Signs of pregnancy in cats

pregnancy in cats - ultrasoundIn this article we are going to list the signs of pregnancy in cats. Recently, we talked about ways to prevent pregnancy in cats as a part of our series for owners of female cats. Unfortunately, no matter how protective you are, if you have an unspayed female cat in the household, there is no guaranteed way to avoid pregnancy. Therefore, at one point or another, it might be beneficial to be able to detect signs of cat pregnancy.

This article will also be beneficial for people who breed their cats intentionally and who want to learn about early and later signs of pregnancy in cats, as well as some diagnostic signs that can confirm the onset of labor.

Early signs of pregnancy in cats

Pregnancy in cats lasts for 60 to 67 days, and on average is for 65 days. That’s 9 weeks, approximately.

During the first weeks, signs are not easily noticeable, and it is hard to confirm pregnancy in cats. Nor are there early pregnancy tests for cats, as there are for humans.

Early sings of pregnancy in cats begin to appear at around two to four weeks after mating. They are as follows:

  • Cessation of heat cycle: while there may be several reasons for this to happen, if your cat has come into heat at regular intervals before, but suddenly an unusual peace settles in, either the breeding season is over or your cat may be pregnant or ill. Taken alone, this is not a symptom of pregnancy in cats, but it is usually the first thing noticed by owners of female cats.
  • “Morning sickness” of a cat: this is one of the few things that humans have in common with cats – they both have morning sickness when pregnant. But this is where the similarity ends. While women may suffer for months, cats usually experience morning sickness for only a few days, usually around the 21st to the 27th day after mating. Morning sickness is characterized as vomiting, apathy and decreased appetite. It’s safe to say that if your cat refuses to eat for more than a day, it’s necessary to visit a veterinarian.
  • Increased appetite: unless there is an occurrence of the morning sickness mentioned above, the appetite usually increases after the onset of pregnancy in cats. This is simply because the cat’s energy requirements increase, in order to grow fetuses.

The best way to get an early confirmation of pregnancy in cats is to visit a veterinarian.

  • Abdominal ultrasound: pregnancy can be detected by an abdominal ultrasound as early as 15 days after the mating. However, good results, including detection of kittens’ heartbeats, usually are achieved no sooner than 20 days into the pregnancy.
  • Abdominal palpation: newly formed fetuses can be detected through palpation at the veterinary office as early as 20 days after the mating. (There are health hazards associated with trying to do this at home.)

Later signs of pregnancy in cats

Often, if no attention is paid to the cat’s heat cycle or behavior changes, the signs listed below are the first ones identified. These are often are falsely considered the first symptoms of pregnancy in cats. But in reality, considering how long cats are pregnant, the pregnancy is already past the midpoint when these signs occur:

  • Nipple enlargement and color change: at around 35 days after the mating, your cat’s nipples may become more pink and may swell.
  • Abdominal enlargement: as the fetuses grow, so does the abdomen of the queen; this becomes noticeable starting from day 35 of the pregnancy. When this happens, pregnancy detection by palpation is no longer possible. As the pregnancy comes closer to labor, the abdomen becomes prominently pear-shaped.
  • In-home pregnancy test for cats: starting from day 30, the owner can also use a pregnancy test, which measures the level of the hormone, relaxin. Besides fulfilling other functions, relaxin also widens the pubic bone and facilitates labor; therefore, its level rises significantly as the birth approaches. The downside of this test is that you have to take a blood sample from your cat, which requires some experience. But you can always ask your veterinarian for assistance.
  • Movements of fetuses: As a late sign of pregnancy in cats, we should mention the movements of fetuses, which become visible starting from day 45 of pregnancy. But by the time this happens, the abdomen of your cat will be large, and you likely won’t have any doubt by then that your cat is pregnant.
  • Nesting behavior: as labor approaches, the female cat may search for quiet places and make a nest from soft materials. This is done in order to be undisturbed and safe during the labor, which is why, in uncontrolled settings, kittens are often born without anyone noticing them. Needless to say, if you are a serious breeder, you should try to prevent this by providing a secure and quiet but easily accessible location in which your cat can go into labor.

This article is part of series about the heat cycle in female cats. In the next article, you will learn about false pregnancy in cats, which exhibits some of the same signs as “real” pregnancy.