HEALTH & CARE

How Long are Cats Pregnant: A Complete Guide to Feline Pregnancy

tabby cat with newborn kitten
Martha Harvey
Written by Martha Harvey

Female felines in heat will always want to go out of the house and find a male to satisfy their mating needs. If your smart female cat somehow managed to sneak out and got pregnant, and you are a first-time cat parent, you might be asking how long are cats pregnant.

If you want to know how long are cats pregnant in weeks, the general average is nine weeks. But that bit of info is just the tip of the iceberg. For cat parents who have never experienced having a pregnant cat in the household, a complete guide to cat mating and pregnancy would be extremely helpful. As you prepare for your cat’s pregnancy and impending labor, this article will serve as your step-by-step guide.

pregnant siamese cat lying

Many changes are happening in your cat’s body as your pet is going through gestation. These changes may cause anxiety in your pet and undue stress for you. This guide will tell you what to expect.

First, we’ll give you tips on how to tell if your female feline friend is in heat. We’ll also talk about recognizing cat pregnancy. This article will also give you a week by week guide on what to expect while your cat is pregnant. We will then talk about feline labor. We also give you some tips on what you can do to care for your pregnant cat.

The Heat

Female cat calling Tom

Estrus, oestrus, heat—these terms are all associated with a cat’s reproductive cycle. Estrus is defined in the dictionary as a recurring period wherein a female mammal shows sexual excitability, is receptive to sex, and is capable of conceiving. For pets, we simply use the term heat.

Is Your Cat in Heat?

Behavioral clues can tell you if your female feline or queen is receptive to mating. Recognizing these signs will help you know when to take extra precautions to keep your female cat inside the house to prevent her from getting accidentally impregnated.

To determine if your cat is in heat, here are some behavioral cues.

  • Calling For a Tom. When your cat is meowing or yowling loudly and often sounding as if she is in pain, don’t get worried right away. Rather, observe what other behaviors your cat is showing. Your female feline may simply be calling for toms in the area. However, excessive vocalizing might be a nuisance at night, so just prepare yourself for neighbors calling in to complain.

See Also: How to Get a Cat to Stop Meowing

  • Licking the Genital Area Excessively. By itself, this behavior may signal many conditions, such as urinary tract infection. If possible, check your pet’s genital area for any swelling or discharges.

See Also: How to Tell If Your Cat is Sick

  • Commando Crawling. This is a body posture that shows sexual receptivity. Your cat will assume a crouching posture by raising her rear end in the air while keeping her upper torso close to the ground. Usually, the queen will also keep her tail to one side, to expose her rump. Your cat may tread the carpet or rhythmically move her feet while assuming the position.

  • Overly Affectionate or Excessive Rubbing. A queen in heat will rub her cheeks and chin on almost anything, including the furniture and even your ankles. This is your cat’s way of leaving her smell on whatever she’s rubbing against. Your pet is simply advertising to other cats that she is ready to mate.

  • Wanting To Escape the House. If your indoor cat is in heat, she will want to go outdoors to find a mate. However, this behavior alone is not a definite sign that your cat is in heat unless it is manifested along with the other behaviors mentioned earlier.

See Also: How to Find a Missing Cat

For first-time cat parents, you may worry about your queen when you see these behaviors. Moreover, your cat may also appear distressed or anxious, and she may even show appetite loss. These behaviors usually happen when your cat has not mated even after repeated heat cycles.

When Do Cats Go into Heat?

cat in heat in spring

As with humans, cats also experience their first estrus cycle when they reach puberty. Most cats become sexually mature at the age of six months. However, even if your pet is already half a year old, she may not experience her heat yet if it’s not the season for it.

The breeding season for cats varies depending on temperature, geography, and other environmental factors. If you’re in a tropical region, your cat may have estrus cycles all through the year. If you’re in the northern hemisphere, your female feline will most likely experience heat anytime from January until fall.

Since cats are considered as seasonally polyestrus, they will go into heat multiple times during each breeding season. Note that unlike humans, cats don’t menstruate, so you will normally not see any blood. If your pet does not mate while she is in heat, the estrus cycle will stop as the cat’s hormonal levels eventually decrease. The cycle will start again after two or three weeks.

This will recur until your cat is spayed or neutered. Cats often show aggressive and bothersome behaviors when they are in heat, which is one of the reasons why cat owners often decide to have their pets undergo a sterilization procedure.

See Also: How to Get a Cat Out of Heat

The Pregnancy

pregnant orange and white cat

If you want to know how long are cats pregnant in months, it varies from 2-2.5 months. There are varying estimates of how long a cat’s pregnancy lasts. There are cases when the entire gestation period lasts less than 60 days. And there are also cases when the pregnancy lasts more than 70 days.

The general consensus is that the average cat pregnancy lasts 63-66 days. We will explain the process in detail below:

Week 0: The Ovulation

Unlike with human females where ovulation normally occurs every month, in cats, it happens after mating. When your cat is in heat, it may take several matings before ovulation is triggered. It may take 20 to 50 hours after your cat has mated for ovulation to occur.

Week 1 (1-7 days): The Fertilization

cat's fertilization

Cat eggs are viable for fertilization for around a day. This is why kittens may have different sires if your queen happened to have mated with different toms while ovulating. Here, you won’t see any outward signs of pregnancy yet.

Week 2 (8-14 days): The Implantation

At this stage, the fertilized eggs are just traveling from the oviduct to the uterus to be implanted in the uterine lining. Again, there will be no outward pregnancy signs yet. However, the kittens will start developing inside your cat’s womb.

Although pregnant cats need a lot of assurance and petting, try not to carry your cat when she is already 2-4 weeks pregnant. The kittens are just starting to develop inside your cat’s womb, and if you carry your cat, you may end up unintentionally hurting the kittens.

