Giving birth in the cat
Before the gestation period
It is wise to vaccinate the cat before pregnancy so that the kittens are well protected by the antibodies in the mother's milk. Vaccination is not desirable during pregnancy.
De-worming before pregnancy is important because the kittens are infected with roundworm larvae through their mother's milk. This can also be done safely during pregnancy with a milbemax tablet, a pipette profender or a stronghold pipette (also against fleas).
During the gestation period
The gestation period of a female is on average 63-64 days after mating (up to 70 days can be normal). Checking whether your cat is actually pregnant can be done in several ways:
- By scanning the abdomen between 21 and 34 days of gestation with you hands. At this age, ampoules (where the kitten settles in the womb) can sometimes be felt by the vet. However, this method does not provide 100% certainty. In addition, the cat's nipples become larger around 28 days of gestation.
- More certainty gives an ultrasound of the abdomen from 35 days of gestation.
- An ultrasound is less suitable for the exact number of kittens and it is better to make an X-ray from day 45 until delivery, but we recommend this between 50-55 days of gestation. This allows us to estimate the size of the kittens in relation to the mother's birth canal. And at that moment the stress is not too high for the heavily pregnant mother cat.
During the first period of pregnancy, your female cat will increase in size by 2/3 but she should not gain more than 40% of her ideal weight.
Our advice is to start giving 10% more food every week from week 6 and not before. From week 8, you gradually switch over to an energy-rich diet within a week. This food can also be given during milk production, and the kittens can eat it from about 4 weeks of age. We recommend Hills kitten food.
In the last week, the mother cat is often less hungry. The kittens now take up a lot of space. It is advisable to give small amounts of food often.
An ideal place to give birth is a spacious bench / loft, in which there is room for the birth. A box in a draft-free quiet place is fine.
Often, however, cats themselves choose an unexpected place to give birth to the kittens. It is also normal that the mother cat reacts strongly to other cats.
It is possible that the cat loses a small amount of blood 1-2 weeks before delivery. This does not have to mean anything, but our advice is to have an ultrasound made in that case to determine whether the kittens are still alive.
When will my cat give birth and how will the delivery take place
Symptoms that could predict birth include the urge to nest, being less active and a loss of appetite. The decreased activity and appetite often indicate that the birth will occur within 12-24 hours. However, these symptoms are not an accurate clue to determine the onset of birth.
Birth consists of 2 phases, the dilation phase and the expulsion phase.
- In the dilation phase, the vagina and cervix will dilate. But you don't see that on the outside of the cat. 6-12 hours after the start of this dilation, the expulsion phase will begin.
- The expulsion phase can last between 4-42 hours. This is where the kittens are born. Both a head or a breech presentation of the kitten is normal in the cat, so you do not have to worry about a breech presentation. A kitten is born in a membrane and the mother frees the kitten from it and bites the umbilical cord. Dry licking with their rough tongue stimulates the breathing reflex in the kittens.
- After the birth of each kitten, the cat rests and takes care of the kittens born earlier, in this rest phase there is no pushing. The average time between 2 births is 1-2 hours, but unfortunately quite a bit of variation is possible. This often makes it difficult to predict whether a young is still in the womb or not. That is why an X-ray is recommended in advance. Then you know where you stand.
- It is important that the cat is not disturbed or moved during her delivery. If the next kitten is not yet born after 1-2 hours, but the cat is behaving calmly, the next contractions can be waited for.
- Drinking the kittens promotes uterine contractions and accelerates the birth of the next kittens.
- If you see the birth bladder (not broken) coming out of the vulva, the kitten will be born within 20 minutes.
- If you see the hind legs or head, often wrapped in membranes, but the kitten is not moving forward and the delivery is stuck here, you need to act quickly. If no expert help is available, you can intervene yourself: with washed hands you can grab the fruit parts and tighten them slightly. Then gently pull in the direction of the curvature of the kitten's back with the squeeze. If this is not enough, you can try to run your finger along the kitten and feel around the kitten and then pull slowly. Often the kitten with the membranes is so smooth that a clean dishcloth is useful to grab the kitten with. When the kitten is out, remove the membranes as soon as possible (just tear with your fingers) and clear the mouth and nose of mucus. You can do this by putting your finger in the kitten's mouth, over the tongue and then removing the mucus. To stimulate breathing it is important to rub the kitten with a towel (this can be done roughly).
