How Do You Know When Your Cat Is In Labor? 6 Signs Of Labor In Cats

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How Do You Know When Your Cat Is In Labor

The thought of welcoming a new kindle of kittens is always exciting, but the wait can be frustrating and worrisome.

As pet owners of a preggo cat, one thing you ought to do is to prep up for your cat’s queening. And the first thing on the list is to be knowledgeable on the topic: how do you know when your cat is in labor.

Unlike humans who would require the assistance of a midwife or a doctor, cats are often able to deliver their kittens with little help.

However, as your cat’s primary caregiver, it’s a must for you to know a thing or two about a cat’s birthing process, labor, and everything else in between. 

Need-To-Know Cat Labor & Parturition Facts

It takes nine months for a human baby to reach full term. In the realm of cats, it takes approximately nine weeks (or 63-65 days), with the gestation period lasting from 58-67 days. 

However, just like in the human world, some cats deliver their litter prematurely (as early as 58 days), and there are mama cats that give birth post-term (like 70 days). 

How Many Kittens Does A Cat Normally Have?

The average number of kittens a cat usually delivers is 4. However, some cats can just have one while others can give birth to a maximum of 12 cats.

3 Stages Of Labor

Similar to humans, pregnant cats go through 3 stages of labor. Here is a quick rundown of what happens during each stage and what to expect:

First Stage Labor: This stage is characterized by the relaxation of your cat’s cervix and the start of contractions. Your cat’s vulva and anus start to loosen and become longer. 

If it’s your feline friend’s first time giving birth, you can expect them to go through this stage for at most 36 hours. The first stage of kittening for queens who’ve been through this is often shorter. 

Second Stage Labor: Marked by stronger, frequent contractions, the second stage of labor (or the actual delivery) lasts for 5 to 30 minutes. Your cat’s water bag will break, and the kittens will come out either head or back-end first. 

NOTE: The interval between kitten births varies, but on average, it lasts for 10 minutes up to 1 hour.

Third Stage Labor: The third stage labor involves the discharge of the fetal membrane, placenta, or after birth. The number of placentae the mother cat delivers should be equal to the number of kittens.  

How Do You Know When Your Cat Is In Labor? 6 Signs Of Labor In Cats 1

How Do You Know When Your Cat Is In Labor?

6 Telltale Signs That Your Cat Is In Labor

Knowing the exact due date of a pregnant cat is kind of tricky, especially if your female cat is an indoor-outdoor cat that loves to wander off. But, don’t fret! 

If your dear old feline friend is pregnant, here are six sure-fire signs that would tell you that the final week of your cat’s pregnancy is about to end and that she’s just a few hours away from going into labor.

1. Start Of Nesting Behavior

Once the first stage of labor kicks in and your cat feels the first contractions (around 24-48 hours before giving birth), your cat will start feeling restless. She’ll start looking for the perfect birthing place for her newborn kittens. 

2. Cat May Become Reclusive Or Overly Affectionate

When a cat is in labor, you’ll notice a significant behavior change. They either become too dependent or independent.

Many cats go the independent route and would choose to shut you away and hide. Other cats go the dependent route and will become extremely lovey-dovey.

Those who do would choose to stalk one particular caregiver (someone she has a close relationship with) everywhere they go.

3. Display Of Restlessness

You’ll also notice other noteworthy behavior changes during this period. Since your cat will feel restless (and who wouldn’t?), your cat will start to pace around and vocalize loudly. She will also begin to lick her genitalia frequently. 

4. Sudden Drop In Your Cat’s Body Temperature

A cat’s normal temperature falls within the range of 37.8°C to 39.4°C (100-103°F). When a cat’s temperature suddenly drops to below 100°F, this is a clear sign that she’s about to go into labor. 

If you know that your cat is 60 days in her term, you can start checking her rectal temperature. But, in most cases, this isn’t really necessary.

Apart from a decrease in your cat’s body temperature, there are other hints that will tell you that the new baby kittens are on their way.

5. Increase In The Size Of Your Cat’s Mammary Glands

What’s another way to know that your cat is in labor? Mammary glands and changes in their size and color will tell you. 

Most cats usually have eight teats laid out in 2 parallel rows along your cat’s outside body wall. Humans often produce milk months before their due date. On the one hand, milk production in cats often starts two days before your cat starts queening. 

