surrounding uterine fluids and placental membranes present in the cat's abdomen.
The surrounding placental fluids, in particular, are very obvious on ultrasound scan and can usually be spotted quite early on in the cat pregnancy (even when the fetal kittens themselves are only very tiny).
Embryonic kittens position themselves along the uterine horns of the pregnant cat around 13-14 days after conception and they can usually be detected on ultrasound as discrete spherical swellings from about 11-15 days of gestation. It must be noted, however, that to diagnose pregnancy this early on in cat gestation does generally require a very good ultrasound machine and a considerably experienced ultrasonographer.
In my experience (having only rarely had access to the kinds of million-dollar ultrasound machines that are rarely ever found in most normal vet clinics), more reliable pregnancy diagnosis is generally achieved by ultrasound machine if the feline pregnancy is around 3 weeks old or more.
The fetus floats suspended within a liquid cavity of uterine fluid and fetal membranes (the black spaces surrounding the floating foetus).
The heart was rapidly beating away when this photo was taken, confirming that the dog foetus was indeed alive and healthy.In addition to the diagnosis of cat pregnancy, pregnancy ultrasound scans can also provide us with additional information about the fetal kittens. Abdominal ultrasound can be used to estimate the kittens' fetal age and the stage of cat pregnancy (how long there is to go before the kittens will be born). It can also be used to estimate the numbers of fetal kittens present (though it is not so accurate as radiography for this purpose).
Fetal aging using ultrasound:The crown-rump lengths (the distance from the head to the bottom of the pelvis) of the fetal kittens are often able to be detected on ultrasound scan.
The crown-rump length of the kittens' bodies can help the ultrasonographer to determine the approximate age of the fetuses present in utero (i.e. Fetal lengths as they are used for the purposes of fetal kitten aging and cat gestation staging are described in our great "stages of feline pregnancy" page.The main problem with using fetal kitten crown-rump-length estimations as a means of fetal aging is the fact that the fetal kittens do not always position themselves neatly in a straight line. They curl up into balls, mould themselves around other nearby kittens or abdominal organs and, in the later stages of cat pregnancy, they move about. For this reason, many ultrasonographers choose to measure the cross-sectional diameter of the kittens' heads and chests, rather than their crown-rump lengths, as a more accurate marker of fetal age. For example, kittens with a head diameter of 1.6cm have about 3 weeks of uterine growth left to go before they are born. A fetal heart beat can normally only be detected from 22-25 days of cat gestation age and, so, the detection of a heartbeat tells us that the kitten must be at least 22 days old, developmentally.Subjectively, I have found that the presence or absence of surrounding placental fluids also helps to indicate the gestation age of the fetal kittens.
Kittens that are within about 2 weeks of being born (very late pregnancy) tend to have little to no surrounding fluid present in the amniotic and allantoic sacs encasing their bodies. It seems that, in dogs and cats, this surrounding fluid is reabsorbed back into the mother's body in the very last weeks of pregnancy. Hence the very late stage fetal kitten does not appear to have a halo of black fluid (black regions on ultrasound) surrounding it.
Larger litters tend to have smaller kittens and smaller uterine swellings than might be expected for the stage of cat pregnancy that they are at. This can add an element of inaccuracy to the use of fetal crown-rump lengths and fetal head and chest diameters as a means of gauging fetal age and the stage of cat pregnancy.
Fetal viability using ultrasound:There are several ways that ultrasound scan can be used in order to assess the health and viability of a cat pregnancy. You will generally be able to see a clear heart, lungs, ribs, liver and skull in a live fetus.
When the fetus is dying or deceased, its internal organ structures break down and are no longer clearly visible.
In later stages, the fetuses curl around one another and can not all be seen at the one time. Dog pregnancy images 12 and 13: These are images of a puppy dog fetus as seen on an ultrasound scan (note - fetal kittens look very similar to fetal puppies on ultrasound). The fetus floats suspended within a cavity of uterine fluid and fetal membranes (the dark regions surrounding the fetus, which are marked out as "fluid" on the second image - 13). I have outlined the dog fetus (labeled incorrectly as 'embryo') in white in the second image and you should be able to recognise the animal's shape as being kitten-like or puppy-like: the head and muzzle are visible (right of image), as is the tail and back leg (left of image). 1e) Abdominal radiography (taking x-rays):The bones of fetal kittens become mineralized (calcified) at around day 40-45 of cat pregnancy. Radiographs taken of pregnant cats after day 45 of gestation will usually reveal whether or not the animal is pregnant because the radiographs will generally clearly reveal the skeletons of the kittens. Before this 40-45 day stage of cat gestation, pregnancy diagnosis using radiography is generally inaccurate. The vet may get a subjective impression of an enlarged uterus, but this does not necessarily indicate that the animal is pregnant (other disease conditions besides pregnancy can produce enlargement of the uterus). Fetal aging using radiography:If radiographs taken of the pregnant cat reveal the skeletons of the kittens, then we can say that the fetal age of those kittens is at least 40-45 days or more. The radiographs can also be used to get an estimate of the fetal crown-rump length of the kittens, thereby providing more clue as to the age of the kittens in the uterus.Take a look at the image opposite (right).
It is an abdominal radiograph of a pregnant dog (the same image would apply to a pregnant cat, however). Fetal number and litter size using radiography:Radiography is the best indicator of fetal number (litter size). This comparison is not so important in pregnant cats, where kitten sizes tend to be relatively uniform, but it is very important in dogs, particularly if the mother is small in breed and the father's size is unknown (e.g. Indistinct or blurry internal and external structures tell us that a fetus is not likely to be viable.The fetal sizes with respect to the stage of cat pregnancy and point of gestation - Just like in human obstetrics, the size of the fetal kittens in the uterus can be an important marker of whether the pregnancy is advancing healthily and normally. Please note that in order for fetal sizing to be used to determine the health of a cat pregnancy, the date of pregnancy conception needs to be accurate. Sizing as a means of establishing the health of a cat pregnancy is of no use if the date of pregnancy conception is unknown. Radiography is of little value in determining the viability and health of a feline pregnancy, although the presence of the calcified fetal skeletons does at least tell us that the cat pregnancy managed to make it to the 40-45 day gestation mark. If the cat pregnancy is progressing normally and the fetal kittens are still alive, then their bodies should have a nicely structured skeleton shape on radiography (i.e. Kittens that are undersize for the stage of cat gestation may indicate that there is a problem with the cat pregnancy.
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