Research estimates that 63 to 67 days, or nine-weeks, is how long most cats are pregnant. As a foster parent for an animal shelter or rescue group, felines in your care may often have shorter cat pregnancy lengths due to unknown conception dates.
Which signs will tell if a cat is pregnant?
Fostering has many benefits for a cat, and for over-populated shelters and rescue groups. Caring for a pregnant cat ensures she is given a safe, stress-free and calm environment that can save her life and help her litter become healthy adoptable kittens.
If you find yourself fostering a cat, there are three types of signs that can help answer how to tell if a cat is pregnant. Not all cats show all these signs and the best way to confirm if you’re caring for a pregnant cat is to have her examined by the assigned foster care veterinarian team.
|Weight gain||Midnight cat calling stops||Ultrasound|
|Darker nipples called pinking up||Becomes affectionate||X-ray|
|Morning sickness||Noticeable frequent purring|
|White nipple discharge||Infrequent vomiting|
|Swollen abdomen||Increased appetite|
|Intolerance towards other pets|
|Loss of appetite towards labor|
|Nesting happens closer to delivery|
A check-in with the foster team and the veterinary partner could also determine whether a cat has additional health issues causing similar signs of pregnancy. Always follow the recommended advice from the foster home and their partners to ensure the safety of a pet’s well-being.
Week-by-week: Cat gestation timeline
Three weeks into gestation may be the first time that physical cat pregnancy symptoms become visible. Behavioral changes begin as early as two weeks into pregnancy.
As a cat foster parent, being prepared to support her for the remainder of the cat pregnancy length and helping to retain her body condition, weight, and energy level is a priority and requires careful monitoring as her gestation matures week-to-week.
- Week 2: Estrus ends
- The first behavioral sign of pregnancy for a cat is that estrus, also known as a heat cycle, comes to an end.
- Cats are in heat for up to two weeks during breeding season.
- Without estrus, females stop attracting males through long, drawn-out cat calls at night.
- Week 2: Ultrasound/X-ray
- A veterinarian can safely perform an ultrasound or x-ray on your foster cat to check on the development of kittens.
- Week 3: Pinking up
- Three weeks into the cat gestation period, felines show the first visible symptoms of pregnancy called pinking up.
- At this time the cat’s nipples become dark pink, sometimes red, and more noticeable against her usual pale abdomen coloring.
- Week 4: Morning sicknesses
- Some cats experience a similar morning sickness condition to the human version in week four of gestation.
- Nausea and vomiting may initiate food refusal during this time.
- “Morning sickness” occurs at any time during the day and is not limited to mornings.
- Should you observe an abnormally high frequency of vomiting, contact the shelter or rescue group’s veterinarian to have the cat examined, and follow recommendations.
- Week 4: Swollen abdomen
- Cat’s swollen belly becomes more noticeable as she matures in gestation.
- Do not push on or touch her tummy as this may affect the growing kittens.
- If you don’t suspect the cat is pregnant and there is noticeable abdominal swelling, contact the shelter or rescue group veterinarian to have her examined.
- Week 4: Weight gain
- A pregnant feline’s appetite increases as her pregnancy progresses.
- She’ll gain up to 2 – 4 lbs. during pregnancy.
- Always ensure a cat has fresh water available, and set her feeding and drinking bowls on the ground for easier access as jumping up may be difficult for her and could hurt the kittens.
- Week 5: Ultrasound/X-ray
- A veterinarian can determine how many kittens a pregnant cat is carrying by performing a safe ultrasound/x-ray at day 40, or week 5.
- Week 6: Affectionate, frequent purring
- Cats are known to become more affectionate.
- Pregnant cats purr more frequently during the final weeks.
- Felines can be aggressive or intolerant of other pets in the household.
- Week 7: Rest
- As a cat’s pregnancy nears delivery, she spends more time sleeping and resting.
- Her appetite will increase again during this time.
- The best food for pregnant foster cats is kitten food as it contains a high volume of calories.
- Always consult with a shelter or rescue group and the veterinarian before changing a cat’s regular diet.
- Week 8: Nesting
- Two weeks before a feline delivers kittens she will begin nesting.
- A cat starts looking for quiet, warm, safe places to settle into for labor and the birth.
- To minimize her nesting choices, keep doors to rooms, closets and cupboards closed.
- Leave large, cleaned cardboard boxes lined with soft newspaper, paper towels or a washable blanket in a convenient, wind-free, pet-free, low-light areas in the house.
- Week 9: Kittens
- A pregnant cat may refuse food as she enters the final stage of gestation in week nine.
- Kittens usually arrive between 63 and 67 days, or nine to nine-and-a-half weeks.
- Cats can deliver kittens without human interference. Do not help unless it’s an emergency.
- Always consult the shelter, rescue group and veterinarian about what to expect, steps to take in an emergency, and who to contact if help is required.
Which kitten food is best for pregnant cats?
Caring for a pregnant cat through a healthy, safe delivery and then onto a new home begins with a high-calorie diet that will keep her looking and feeling good, while also ensuring her kittens are given the best start in life. Before changing a pregnant cat’s diet, always consult with the rescue group or shelter first.
With the foster team’s approval, gradually transition a cat onto kitten food only, over 7 to 10 days, then continue to feed the same diet three weeks after the litter arrives. Dry kitten food is higher in calories than wet food and provides cat mothers with good quality nutrition that she passes onto her litter during weaning.
|PURINA TOP 3 HIGH-CALORIE KITTEN FOODS|
|41% Protein||40% Protein||40% Protein|
|Pro Plan Focus Kitten||Purina ONE||Purina Kitten Chow Nurture|
|Chicken & rice formula||Chicken formula||25 Essential Vitamins & Minerals|
|Chicken as the #1 ingredient||Real chicken is #1 ingredient||
No artificial colors or flavors
46% Protein per cup
100% Complete & Balanced
|Rich in antioxidants||0% Fillers||Antioxidants help support her healthy immune system|
|Calcium, phosphorus + other minerals||
100% Nutrition – all the nutrition your kitten needs
|Protein helps supports the development of lean muscles|
|Vitamin A||Antioxidants & omegas||High-quality ingredients|
|Linoleic acid, an omega-6 fatty acid||Veterinarian Recommended|
How to end cat homelessness: Spaying
There are 94.2 million cats living in homes in the United States. Overpopulation is cited as one of the biggest problems in shelters, and adoption, spaying or neutering considered the most effective way to minimize homelessness amongst cats.
Since cats can conceive as young as four months, the ASPCA recommends spaying or neutering by five months. As a foster pet parent caring for a pregnant cat, consult with your shelter and rescue group team about when to sterilize felines.
While some veterinarians prefer spaying after weaning in 6 to 8 weeks if she can be quarantined indoors during that time, every team will have a recommendation on a procedure to prevent further unwanted pregnancy.