When this happens, her mammary glands will increase in size. The nipples (which darkens at times) may also start to leak or secrete a thick, cream-colored liquid that the queen will just lick off. At times, she will just let this dry up.

6. Significant Decrease In Appetite

During your cat’s last week of pregnancy, your cat will show an increased appetite. However, this will change 2 or 3 days before your cat gives birth. 

Because of anxiety and the weight of her kittens pushing against the mother’s stomach, your cat will suddenly lose interest in eating. 

How Do You Know When Your Cat Is In Labor? 6 Signs Of Labor In Cats 2

Things You Need When Your Cat’s Labor Begins

Yes, it’s true that most cats would like to be left alone when going through this ordeal. However, this does not mean that you should stop caring. 

Once your cat goes into labor, here are a few things you need to help your cat out:

Nesting Box

Although there’s a possibility that your cat may not use it, helping the mama cat set up her birthing place is always a good idea.

A laundry basket or cardboard box will come in handy at this time. The nesting box must be large enough to accommodate your cat and all the kittens.

Make sure to line this with plastic and then newspaper or paper towels on top. Cover it up with a blanket or towels. 

Since newly born kittens cannot regulate their own body temperature, the ideal spot for the nesting box is a dark, secluded, quiet, warm place that’s waft-free.

If you have children or other pets at home, you must ensure that the box is out of their reach.

Refuse Bin

It’s going to get really dirty when your cat starts pushing hard. As such, it’s a must for you to have a bin ready. You’ll find this helpful when you need to throw away the dirty bedding and newspaper.

Preparing an extra box and an extra set of towels is also good since the old one might already be too dirty once your cat is done delivering all her kittens.

Sanitized Scissors & Dental Floss

You might need this in case the mother cat finds it hard to break away the cord. 

Possible Birthing Problems & What To Do 

So, it’s your cat’s final week, and her due date is fast approaching. You already know all the signs of labor and the things you need when it happens. If you think you’re all set up, think again. There are, in fact, other important things worth knowing. 

As cat owners and your cat’s primary caregiver, it’s your responsibility to watch your cat’s birthing process closely.

After all, complications may still arise while she’s in active labor. If this happens and veterinary care is in need, your cat could at least count on you to do the needful. 

Cat Is Unable To Bite Off The Umbilical Cord

The mother cat usually licks the membrane of the kitten to stimulate breathing and bites off the umbilical cord after a kitten is delivered.

If she can’t, you’ll have to cut it by tying a string of dental floss around the cord (at least one inch from the kitten’s body). After that, you can cut the cord from the mother’s side of the tie.

Interrupted Labor

It is usual for cats to go through a resting period while giving birth. After giving birth to a few kittens, the cat may take a break to eat and nurse her kittens. The resting stage often lasts for 24-36 hours. 

If you think that more kittens should be on their way but the queen stops straining, give your vet a call for expert advice.

Retained Placenta

If your cat delivers 4 kittens, she’s is supposed to expel the same number of placenta. A placenta typically passes right after the delivery of each kitten. 

But, there are times that the second kitten quickly follows after the delivery of the first kitten. Either way, the cat will most likely eat this nutrient-filled membrane after. 

If 24 hours have passed after giving birth and your cat has not expelled all the placenta, contact your vet immediately.

Other Reasons To Call Your Vet

Apart from the complications mentioned above, here are other problems that will require immediate veterinary care.

  • If your cat’s pushing hard and straining for over 30 minutes, but there’s still no sign of a kitten
  • A kitten that is lodged in your cat’s birth canal isn’t delivered after ten minutes of intense labor
  • Trying to gently pull on a trapped kitten causes pain for the mom cat.
  • Excessive bleeding for over 10 minutes
  • Lethargy, fever, or a foul-smelling discharge is observed after your cat gives birth
How Do You Know When Your Cat Is In Labor? 6 Signs Of Labor In Cats 3

Food For Thought

While cats can do things on their own, we can’t ignore the possibility of problems arising during your cat’s pregnancy. As such, you need to watch your cat closely. 

Yes, you might have to sacrifice sleep and all, but that’s what fur parents are for. Like a mom patiently waiting for her daughter to give birth, a fur parent must also prepare for the worst.

So when the time comes, make sure to have your cat’s birthing place all set up and your vet’s number handy.

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