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Pregnancy in cats
Pregnancy in cats is a wonderful time full of tenderness and care. A miracle is happening inside your pet: tiny embryos are slowly turning into baby kittens due to titanic efforts of their mother's body. Caring owners should help their pets providing them with everything necessary and creating favorable conditions for the whole period of pregnancy.
Diagnostics of pregnancy
But first of all it is necessary to find methods of identifying pregnancy in cats – in fact “dating” with a male is not always a success. Unfortunately there are no pregnancy tests for cats like those that are sold for people. The only way to be sure is to visit your vet about two weeks after mating. The vet will examine your pet and the condition of its uterus with a sonogram. On the 3rd week of pregnancy forming embryos are already distinctly visible. After the 3rd week the veterinary can notice fetal heartbeats that prove their viability.
Some owners try to notice sing of their cats’ pregnancy without consulting a vet. Within first two weeks the behavior of the pet and its visible physiological condition remain practically the same, therefore it is difficult enough to identify whether the cat is pregnant or not. By the 3rd week the changes become apparent, however it is necessary to visit the veterinary in order to make sure the pregnancy course is normal.
Course of pregnancy
At your vet you can make sure the condition of your pet is safe, besides you will have a chance to ask important questions: what should you feed a mom-to-be with, how long pregnancy in cats lasts, how to help your cat during this complicated period and so on. It is necessary to discuss with the vet whether the consultations by phone or online and emergency visits to your place are possible.
The idea of what is happening in the body of your pet allows you to understand how to determine the pregnancy stage. Conditionally the whole period of pregnancy is divided into four stages:
• Zero week no visible changes. About a day after mating the ovulation occurs, and then the eggs get fertilized. Along the fallopian tubes zygotes move into the uterus, get evenly distributed and attached to its walls;
• From the 1st to the 3rd week the pregnancy symptoms in cats are still barely visible. A slight decrease of activity and appetite changes are possible (some cats may eat a lot, others eat reluctantly during the first 2-3 weeks). At the end of the third week some morning sickness is possible: vomiting in the morning for two or three days, lethargy, poor appetite;
• From the 4th to the 6th week the fact that the cat is pregnant becomes obvious even to those owners who failed to consult a vet. At this stage everything is clear: the nipples become a bit pinkish, the cat eats and sleeps a lot and the belly is getting more and more rounded growing every day. At this stage vets can palpate embryos and even estimate their number. Amateur palpation won’t be informative, so you shouldn’t try doing that in order not to harm the kittens and not to provoke premature contractions;
• From the 7th to the 9th week the belly grows very quickly, the cat sleeps most of the time, often visits the toilet and eats a little, but quite often. If you put your hand on your cat’s belly, you can feel the kittens moving. At the 9th week the cat’s appetite gets poor, the belly “drops” (previously, it was rounded and was located right behind the ribs – now it looks kind of drooped and closer to the hips). Clear mucus exudes from the vulva and the mom-to-be starts looking for a place for giving a birth to kittens. The parturition (birth) takes place on 58-65 day after mating.
Do cats realize they are going to give a birth to kittens?
Some owners are interested whether cats realize they are pregnant or not. At early stages – definitely not. Female cats behave as usual up to the 3rd week of pregnancy. But, from the 3rd week many female cats become calmer, sleep longer, and behave very carefully when jumping from the bed, for example. Besides they don’t like when the owner touches their belly, but in general they tend to be closer to owners. Probably, cats feel pregnancy, but they are hardly aware of the fact. It’s more about hormonal changes in the body that lead to behavioral change – cats become more careful on the instinctive level.
Nutrition of pregnant cats
Pregnant cats should eat diversified high quality food. If the cat is fed with dry feed, you need to provide your cat with a special diet for pregnant cats. If the owner is an adherent of natural cat feeding, it is necessary to vitamin-mineral complex on the menu but only after consulting your veterinarian.
During the first two weeks of pregnancy the cat should be fed twice a day in normal portions (if the pet is too slim, the portions may be increased by 10%). From the 3rd week the regular portion should be slightly increased. During this period the pregnant cat should be provided with three meals a day. It is important to watch the weight of your pet: the cat should consume enough nutrients and gain some weight, but not due to increase in fat mass. From the fifth week kittens start growing especially actively, the cat’s belly is growing rapidly, and the pressure on the stomach and bladder increases. During this period of pregnancy cats usually have enormous appetite, but they can’t eat a square meal at once (and they don’t need to, as it is an unnecessary load). The cat is fed four-five times a day in small portions. In case of natural feeding you should include more dairy products and lower the amount of muscle meat.
Distinctive signs of pregnancy in cats are the decrease in activity and increase in the time of sleep. Some cats may run and jump as usual even with rounded bellies, but most expectant mothers take care of themselves, giving up games and hunting. On the one hand, it is a definite advantage, because the more relaxed the cat is, the less chance there is for it to get injured. However lazybones quickly become fat and overweight in most cases complicates the birth. Therefore, it is important to entertain your pet, inviting it to play, to make it move and show interest in what is happening. But keep in mind that the load should be adequate, and the games should be safe!