When should I call the vet
If the birth has not yet taken place on the 64th day, this is no cause for immediate concern. Theoretically, a normal birth can still take place in the cat on the 70th day, but the risk of problems increases from the 67th day. Often the duration of gestation in cats is not accurately known. That is why it is more important to observe and examine the cat closely. This includes appetite, discharge, feeling the abdomen and an ultrasound to determine whether problems appear to be developing. These examinations should not cause too much stress, this can only delay the delivery.
Cases when you need to call a vet:
- If there has been no pushing for 2-3 hours and you are still expecting kittens.
- If there are light contractions or infrequent contractions for longer than 1 hour, but it does not continue and you do not see a kitten.
- There is a firm squeeze for 20 minutes, but no kitten comes.
- In case of acute symptoms of disease in the cat (1 time vomiting or some diarrhea is still allowed, but more often / more serious not).
- With a lot of blood loss through the vulva.
- In case of foul-smelling or abnormally colored discharge, for example green discharge before the birth of the first kitten. When a placenta detaches from the uterine wall, a dark green discharge is released. If no kittens have been born yet, this is a sign that the birth must take place now, otherwise the kitten will die. For the first kitten, the dark green discharge is a sign that intervention is necessary, after the birth of the first kitten the green discharge is normal.
What to watch out for / what to do with the kitten after delivery
- If the cat does not bite off the umbilical cord by itself, you will have to thread / loosen the umbilical cord yourself. You can do this by firmly grasping the umbilical cord about 1 cm from the abdominal wall of the kitten with your fingers and with your other hand the other part of the umbilical cord, to which the afterbirth is possibly still attached. Then you gently tear the umbilical cord by pulling in the longitudinal direction. Be careful not to pull on the abdominal wall! and don't leave the umbilical cord too long.
- Clear the nose and mouth of membranes or mucus. You do this by wiping the membrane from the nose and mouth, possibly tearing the membrane if it is still around the kitten. Then put your finger a bit in the mouth over the tongue and in this way make the mouth mucus free.
- Rub the kittens dry with a towel until they squeak loudly themselves.
- Keep kittens dry and warm. Place a hot water bottle with the cat in the box or box. During the first four weeks, kittens cannot properly regulate their own body temperature. In the first week of life, ensure an ambient temperature of 30-32 degrees. With a larger litter, the temperature can be kept lower, because the kittens keep each other warm. Pay close attention to the behavior of the kittens, for example if it is too hot, the kittens will move to a cooler place and lie less together.
- The kittens should drink within an hour at most. If necessary, lay the kittens with the mother.
- Make the kittens recognizable with, for example, nail polish, so that they can easily be kept apart.
- If the kittens do not drink enough with the cat, do not gain weight, are lethargic or very weak, you can dissolve some grape sugar in water and drip into the mouth. Do not spray in the mouth, but drip so that the kitten swallows itself. Then you can switch to milk replacer.
What to watch out for / what to do after giving birth
- If a cat eats the afterbirths, it is not a problem, but it is not necessary for the cat to eat them. They can get diarrhea, which should go away on its own in about two days. You can also remove the afterbirths.
- It is advisable to temperature the cat twice a day in the first days. Only if this is possible with the cat and does not cause too much stress. The temperature should be between 38 and 39 C.
- There may still be some discharge during the first 10 days. This can go from a red color to green to clear. After two weeks, the cat should no longer have a discharge.
- During the lactation period, the mother cat will produce a total of 1.5 to 2 times her own weight in milk. Of course this is partly determined by the number of kittens that are nursed. Kitten food is suitable to give to the cat during the lactation period. This food should be provided to the cat as long as the kittens drink from her. As soon as the kittens start taking solid food on their own, the milk production will slowly decrease. As the milk production decreases, the cat's nutritional needs also decrease.
- The weight of a kitten should not decrease after birth. The advice is to weigh them daily, whereby they should gain 10 to 15 grams per day for the first weeks.
- The kittens must be dewormed at 3, 5 and 7 weeks, thereafter every month until they are six months old. The mother cat must be dewormed along with the kittens.