How to Assist a Pregnant Cat in Giving Birth

cat labor

If you have a (queen) that appears to be ready to give birth to her kittens (queening), you probably won't need to do anything but encourage her. You could even wake up one morning to find that your cat has given birth and is feeding her babies peacefully.

Although nature has a way of taking care of itself, you should know how to spot potential problems while your cat is in labor and what you might need to do to help.

Signs of Impending Labor

The duration of a cat pregnancy is roughly 65 days, give or take five days. If you are not so sure how far along your cat is, review the telltale signs that birth is imminent.

  • Nesting: A day or two before labor, your cat will seek out a quiet and safe place to have her kittens. She may choose a spot you make for her or look to hide out in the back of a closet or under a bed.
  • Behavioral Changes: You may notice your cat will begin restless pacing, panting, excessive grooming (especially in the area of her genitals), and excessive vocalization. She will also stop eating.
  • Physical Changes in Labor: Your cat's rectal body temperature may drop below 99 degrees Fahrenheit and she may vomit. You might see the abdomen "drop" a few days before labor, and the cat's nipples might get larger, darker, or pinker.
  • Active Labor Signs: Contractions—the uterine movements that move the kitten down the birth canal—may make your cat yowl through the pain. You may also see a discharge of blood or other fluids.

Supplies for the Birthing

Your cat may choose to hide in order to give birth. You may, however, make a birthing environment out of a cardboard box or a laundry basket filled with towels or blankets. It will be simpler for you to see and attend to the birth if the cat chooses this location.

  • Absorbent pads: Get absorbent pads to line the delivery area. 
  • Towels: You will need clean towels or paper towels to clean the area and stimulate the kittens, if necessary.
  • Nesting box: If you have brought your pregnant cat to the vet, and you know how many kittens to expect, get a nesting box large enough for the brood. Although a cat can have from one to 12 kittens, an average litter is about four kittens. A standard, 8-pound cat should be fine with a box that is 16-inches by 24 inches. The larger the cat, the bigger the box it will need.
  • Heating pad: Put a heating pad in the bottom of the box with a blanket or several towels over it to prevent the kittens from getting chilled. Never place the kittens directly on a heating pad; it can burn them. If the box does not have a lid, then drape a clean towel over the top to hold the heat in and keep out drafts.
  • Refuse bin: You will have a bunch of soiled towels after the birth, so have a laundry basket, plastic bag, or extra box ready for discarding them.
  • Dental floss and clean scissors: If the mother cat does not break away the umbilical cord, you will need to tie it off with dental floss and cut the cord.

The Kitten Birthing Process

The trigger for the birth process is unknown, but factors include the size and weight of the uterus, size and weight of the fetuses, and the hormonal balances of the fetuses and the queen.

During the birth process, rhythmical uterine contractions gradually increase to push the fetus out of the uterus and into the birth canal.

It might take anything from 5 to 30 minutes for a kitten to be born. The queen will remove the amniotic sacs once the kittens are delivered. By cleaning the kittens with her harsh tongue, the mother cat will encourage them to breathe. She'll also gnaw on the umbilical cord about an inch from the kitten's body to cut it. She might potentially consume the placenta. The kittens will instinctively seek for a nipple, latch on, and nurse.

If the kitten is still in its sac and the mother cat ignores it, carefully puncture or tear the membrane pouch and promote the kitten's respiration by gently stroking its nose and mouth with a rough, dry cloth. If the mother cat is having trouble chewing the umbilical cord, wrap dental floss around it 1 inch from the kitten's body and cut the umbilical chord on the mother's side of the tie.

If a placenta does not come out with each kitten, ensure that it is expelled within 24 hours after delivery. One placenta should be provided for each kitten. Counting the placentas is an excellent idea. You will need to consult a veterinarian if the placenta stays in the animal.

Between births, about 30 to 60 minutes may pass, although longer durations are not unusual. If the delay is more than 4-6 hours and you are certain there are still kittens, the queen should be examined by a veterinarian. Regardless of whether the delivery went well or not, your veterinarian should inspect the mother cat and kittens within 24 hours of birth.

Length of Time for the Total Birth Process

It takes, on average, half a day for a queen to give birth to all her kittens. The first kitten should arrive within an hour of the start of active labor.

The will relax in between babies and should be allowed to breastfeed and clean the newly born kittens. If the kittens have been kept in a separate box, return them to the and assist them in finding a nipple. During a period when she is not giving birth, you can give her food, kitten milk replacement, or plain, unflavored yogurt.

If you think the mother hasn't birthed all the kittens after 12 hours, contact an open veterinarian.

Problems During Labor

Fortunately, most queens can deliver their kittens without human intervention. However, some complications may occur.

  • Extended contractions without birth: If your cat is having more than 60 minutes of strong contractions without any progress, take it and any kittens to your vet.
  • Retained placenta: If your cat does not pass each of the placentas, it can lead to a uterine infection. Count each of the placentas, even if the queen eats it. The number of placentas should equal the number of kittens.
  • Kitten lodged in the birth canal: Most kittens are born head-first. Breech (tail-first) births occur about 40 percent of the time and are considered normal. A kitten lodged in the birth canal for more than 15 minutes is likely in distress. Call your vet if a kitten is lodged in the birth canal for more than 10 minutes or if you see green discharge without a kitten following within 15 minutes. Your vet will give you the next steps to follow.
  • Stillborn kittens: It is not uncommon for one to two kittens to be born stillborn. Remove the dead kitten from the area so the mother can continue uninterrupted with birthing the other kittens.
  • Postpartum hemorrhaging: Although some bleeding after giving birth is normal, excessive bleeding or hemorrhaging is an emergency and requires immediate veterinarian attention. If ignored, the mother cat can die. If the regular bleeding continues for more than a week after birth or if the bleeding stops for a day and then starts again, seek veterinary assistance.

Your queen should be caring for and feeding the kittens after they are all born. Your cat's calorie requirements will skyrocket when she is breastfeeding. Make certain she has plenty of kitten formula. Your cat's high-energy nutritional demands will be met by a high-quality kitten formula.

Something is wrong if your cat isn't nursing or eating, appears to be in discomfort, or is drowsy. A bad odor, as well as recurrent bleeding, might suggest an illness or a trapped kitten. If this is occurring to your cat, consult a veterinarian right away.

  • How long does it take for a cat to take birth?

    Feline labor takes from two to six hours.

  • How soon can a cat get spayed after giving birth?

    The mama cat can get spayed once her kittens have weaned themselves, when they are five to six weeks old.

  • How do you prepare a cat to give birth?

    Give your cat a safe and warm place to give birth. Create a nest in a box full of warm blankets and towels that are washable. Place her food, water, and litter nearby.

If you suspect your pet is sick, call your vet immediately. For health-related questions, always consult your veterinarian, as they have examined your pet, know the pet's health history, and can make the best recommendations for your pet.