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How to assist a cat during the labor?
The main thing you should remember: the delivery process in cats is absolutely natural – it’s a magical moment and a true miracle, especially to the owner! You shouldn’t worry and show your nervousness, because in such an important situation the cat would sure feel the mood of the owner. When the course of pregnancy and delivery is normal with no pathologies, everything just happens by itself, without the intervention of the owner. In case something goes wrong – the only thing you should do is to call the vet.
At home or at the veterinary clinic?
In case there were no serious complications during the pregnancy, it’s more preferable to the cat to give birth to kittens at home. There are several reasons for that. First of all, the cat would feel much more comfortable in the safe surroundings with no stress, at the place where it feels safe. Secondly, at home the cat has significantly less chance of catching the infection.
At pathologies of pregnancy, the delivery at home is also possible – the only thing you need is to discuss it with the vet, who is aware of the cat’s health problems and would examine the cat in advance. Obstetrician vets should know how to assist in labor of cats with pathology – it must be a qualified specialist, rather than an ordinary vet.
Labor in the clinic is recommended if there is a serious problem requiring medical support during the process (for example, the cat suffers from heart failure or respiratory disease). However, in such cases vets usually recommend caesarean section with further sterilization.
It happens that all deadlines have already passed, but the labor seems to be delayed. Owners start thinking about how to induce labor in cats. Sometimes it is really necessary: kittens grow way too much rapidly increasing in size inside what exhausts the cat-mother and complicates the delivery process. However, no actions should be undertaken without prior discussion with the vet.
Amateur labor induction may extend the time of labor (prolonged labor or powerless labor so on). Introducing oxytocin or a similar drug to a cat, physically unprepared for birth, will lead to the uterine cervix rupture. In each case it’s up to the vet to decide how to induce labor in cats and whether to induce it at all. It it’s high time it happened – the vet will give an injections of hormones that will provoke normal labor course.
First labor of the cat is considered to be the most difficult both physically and psychologically: the cat just has no idea what to do, is very nervous and restless, sometimes severely frightened. The cat is constantly meowing looking into the owner’s eyes appealing for help. For their part, the owner doesn’t know yet what cat’s behavior would look like and how the cat will treat the kittens, because each cat has different physiological and psychological characteristics. Sometimes from the moment delivery started the cat demands the owner to be there next to it, and sometimes the cat is irritated and spits even at the owner who is trying to help.
In such cases, it becomes literally impossible to assist the cat during the labor – all you can do is to watch it hoping that the cat would manage on its own. If something goes wrong, you have to immediately contact the vet: together it is easier to immobilize the cat when it is required. Furthermore, for extremely nervous cats there are sedatives that vets can use to reduce stress.
The duration of labor and disturbing symptoms
One of the most popular questions of inexperienced cat owners is “how long do labors in cats last?” Unfortunately, there is no clear answer, as each case is different. Some cats manage do give a birth to six kittens in a couple of hours and some of them may give a birth to two or three kittens for about a day. Sometimes another period of labor contractions in cats starts in a few minutes after the birth of the first kitten and sometimes it may take several hours.
In rare cases, the labor stops at all and the cat-mother starts taking care of the newborn kittens giving a birth to the rest of them in a while. This is absolutely ok, if the cat feels well. But remember: if you have doubts, it is better to call the ver. In general it’s high time you contacted the vet when:
- contractions obviously continue, but the kitten doesn’t appear longer than for 1 hour;
- it is obvious that the kitten stuck (during the breech labor or when the kitten is just too large). Sometimes you may be able to assist the cat yourself, as discussed below;
- the body temperature of the cat during the labor raised to about 103 °F or fell below 98.7 C °F;
- the vulva discharge is rich, bloody, purulent or evil-smelling;
- the cat is weak, does no attempts to expel the fetus, lies prone breathing weakly;
- the heart rate is disturbed (cat heart should beat very fast, but it should beat regularly without leaps or stops).
You should immediately call the vet if you have no idea how the assist the cat during labors in a specific case. It’s better to disturb a vet without serious reason, than to miss precious time.
The beginning of delivery
When the labor starts some changes in the cat’s body happen: the plug comes out, the kittens turn around for moving through the birth canal and the cervix dilates. The beginning of deliveries in cats looks like that: the cat is breathing hard, digging its litter, worrying and dashing around – lying on its side or taking a position typical for defecation, moving the tail aside and licking itself.
The tail of a longhaired cat you may carefully wrap with the cotton bandage in order to prevent troubles and be able to watch the process.
During the first stage of labor the owner’s assistance is more about moral support, non-intervention and surveillance, especially if the cat is scared and/or aggressive. If the cat accepts the presence of the person nearby, you may talk to her slightly stroking the sides and back toward the tail. Soon the contractions and the movement of kittens through the birth canal will become obvious – you may notice the “waves” along the cat’s body from head to tail and movements in the belly (but do not try to touch the kittens!). Based on how the labor starts, it becomes possible to predict how long they will last: the more intense the process of preparation is, the more chance for accelerated labor. But it often happens so that the cat gives a birth to the first kitten with huge effort, but it takes less to give a birth to the rest of them.
Pregnancy and childbirth in cats is quite an intimate process. During the labor, the cat feels unprotected and may get scared of most innocuous things. Therefore it isn’t necessary to invite the entire family or to comment on the process loudly and especially to invite guests.
The contractions gradually become longer and more frequent. No need to worry if at the initial stage the contractions stopped – let the cat rest for a while, and the process will resume. In between you can offer the cat some water, but no feeding is allowed.
