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How to Tell If a Cat is Pregnant: Know the Signs So You Will Be Prepared

Pregnant cat lying on floor
Martha Harvey
Written by Martha Harvey

This happens to every cat owner—their pet slips outside for a day or two, and after some time, they suspect that their feline friend is pregnant. This worry is not unfounded because queens can get pregnant after only one encounter with a tom. The problem is, her belly won’t start bulging until the latter stages of her pregnancy—and even then you could mistake it for a pot belly. There are more accurate solutions to the question “how to tell if a cat is pregnant.”

male cat licking female cat

You don’t have to take your cat to the vet to be absolutely certain that your feline friend is pregnant. If you know what to look for, you won’t miss the many signs of pregnancy present in a gestating cat. You should be able to tell if your cat is pregnant as early as week 3 or 4. Once you’ve confirmed the truth, you’ll be able to prepare for the exciting arrival of new family members.

In this article, we will look at the surefire ways to spot a pregnant feline. It doesn’t matter if the pregnant one is your cat or if you’re trying to learn how to tell if a stray cat is pregnant. You will also learn the signs that she is nearing labor. After reading this article, you will become more able in spotting a pregnant cat. And in case your cat becomes pregnant, you can at least start preparing for her labor and even in helping her take care of her newborn kittens.

Early Signs of Cat Pregnancy

tabby pregnant cat

A pregnant cat is also fondly referred to as a queen. Queens are known to be incredibly efficient breeders who can get pregnant twice a year if they have access to toms. They can be impregnated as early as four months into their life unless they have been spayed.

Cats will go into heat before mating. Most cats won’t have any physical changes like genital discharge during this stage, but you may observe some behavioral changes like yowling and rolling around which indicate that the feline is in heat. Now if your cat suddenly stops exhibiting those behaviors after meeting male cats, then it is likely due to her being pregnant.

Feline pregnancy usually ranges from 63 to 67 days. During the nine-week pregnancy, your cat will go through different physical and behavioral changes. The physical signs of pregnancy won’t be noticeable until the third or the fourth week of it. At that point, you can look for these signs in your cat:

Early Signs #1: Nipple Changes

nipple of pregnant cat

This is considered to be the most obvious physical change in pregnant cats. You’ll know that a cat is pregnant when her nipples become more prominent than usual. Her nipples will start to swell and enlarge as her body prepares to feed her kittens. The color also changes to pink—a process which is called ‘pinking up.’

In case you are not familiar with where her nipples are, simply look around the belly area. Unlike us, humans, felines have their nipples below the chest area. You may even find their nipples an inch or two away from their pelvis.

Their nipples are quite small with a diameter of about 1 centimeter. Because of their thick layer of fur, it may be hard to find the nipples in a non-pregnant cat. For pregnant cats, it is different because the enlarged size of the nipples makes it easier for pet owners to spot this body part.

Early Signs #2: Morning Sickness

pregnant cat is sick

Just like us, humans, felines also experience morning sickness when they are pregnant. However, cats will exhibit signs of morning sickness for only a few days—unlike human mothers-to-be who can experience morning sickness for weeks or even months.

How would you know that your pet is going through morning sickness? Look for short bouts of vomiting. This usually happens towards the 4th week. She’ll throw up a lot due to the changes in her hormones. She may not also be as receptive to as she used to be. And her appetite may be affected to the point where she will often ignore the food you have prepared for her.

Other Symptoms in the Latter Stages of Pregnancy

By the second half of her pregnancy or 4 weeks into gestation, your pet will be exhibiting more obvious signs of pregnancy. Her nipples will continue to grow larger. She would start licking the area around her nipples in a bid to remove the fur so that her kittens will have an easier time looking for those body parts in the future.

Aside from continued changes in her nipples, you should look out for these pregnancy symptoms:

Latter Signs #1: Swollen Belly

swollen belly of pregnant cat

At around the 30th day of gestation, a pregnant cat will start developing a swollen and rounded abdomen. But like the nipples, it may not be that easy to spot. An overweight cat, for instance, may appear to have a rounded belly. So how can you differentiate a fat cat from a pregnant one?

One way to do so is to look at the other parts of her body. Does she have fat in her neck and legs? Fat cats tend to have fat all over their body and not just in the tummy. In case your cat turns out to be overweight, check out this article to learn about how to help her lose weight.

Pregnant cats, on the other hand, have a bulging tummy especially when viewed from the side. In fact, pregnant cats look like they’ve swallowed a ball judging by the appearance of their tummies. Cat breeders who are experienced enough may even be able to feel the kittens as they wriggle around in their mother’s stomach. Some can even tell how many kittens there are. However, this is not recommended for neophyte cat owners as they may press down on the tummy too hard and pose risks of miscarriage.

Latter Signs #2: Behavioral Changes

pregnant cat meowing loudly

It is during the middle stages of pregnancy when your pet will exhibit many behavioral changes. One of the most common behavioral changes that pregnant cats will go through is becoming more attention-seeking with their masters. She would want to follow you all day long.

A queen may also stroke her rounded side against your leg while purring. She may even become more vocal as she tries to get your attention. Also, due to the many physical changes, she is experiencing, your cat will likely rest more. She will become sleepier, quieter, and calmer. Allow her to get the rest that she deserves.

