Having a cat that is pregnant and is about to give birth can be really exciting. Welcoming kittens into the world can also be a nerve-wracking experience.
The birthing experience for most cats will be a smooth one. Mother cat and kittens will be fine together after a few hours of labor.
But for a cat parent that is watching new life unfold before your eyes, can you tell when your cat is done giving birth?
After birthing, your cat will start to relax and start nursing her kittens. The end of her contractions usually signifies that all kittens have been born. A gentle press on her abdomen can help confirm if all the kittens are out.
We will guide you through the signs indicating your cat is done giving birth, equipping you with the knowledge to navigate this challenging situation.
How Do I Know When My Cat Is Done Giving Birth?
Most cat parents will be worried if they have no experience with a pregnant cat or if the cat has never been through the birthing process.
Your cat won’t be in a position to verbally tell you when all the kittens are out.
But will careful planning and observation, there are some important signs to look out for.
Get An Ultrasound Done At The Vet
As with all expecting mothers, regular checkups with the OB-GYN are required to prevent any hiccups during childbirth.
You should be doing the same thing for your female cat before she goes into labor.
Get an ultrasound done by the vet to estimate how many kittens are in the tummy.
It might not be the exact number but it will be the most accurate way of knowing the litter size.
This is especially important for certain cat breeds with large litter sizes like the Siamese or Burmese.
These cats can have up to 12 cats per litter!
With a rough figure in mind, you will be able to make sure that all kittens are accounted for.
Feel For Contractions
When your cat goes into labor, she will be experiencing strong contractions.
Contractions are necessary to help push the kittens out of her womb and birth canal.
You should be able to visually notice your cat’s contractions or feel them by gently placing your hand on her tummy.
Her stomach will be contracting and releasing.
If she is still having contractions, it means that she is still in the birthing process.
Feel For Remaining Kittens
While feeling for contractions, make sure to physically feel for any kittens that might still be in your cat’s tummy.
If the cat is still in labor, the kitten would feel like a small potato lodged in the stomach.
Do note that it can be hard to feel for the tiny kittens at times with the excess fluid in her stomach.
Make sure to not press her stomach area too hard or you might injure the kittens as they are still very fragile.
Look out for visible signs of her kittens moving about in her tummy. That should give you a good indication as to how many more unborn kittens are left.
If you have ever seen a pregnant woman in the midst of giving birth, you’ll understand that it isn’t the most pleasant of experiences.
She will be in pain and discomfort.
The same goes for your cat in labor.
Here’s a short clip of a feline birthing process.
Your cat will be restless and licking her privates often if there are still kittens in her.
She will probably be meowing or yowling and changing positions frequently.
Changing positions helps the cat get into the best posture for pushing the kitten out.
Paying More Attention To The Kittens
During the initial part of kittening, the mother cat won’t be too bothered with her kittens.
But as she nears the end of her labor, she will start to lick and clean her newborn kittens.
If after an hour or so she still seems restless and moving about, it means that there are kittens in her.
Once your cat begins to settle down, showing more attention to her kittens and consuming the placenta (which is completely normal), it typically indicates that all her kittens have been delivered.
Watch Her Breathing
A cat in labor will be huffing and puffing like the big bad wolf.
Her breathing might also be happening at a quicker pace as her body demands more oxygen for the task at hand.
She will usually start to pant or breath harder during her contractions.
Her breathing will slowly return to normal once she is out of labor.
How Long Does It Take For A Cat To Finish Giving Birth?
A cat in labor will go through certain phases.
This begins with the first stage where the female cat will start to settle down to give birth.
She will be eating a lot lesser, acting restless and her own body temperature will drop a little.
This phase alone can last between 24 to 36 hours.
Once she is ready, the strong contractions in her tummy will start to push the first kitten out of her birth canal.
Once the cat has started to give birth to kittens, the phase can last anywhere between two to sixteen hours, largely depending on how large her litter size is.
Labor can also last longer for cats who are giving birth for the first time.
What Complications Can Occur During Feline Labor?
Most cats can handle their own pregnancies without much trouble.
However, there can be times when complications can arise during labor:
- Prolonged labor
- Uterine inertia
- Retained placenta
- Postpartum bleeding
The complications that your cat can face are similar to what can happen to humans too.
It would be good to give your vet clinic a heads-up when your cat is in labor.
This allows them to be prepared if you need to rush your cat and her kittens down for medical attention.
You should also bring the mother and all her kittens to the vet for a checkup one or two days after the labor process is over.
A Stalled Or Interrupted Labor
There will be some cats whose bodies will tap the pause button on the labor process. Your cat will behave as if she has given birth to all her kittens.
But in fact, there could still be one or two left unborn in her womb.
There’s really no way to tell that your cat is going through a stalled labor unless you know the exact number of kittens she should have or you can still feel a kitten or two in her.
I have a friend whose cat went into a stalled labor for 24 hours. She thought that her cat was done with labor.
She had a pleasant surprise when she come back and counted an extra kitten in the litter.
Usually, the stalled labor will commence safely and the female cat will give birth to the remaining kittens and end her labor thereafter.
How To Prepare For Your Cat’s Pregnancy?
Before your cat’s due date, prepare for her a birthing box or next that she can give birth in. Make sure that the box is large enough for her and her litter.
Would be good to have the sides of the box that is high enough to prevent the kittens from climbing out.
Kittens are born blind and afraid hence we don’t want them trying to find a way out of the birthing box.
Line the box with soft towels and blankets that can be thrown away after the birthing process.
Even though our cats have been domesticated, cat owners do not really have to intervene much during the labor process.
It would be best to leave your cat alone in the room alone and observe the kittening from afar.
If you have kids or other pets that can interfere with the labor, use a webcam to monitor the queen and keep the door closed.
What To Do After My Cat Has Given Birth?
Do not touch or handle the kitten when they are newly born as the mother has yet to imprint her scent on them.
Only do so if you to help remove the membrane from the kitten to allow air into the kitten’s lungs.
Doing so might cause the mother cat to think that the kitten isn’t hers and ignore it.
Make sure that the mother cat is looking after and feeding her kittens well.
It is a good idea to bring the whole group to the vet after 1-2 weeks for a check up just to be sure everybody is fine.
How Do Mother Cats And Kittens Recognize Each Other?
One interesting fact to know about is that kittens are born temporarily blind and deaf. They will start to form these senses after 2 weeks.
But they will still have their keen sense of smell from day one.
When the mother cat is almost done kittening, she will start to clean and lick her kittens religiously when no more kittens are born.
By licking her kittens, the mommy cat will leave her scent on her kittens so that she will know who belongs to her litter.
In return, her kittens will start to knead at her nipples to produce milk and imprint their own scent on the mother.
Having the opportunity to experience your cat giving birth to her kittens is an amazing thing. Remember to keep calm and let the mother cat handle her own pregnancy.
Only intervene if you need to help save the life of the mother cat or any of her kittens.
Why Is My Cat Leaving Her Newborn Kittens?
A mother cat may briefly leave her kittens to fulfill basic needs such as eating or using the litter box. Prolonged absences or neglect could signal health issues or environmental stressors, warranting a vet consultation.
Why Is My Cat’s Stomach Still Big After Giving Birth?
Your cat’s belly might still appear large due to leftover pregnancy fat and skin stretching. If the enlargement persists, it could indicate serious complications like unborn kittens or retained placentas, requiring urgent vet care.
What Do You Feed A Mother Cat After Giving Birth?
Your cat’s diet should not deviate too much from the norm. She might be eating less or more than usual for a few days but should be back to her usual self soon.