The late state of pregnancy in cats is a period of complete rest. The cat is resting all the time, and moves very carefully, trying not to climb on the furniture. It is important to secure the space, blocking access to your pet’s favorite places located rather high, if any. You shouldn’t disturb the cat during this period, the pet is getting prepared to give a birth to kittens – games can wait.
Leisure of pregnant cats
Sleep quality determines the health of any cat, but for a pregnant female cat healthy sleep is especially important. While pregnant cats are asleep a new life is growing inside their body, it is a complex process, consuming enormous amounts of energy. Therefore, the owner must take care of their pet’s quiet leisure throughout the whole pregnancy period: minimum noise, no loud music and it is desirable to limit the reception of guest in the late pregnancy stages. This will be a kind of preparation for the period of growing kittens, when coziness and quiet in the apartment are very important.
Late pregnancy stage cats spend in the arms of Morpheus – the cat is sleeping most of the day. But with a huge belly it is difficult to get on their favorite shelf or on a high tree for climbing. It is important to ensure the comfortable conditions for your cat: safe cat house, warm pillow or something located in a quiet place and not very high.
Vaccination of pregnant cats
Pregnancy is one of the main contraindications to vaccination. The cat should be vaccinated two months prior to mating, so that it could “share” its strong immunity with the kittens. If the owner has ignored this recommendation, the cat should be vaccinated together with kittens.
For the whole period of pregnancy cats have increased susceptibility to toxic substances, so before mating you should treat the cat against all parasites. Usually a week before mating you should give your cat a pill for worms prevention. If the owner failed to do that – it would be better to wait until the kittens are 4 weeks old. In this case they are given special suspension, and the cat-mother is given a usual medicine for nursing cats.
Prevention of external parasites
During pregnancy cats should be free of external parasites. Fleas, ticks and other insects are carriers of many diseases that can lead to miscarriage. Therefore, it is important to continue prevention. But keep in mind that usual medications against fleas in this period cannot be applied. Most of these products contain pesticides that are absorbed into the blood and into the stomach of the pregnant cat. If the placental barrier won’t manage with its functions the poison can harm the embryos (congenital pathology, deformity, frozen pregnancy, miscarriages).
Carefully read the ingredients of the drug you are going to give to your pregnant pet: it should contain neither pesticides nor other harmful components (it is easy to check carefully reading the label).
It is important to monitor the course of pregnancy in cats, in order to timely notice possible deterioration of health. In the following cases it is necessary to immediately contact your vet:
- the cat refuses to eat for more than 24 hours;
- the body temperature grows above 102 °F or below 100.4 °F (the day before delivery, the temperature may drop to 99.5 °F and it is normal);
- the cat is drinking a lot and breathing hard;
- the cat can be often found licking and cloudy discharge of any color from the vulva is noticed (almost black, green, brown, pink, yellow). If the discharge contains blood, is of red color or has an unpleasant smell – the cat needs urgent medical aid.
Frozen pregnancy in cats
Unfortunately, sometimes one or more embryos stop their development and die. There are dozens of reasons, in particular of infection, pathology of fetus development, hormone disorder and others. Frozen pregnancy in cats is diagnosed symptomatically or by the method of ultrasonic study. If all the embryos are dead, the only thing you can do it to wait for miscarriage under the strict supervision of a veterinarian. If only some of embryos are dead, while others develop normally, it is possible to continue the pregnancy (waiting for the birth of viable kittens together with those that are dead). After the birth, the cat should be examined to make sure there are no embryo particles remained in the uterus. Sometimes it happens that the cat should be spayed or the pregnancy should be terminated via medications causing contractions (if the unviable embryos start rotting inside the uterus).
False pregnancy in cats
False pregnancy in cats, unlike in dogs, is extremely rare. The causes of such a phenomenon aren’t fully studied, but it is believed that it is a natural physiological process, posing no serious hazard to health of a female cat. Moderate symptoms are unobtrusive: drowsiness, increased appetite, cautious movements, and slightly increased nipples. You should consult your vet if:
- false pregnancy is accompanied by pronounced symptoms (belly gets greatly increased, nipples swell, milk exudes, the cat is building a “nest” for kittens, “gives a birth” and “nurses” kittens);
- false pregnancy occurs after each heat or every second or third heat.
In some cases, for normalization of the hormone level specific treatment is required, sometimes vets recommend spaying. Vets only can distinguish false pregnancy from the real one (via palpation, ultrasound or x-ray tests).
If the owner doesn’t want kittens
In such a case as soon as the first signs of pregnancy in cats are noticed the cat should be sterilized. Unfortunately there are no safer methods of abortion in cats. In the late pregnancy stages spaying turns into a complex operation that can undermine the health of your pet.
In addition, many veterinarians due to ethical reasons disagree to perform such surgeries as fetuses are almost formed kittens, not just tiny embryos.
Other ways to terminate cat pregnancy:
Estrogen is a drug injected directly after intercourse that is aimed at pregnancy prevention. Side effects: uterine infections, incurable infertility, hormonal disorders, diseases of the bone marrow functioning.
Prostaglandins are used for causing premature delivery in the first half of pregnancy. After the injection the ovaries must be removed. Side effect: high probability of uterine infection.
Glucocorticoids are used to cause premature delivery. Cat actually gives a birth, but the fetuses are non-viable or dead. It is a traumatic and dangerous process, which often leads to emergency caesarean section.
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