One of the most exciting moments of a pregnancy is when you can feel the fetus moving inside the womb. The presence of life is one to be cherished.
There was once when I actually witnessed a cat giving birth to newborn kittens. My friend found a pregnant cat in distress and took her home to foster. It was pretty surreal seeing little flicks and pokes coming from the inside of the queen’s tummy as her unborn kittens were ready to come out of the mother cat.
If you have a pregnant cat, do you know when you can start feeling the kittens move in a pregnant cat? Movement from the unborn kittens inside the mother cat is most noticeable about 2 weeks before the due date. It is also possible to notice the kittens moving as early as 3-4 weeks. There are some factors that will also determine how noticeable these movements are.
In this article, we will be looking at the different pregnancy phases of a cat to allow pet owners to better understand the life cycle of a kitten from an embryo to a tiny little furball.
The Different Phases of A Cat Pregnancy
The gestation period of a cat lasts about 62-65 days or roughly 9 weeks in total. This is the time it takes for a female cat to develop the tiny kitten embryos into full-sized kittens that are ready for birth.
Weeks 1- 4
Most pet owners won’t be able to tell if their female cats are pregnant during this period, even if they are expecting.
There will be some behavioral changes like the cat eating more, the occasional morning sickness and being more affectionate than usual.
Your pregnant cat will be experiencing huge hormonal changes that can make her cranky one moment and extremely loving the next.
Around week 4, the placenta that is providing nourishment to the embryos will release a hormone called prolaxin. The cat’s nipples will also start to grow in size and get darker in color.
This is when a blood test can be done to see if the cat is really pregnant.
Weeks 4 – 8
It is during this period that you can really start to see a change in the cat’s physical appearance.
The fetuses will start to have a growth spurt and the mother cat’s body will begin to make more room for her kittens.
Her pelvis will get wider, her belly will start to swell up and she will gain weight.
The vet will be able to do a scan after week 6 to try and determine the size of the litter. It won’t always be accurate but it will give you a good idea of how many kittens to expect. Sometimes, pregnant cats can take a short break in between kittens so it’s good to know when your cat is completely done giving birth.
At this stage, your cat’s tits will also be more obvious as compared to the first few weeks.
It is time for that big day. Your cat is ready to give birth and will start to show signs of eating less and looking for a place to nest.
She might also start to leak milk and have contractions. At this point, it is best to just observe your cat and let her do her job of pushing out her kittens.
Do Kittens Move A Lot Before Birth?
It depends on how far your cat is in her pregnancy. Before the fourth week, the kittens are still too small to make any noticeable movements in her belly.
You might feel some bumps in your cat’s tummy after five weeks but it might feel more like food in her intestines.
Most kittens develop their nerves and muscles by the fifth week so this is the time when you can start to notice small movements as the kittens start to toss and turn in the uterus.
The majority of breeders that I spoke to usually see the kittens moving about 2 weeks before the mother cat gives birth. Sometimes, it can be as early as 3-4 weeks before the due date.
How Can You Tell How Far Along A Cat Is In Pregnancy?
It isn’t possible to accurately gauge how far into the pregnancy your cat is by just eyeballing it. The most accurate way to tell is for the vet to do a scan to ascertain the size of the unborn kittens.
However, here are some visible signs that you can use to roughly gauge the stage of your cat’s pregnancy.
Your cat’s tits will start to grow and protrude more while turning darker in color during the first 20 days.
A Growing Tummy
Noticeable growth in the cat’s pelvis and abdomen usually starts to happen after week 4. Your cat’s appetite will also start to increase during the later stages of her pregnancy as her unborn kittens start to demand more nourishment.
If you happen to see movement coming from within her tummy, that could be another sign that your cat is around 5-6 weeks pregnant.
About 24 hours before your cat gives birth, she will stop eating and appear agitated. She will also be licking her genitals more often followed by some discharge.
Why Can’t I Feel My Pregnant Cat’s Kitten Moving?
Assuming that it has already been more than 5 weeks and you can’t feel any movement from the kittens inside, should you start to worry?
There are a couple of factors that determine the ease of detecting movement from the kittens.
The Size Of The Litter
The average litter size for most cats ranges from 4-6 kittens. There are some cat breeds like the Siamese that can have up to a whopping 12 kittens at one go!
The rule of thumb is the larger the litter, the less noticeable will be the movements due to how closely packed the kittens are, like sardines in a can. There is hardly room for the kittens to move if the mother cat has a large litter.
The Size Of Your Cat
Even if your cat is expecting a small litter, the size of your cat will also determine if it is easy to feel or see the kittens moving.
For small cat breeds like the Munchin or Singapura, it will definitely be easier to see and feel the kittens moving. But larger cat breeds like the Maine Coon or Savannah, it won’t be easy as there’s more space for the kittens to move around in the tummy.
If your pregnant cat is showing signs of bleeding from the vagnia or seems to be in discomfort, it would be better to seek veterinary advice.
There isn’t a way to tell if the kittens are still alive and healthy without doing a proper scan at the vet.
Kitten movements tend to get more vigorous as the mother cat approaches labor. If you have always noticed movement and then it stops out of the blue, you should bring in your cat to the vet for a check.
Does A Pregnant Cat Belly Feel Hard?
Your cat’s belly will definitely feel harder than it was before the pregnancy. This is due to the large amount of amniotic fluid and the growing kittens in her belly that are putting extra pressure on the abdominal walls.
This will stretch out the belly skin and make it feel harder.
Be careful when you are handling your cat’s tummy when she is pregnant. It will be a very sensitive area and any impact to this area can cause harm to both the mother and kittens.
How To Prepare Your Cat For Birth?
There are a couple of things that you can do to make your cat more comfortable and make the delivery process safer for both mother and her kittens.
Keep It Warm
Make sure to keep the mother indoors and away from the cold. The mother cat and her kittens need a warm environment (90 F) to stay healthy.
The entire litter is at risk of dying if it is too cold as kittens can’t regulate their body temperature. The majority of newborn kittens die from hypothermia.
Prepare A Comfortable Nest
Your pregnant cat will need a suitable place to have her kittens. A big box that is easy for her to get in and out of would be ideal.
Put some old towels inside the box and place the box in a room that is quiet.
Prepare Some Kitten Food
The mother cat should be able to adequately nurse all her kittens. But in the event that 1 or 2 of her kittens can’t get enough time on her tits, be prepared to hand feed them with kitten milk formula.
Do not feed kittens other types of milk or cat food, you can get kitten milk from the vet.