Most of the time, pregnancy and labour are normal and proceed without any problems. However, if your cat (queen) is pregnant or about to give birth, it's important to pay close attention. A number of warning signs could indicate potential complications, so making sure you know what to look out for could be very important. Hopefully your cat has been examined by a vet during or before her pregnancy so she is known to be in good health. Always make sure your veterinary practice knows when your cat is due so they are on standby in case of problems.
When to contact your vet during your cat’s pregnancy or labour:
- The queen goes off her food during pregnancy, or is unwell in any other way (a drop in appetite may be normal for some queens just prior to delivery but she should be bright and well in every other way).
- The queen is distressed, very agitated, crying and licking her vulval area without producing any kittens.
- Any abnormal, foul-smelling vaginal discharge, including bleeding, at any point in the pregnancy or labour .
- The queen is overdue by a week or more according to the observed mating dates.
- No kittens have been produced 3-4 hours after the start of labour (see article on Labour and giving birth).
- Your cat has been having strong contractions for more than 20-30 minutes without producing a kitten, take her to the vet right away. Take along any delivered kittens as well.
- The kittens are not all delivered within 24-36 hours (if you do not know how many kittens she was carrying then she may need to be checked by the vet).
- There are not enough placentas for the number of kittens as this may indicate retained placentas.
- You can see a kitten at the queen’s vulva but her straining fails to expel it.
- The queen aborts kittens during the pregnancy.
After delivery look out for the following problems and contact the vet:
- The queen is unwell, off her food, vomiting or has a temperature.
- A very bloody or foul-smelling vulval discharge is observed. A blackish or reddish discharge is normal for a few weeks after birth but should not be smelly or contain fresh blood; if in doubt contact the vet.
- The queen is trembling, restless or agitated as this may suggest a low calcium level (eclampsia).
- Death of any kittens.
- ‘Fading’ kittens - kittens that become weak, don’t gain weight or feed well, or seem quiet and depressed.
- The mammary glands are red, firm, painful or the discharge from the nipples is smelly, brown or bloody.
- The queen is still straining after all the kittens have been born.
It is always best to consult your vet if you have any concerns. Be informed as to what to expect by researching and talking to experienced breeders.