Latter Signs #3: Increased Appetite

cat eating much

As the queen enters her sixth week of pregnancy, her appetite will increase significantly. She will have an insatiable appetite. This is normal as she tries to build up her food stores to feed her kittens. Make sure that your pregnant cat has access to good quality and nutritionally balanced food during this crucial period.

The caloric needs of a pregnant cat will double in the last six weeks of her pregnancy. This means that if she is used to eating a cup of food per day, then it is possible for her to consume up to 2 cups. A few days before giving birth, her appetite will drop noticeably. So that’s one clue for you to know that your queen is past the gestation stage and is about to go into labor.

Latter Signs #4: Weight Gain

Like humans, cats will also gain weight during pregnancy. The weight gain becomes apparent by the seventh week of pregnancy. The weight gain will make her stomach look very rounded. Don’t worry about overfeeding her; she needs every bit of the calorie she can get to feed her young.

Latter Signs #5: Enlarged Mammary Glands

By the eighth week, the mammary glands of pregnant cat will become firm, large, and prominent. The nipples will also become pointed. Nearing the end of her pregnancy, those mammary glands will also begin to produce milk. You may notice a yellow-colored discharge from the mammary glands. Called colostrum or first milk, it contains powerful antibodies that can help her kittens fight off diseases before their own immune systems become mature.

Latter Signs #6: Balding on the Belly

pregnant cat's bald belly

As she enters her final two weeks of pregnancy, the queen may have some balding on her belly. Don’t panic if you notice this development as it is a natural process—particularly in cat breeds with a lot of hair. The hair should grow back after she has delivered her young.

Signs that Your Cat is Ready to Give Birth

orange cat hiding in box

Aside from the sudden decrease in appetite, there are other signs that can indicate your pet is about to give birth.

  • Many queens will start to sleep more when their labor nears. While cats are notorious for sleeping a lot, a pregnant cat who’s nearing her labor will sleep even more than usual.

  • They will also begin looking for a hidden area in the house where they can give birth. This is called nesting. It is possible that you will find your pet snooping in closets and under the bed. You can help her by lining old and clean linens in a box with low sides so that she can easily move in and out of it. Then place it in an area that’s far from the reach of children.

  • As she gets closer to giving birth, your pet will become restless in anticipation of the big day. It is not uncommon for pregnant felines to pace around the house during the times they are awake.

  • Her affectionate ways will also continue. At times, the cat may opt to stay with one family member—one that she is particularly close with.

  • You may also notice her excessively licking her genitalia. This is one concrete sign that she is in the early stage of labor. As her cervix starts dilating, there will be a clear discharge from her vagina. Called mucus mug, this discharge protected her cervix during the pregnancy. Her excessive licking means that contractions should soon follow.

  • The cat’s body temperature will also drop significantly when she is about to go into labor. Normally, a cat’s body temperature is between 100 and 102 degrees Fahrenheit. But when she is ready to give birth, her body temperature drops to under 100 degrees. You can check her body temperature by using a special ear thermometer for pets. It is often the safest, easiest, and most accurate way. However, this kind of thermometer isn’t cheap. You can also try taking her temperature by placing a thermometer in her armpit—although it may be uncomfortable for her. Don’t try to take her temperature rectally, though, as it can bother and even hurt your pet.

What to Do In Case There are Birth Complications

vet examining cat

While most cats give birth without any problem, it doesn’t mean that your cat will definitely be just as lucky. There are certain cases which can trigger the need for you to bring your cat to the vet. Here are some tell-tale signs:

  • The labor goes beyond seven to eight hours

  • One kitten is stuck in the birth canal, and you can’t pull it out

  • The kittens look weak

  • The mother cat looks lethargic to the point where she won’t nurse her kittens. She also refuses to eat or drink

Be sure to take her to the vet immediately if you notice any of these signs so they can help your cat safely get through these trying times.

Wrap Up

cat lying with newborn kitten

Just like with humans, feline pregnancy is a wonderful thing. Female cats are very efficient breeders that they can easily get pregnant even after only a single encounter with male cats. Thus, don’t be surprised if you find out that your cat is now pregnant after being out of your radar for a day or two.

Cat pregnancy lasts for nine weeks. You can expect to see some physical signs of pregnancy in week 3 or 4. Changes in her nipple’s appearance and morning sickness characterized by vomiting and a lack of energy are the first few noticeable physical signs of pregnancy.

As her pregnancy enters weeks 4 and 5, the changes in her body will become more apparent. Her belly starts to balloon. She will also gain weight; her body will look like a burrito after week 6. She will also become more interested in eating. And yes, your queen will become more affectionate with you.

Towards the latter part of the pregnancy, your cat will have enlarged mammary glands. She will also start looking for a quiet and concealed area where she can give birth. And when you notice her licking her genitalia, then you can be sure she is ready to do so!

Now that you know how to tell if a cat is pregnant, you can start observing your furry friend—especially after she gets the chance to encounter felines of the opposite sex. Do you think your cat is pregnant? Has she ever been pregnant before? What did you do to help her feel more comfortable during this sensitive time? Please share any story or experience you have in the comments section below.

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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