How Do I Know If My Cat Is Pregnant?

Sleeping more? Yes. Swollen pink nipples? Yes. Weight gain and enlarged abdomen? Congratulations… Your cat may very well be pregnant.

Learn how to tell if your cat is pregnant, even when it's not so obvious as with this cat.

If you have a female cat that has not been spayed, chances are you are familiar with the heat cycle that occurs and how frequently your cat experiences it. A break in the cycle might mean your cat is pregnant, but there are other symptoms that can be signs of an impending arrival of tiny furballs.

Symptoms of Pregnancy

Besides the heat cycle changing, your cat may have recently been outside, escaped or been around a male cat (tom cat) that was not neutered. If you suspect your cat might be pregnant or notice some new symptoms you can’t identify, see if they match these pregnancy symptoms:

  • Swollen pink nipples (usually the earliest sign)
  • Sleeping more
  • Increased appetite
  • Vomiting (some is normal; excessive vomiting requires a trip to the vet)
  • Abdomen increases in size or belly starts hanging lower
  • More affectionate
  • Weight gain
  • Seeks out quiet and/or secluded areas for birthing (closer to the end of pregnancy)

Your veterinarian can examine the cat and confirm pregnancy by feeling the abdomen carefully, and performing an ultrasound or hormonal test. The total time of a pregnancy is around nine weeks but can vary.

She’s Pregnant. Now What?

Once the pregnancy has been confirmed, you need to decide what to do based on how far along the cat is in her pregnancy. One option is abortion and should be discussed with your vet on its possibility and availability, and prepare to discuss this decision with other family members. The other option is to allow your cat to go to full term and deliver the kittens.

If you decide to allow the pregnancy to go to term, make arrangements for the kittens’ care in your home or contact local shelters or rescues to make arrangements. Assuming you’ve had the vet checkup and have discussed vaccinations and medical concerns, you’ll next need to look at dietary needs.

Your pregnant cat needs a nutrient-rich diet during her pregnancy and fresh, clean water at all times. As you get closer to her birth (about 2-3 weeks to go), add a high-quality food. Your cat will probably eat more often but in less quantities, so prepare for multiple feedings throughout the day. Keep your cat indoors during this time to minimize risks to her and her fetuses.

Potential Pregnancy Problems

Not every pregnancy goes as planned, and there are some risks involved that you should be prepared to address with a trip to the nearest animal emergency facility.

Eclampsia is a life-threatening condition with symptoms such as restlessness, pacing, panting, drooling, loss of coordination, muscle spasms or seizure-like movements. Secondly, the fetuses can abort naturally. Signs that this may have happened may include fever, bleeding, behavioral changes or other changes. Lastly, resorption occurs when the mother’s body absorbs the dead fetus.

Any of these instances are serious and need to be addressed by a vet immediately.

Did You Know?

  • Cats can skip a heat cycle and may even show signs of pregnancy without being pregnant (false pregnancy).
  • Naturally aborted fetuses may be eaten by the mother.
  • Family members can and will mate if they have access to each other. It’s not about being brother and sister that matters to cats; it’s just about having the right equipment.

Photo: Jsome1/Flickr

Kristine Lacoste

View posts by Kristine Lacoste
Kristine Lacoste, editor in chief of Petful, has been researching dog and cat breeds for nearly a decade and has observed the animals up close at dog shows in both the United States and the United Kingdom. She is the author of the book One Unforgettable Journey, which was nominated for a Maxwell Award from the Dog Writers Association of America, and was host of a weekly pet news segment on the National K-9 Academy Radio Show. In addition, she was the New Orleans coordinator for Dogs on Deployment, a nonprofit that helps military members and their pets, for 3 years. Kristine has researched and written about pet behaviors and care for many years. She holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology, another bachelor’s degree in English and a Master of Business Administration degree.

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