Finally, the cat takes a comfortable posture (no need to interfere, the cat knows better) and the fetal bladder appears in the vulva. Shortly before that some liquid of brown, green, yellow or pinkish color flows (or sometimes even splashes out of the vulva) – it is ok, this liquid lubricates the birth canal. The kitten appears and disappears – the cat-mother is waiting for strong contractions. If this is the first delivery of a cat, it may start worrying, constantly turning back, trying to see what was causes pain. You need to calm the cat in a gentle voice and gently stroke it.
When the contractions of desired intensity appear, the cat makes an effort and pops the fetal bladder (usually halfway). The kitten is wrapped in a thin “bubble” filled with liquid, but at this stage the kitten is already noticeable. The labor can be breech or head – both variants are normal. Now it's time to give some instructions about assistance if necessary:
- In case of head birth all you need is to wait until the next contraction – the cat will push a kitten on its own. That's what happens in most cases;
- If the fetal bladder is damaged, you can help: wait until the next series of contractions and gently take the kitten with a piece of gauze, carefully pulling it down to the stomach. All manipulations should be performed in surgical gloves. If it is a very uncomfortable to wear gloves – you may clean your hands with alcohol (mind that your nails should be thoroughly filed);
- In case of breech birth and if the bladder is damaged – you need to get the kitten out as soon as possible, as it can choke. Pull the kitten gently, only during the contractions, in direction to the stomach. It is forbidden to pull the kitten out, taking its paw or its head.
It is important to know how to assist the cat in labor, if the kitten is too large. The described manipulation is fairly simple, but requires accuracy and confidence in actions, so in case you have doubts, it is better to call the vet.
So, the largest kitten is stuck “slipping” inside again when the contractions are over – you should do the following:
- wait for the next series of contraction till the moment the bladder appears in the vulva;
- penetrate into the vulva through the bottom part with your index finger, but just for a few millimeters. Then gently press on the crotch towards anal hole, extending the aisle. Dry birth canal can be lubricated with sterile Vaseline oil. It may be enough;
- when the head or at least a shoulder appears – use your free hand to gently take the kitten out (but don’t take its head). Shake it a little from side to side and gradually pull it out. Act very carefully!
When childbirth in cats complicated with malpresentation, you need to carefully examine the visible part of the kitten to understand, in what position it is. As a rule, the back of the neck of the baby is visible. In such a position the kitten is stuck in the passage, so the cat-mother can't give it a birth on its own. In this case, you need to gently press on the kitten with the bent finger, starting from its neck and stroking it towards the croup, trying to turn it the way it can easily get out. Or act vice versa if the croups is seen instead of the neck – stroke it from the tail to the neck, let it be a breech kitten. Be careful! If the finder movements are right, the kitten will easily take the right position and no extra efforts are required. If not, immediately call the vet.
Other possible complications during labors in cats are: weak contractions or lack of them. The owner can help the cat only when the cervix is fully dilated (one or more kittens have been already born or the head of the first kitten is well observed).
So, here are the ways you can stimulate labor contractions in your cat:
- light massage of the stomach in a circular motion, starting from the chest towards the vulva, do that very gently with no pressure;
- careful nipple massage;
- in case at least one kitten has been already born put it next the nipple and let it eat;
- light massage of the vagina vestibule: introduce the index finger up to the second knuckle and gently massage the vagina wall opposite to the anal wall;
- give an injection of 0.3 ml of oxytocin intramuscularly every thirty minutes (three injections maximum).
If nothing helps, you need to call the vet. Keep in mind: you mustn’t stimulate contractions, if the cervix isn’t dilated!
First aid to kittens
When a kitten is born, the cat-mother does all the work: licks stimulates breathing and cleans up the baby from the mucus, gnaws through the umbilical cord and separates the placenta.
Necessarily count all the placenta pieces, recording their number. One or two pieces can be eaten by the cat – the rest should be thrown away. It is important that all afterbirth went out. If just one of the pieces is left inside, you need to go to the vet.
If the cat is confused and wouldn’t take care of the kitten:
- make sure the kitten is breathing. If the baby swallowed some mucus, remove the fluid from the nose and mouth with a syringe. If this does not help, wrap the baby into the towel and thoroughly but gently rub the back from the back to the neck;
- if the kitten is very weak and seems lifeless, after removing the mucus from the respiratory tract – bring a cotton pad soaked in liquid ammonia. If it doesn’t help – put a drop of cognac on the kitten’s tongue. If it didn’t help – wrap the kitten in a towel and gently shake it several times (the head must be fixed). Artificial respiration is performed mouth-to-nose, dosing the oxygen very carefully, as the lungs are very small.
If you need to cut the umbilical cord act as described below:
- squeeze the umbilical cord at a distance of a couple of inches from the baby's stomach;
- hold it for fifteen seconds to compress the capillaries;
- cut the umbilical cord in place of squeezing and make sure it isn’t bleeding. If the blood still appears, tie the umbilical cord with thread soaked in alcohol at a distance of 1.5 cm from the kitten’s stomach, and use an antiseptic.
Squeaking kittens should be put next to their mother, so that the cat licked and fed the baby. After some time the contractions will resume. No matter how long the labor in cats lasts, there is no need to put the kittens to the “baby box” if the mother feels ok and is calm. It may seem that the cat is a bit tough towards the newborn and doesn’t pay enough attention but everything is okay – the cat-mother knows what kittens need.
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