Week 3 (15-21 days): The Physical and Hormonal Changes

If you’re wondering how long are cats pregnant before they show, it normally takes 13-18 days before any outward changes occur. That’s why during the third week, as the kittens start to develop in your cat’s uterus, your pet will start experiencing physical and hormonal changes.

One of the first symptoms of pregnancy to show, pinking up is a definitive sign that your cat is expecting. Your cat’s nipples will turn a dark pink or reddish color. As her nipples grow larger, your cat will start producing milk.

You will also notice that the hair around your cat’s nipples will start to clear so that later on, the kittens will have easy access to the nipples when they need to feed.

Week 4 (22-28 days): The Morning Sickness

pregnant cat is sick

Just like human females, pregnant cats also experience vomiting, but it’s not just in the morning. It’s normal for pregnant cats to vomit anytime throughout the day. On the other hand, if your cat is vomiting too frequently, then it’s not normal.

See Also: How to Clean Up Cat Vomit

Observe your cat carefully, and if you find that your pet is suffering from a really bad case of morning sickness, you should contact your vet. This is also a good time to take your cat to the vet for an ultrasound for a more definitive confirmation of the pregnancy.

As far as clinical methods to determine feline pregnancy go, breeders use another method that helps them find out if the cat’s mating was successful. They measure your cat’s blood progesterone levels, and the first day the levels go over 2.5ng/ml is usually considered as the first day of pregnancy.

Week 5 (29-35 days): The Swelling

Your cat’s belly will start to swell when she’s already into the second half of her gestation period or when she’s already around 30 days pregnant.

At this point, the kittens should be developing along nicely, but the swelling may not be very noticeable in overweight cats. Your vet may already be able to tell you how many kittens you are expecting through manual inspection of the cat’s belly.

Week 6 (36-42 days): The First Kick

At this time, you can already observe the kittens moving inside their mom’s belly, just like you would notice a human baby kicking inside the womb. Your cat would also be experiencing an increase in appetite. This is because she needs to eat well and stock up nutrients in her body so she can feed her kittens.

As your cat prepares for nursing, make sure your pet gets the right amount of nutrition. There’s no need to make any radical changes in her diet, although you may want to add a calcium supplement in her diet, as this will help prevent eclampsia. Also, make sure your cat has easy access to fresh water and food.

Week 7 (43-49 days): Pronounced Weight Gain

fat pregnant cat

This is the time when your cat’s pregnancy will be extremely pronounced. The belly will be swollen, and your cat may have started gaining weight.

A pregnant cat will certainly gain weight, but it will depend on how many kittens she is having. The usual weight gain is around 2-4 pounds or 1-2 kilos. Your pet’s appetite will increase, and this will also contribute to the weight gain.

Week 8 (50-56 days): Birthing Preparations

At week 8, your cat may shed the fur on her tummy area. Your pet may begin losing her appetite and may spend quite a lot of time grooming. This is also the time when your cat will start nesting and looking for a good birthing spot. Your cat will most probably seek out a quiet area where she will be undisturbed.

If you’ve found a suitable birthing spot for your cat, or if your cat has chosen one for herself, simply cover the area with old blankets, towels, newspapers, or sheets to make it comfortable. If your pet hasn’t found a spot yet, you can make one for her. An old cat bed or a medium-sized box will do.

See Also: Cat Bed DIY

Week 9 (57-63 days): Pre-Labor

cat in her nesting spot

As soon as you see a reddish discharge from your pet’s vulva, you should start preparing for your cat to go into labor. Your cat may appear distressed, or she may stay all day in the nesting spot. A day or two before your cat goes into labor, your pet may stop eating altogether.

As mentioned earlier, breeders have a different approach to determining the first day of pregnancy. So if you took your cat to a breeder, you might be able to predict when your cat is due more accurately.

The Labor

cat licking her abdomen

You will know that your cat is about to go into labor when you see her persistently licking her vagina and abdomen. Your cat’s breathing rate will also increase. Some female felines yowl and vocalize loudly when they go into labor. Other female cats pace about, only lying on their side when uterine contractions actually begin.

When you see your cat alternating between lying on her side and squatting, this is a sure sign that you will be able to see the first kitten within a matter of minutes.

Be careful not to disturb your cat when she is giving birth as this may cause your pet undue stress. A cat’s labor normally ends rather quickly. However, if your cat has been pushing for three hours or more and you haven’t seen any kittens yet, it would be a good idea to contact your vet right away.

See Also: How to Tell If a Kitten is Male or Female

Wrap Up

white cat with newborn kittens

Allowing your cat to play in the great outdoors can make them very happy, but it also poses many risks. When you’ve got a female feline that is in heat, the chances of your pet getting pregnant is quite high if she’s able to meet male cats outside your home. Or, the pregnancy could’ve been induced intentionally because you wanted to meet some cute grandkids.

See Also: How to Get a Kitten to Like You

Either way, for any living being, human, feline, or otherwise, pregnancy is almost always an emotional time. Hopefully, this article will help you mentally prepare for your cat’s pregnancy and enable you to give your cat the support, assurance, and affection she needs while going through pregnancy.

If you have experience taking care of a pregnant cat, please share with us how it was like for you and your pet by leaving a comment. If the kittens have been birthed safely and you’re now wondering how you’re supposed to take care of them, find a detailed guide here.

About the author
Martha Harvey
Martha Harvey

Martha Harvey is a skilled veterinarian and a member of American Veterinary Medical Association from Greeley, Colorado. She has 20 years experience of working in Animal Hospital. Martha loves all of her patients, but her favorite one is the Russian Blue cat Stitch, who lives with her.

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