If a female cat is not spayed and she is allowed outside while she is in heat the chances of her mating and becoming pregnant are very high.  This may also expose her to leukemia, feline aids etc.  I would certainly NOT advocate allowing an in season queen outside just so she “can have kittens”!  A cat will first come into season (heat) somewhere between four months and twelve months, can become pregnant with the first mating and can breed 3 times a year, often coming into season again at the time her kittens are weaned.  Having an average of 5 kittens per litter, there is little wonder that the stray cat population can very quickly spiral out of control.

Having found Smudge, starving and pregnant, Katie brought her to Heronbank.  For all I used to breed cats a number of years ago, I knew the date my cats mated and when they would kitten.  Not so with Smudge, so I took a look online to check on the timeline for a pregnant cat, to give some idea of when she might be likely to kitten.

The first noticeable sign of pregnancy in a cat is a change in her nipples.  Approximately three weeks after mating her nipples will become pinker and more enlarged. This is called ‘Pinking’.  This could not be checked with Smudge as she was very scared in the early days, until Katie won her over.  There may be an increase in appetite – there certainly was with Smudge – although when Katie picked her up she was starving, so her appetite was large to start with. A cat may become more affectionate and want more of your attention.  Smudge has certainly become very demanding of attention recently, in preference to eating.  

Pregnancy can be confirmed by your vet from approximately 22 days using ultrasound, but in Smudge’s case we opted out of this expensive luxury. As the pregnancy advances cats may begin ‘nesting’ behaviour. She may begin searching for a place to deliver her kittens. She will try to get into closets, cupboards and other secluded places.  Smudge has been provided with several boxes where she may choose to kitten, and has been seen on the webcam going in and out of them.

The gestation period for a cat is between 60 and 67 days with the average being 63 days. It is easy to remember, nine months pregnancy for humans, nine weeks pregnancy for cats.  A cat will begin to gain weight after the fourth week and you will notice that her tummy is beginning to swell.  Katie noticed Smudge’s tummy was swollen just after she got her got her – so that is a good start.  So, if tummy swells on, say weeks 4 to 5, Katie and I have had her just over a month, so that would indicate that she is pretty close to kittening.

Usually about two days before giving birth the cat’s mammary glands will increase in size and she will begin producing milk.  Smudge is now starting to show small swellings underneath, and her nipples are more prominent.

The cat’s temperature will decrease to about 99 degrees F (don’t go there – she is only just getting to know us – this might just be a stage too far!)

A drop in her appetite may be seen – smudge is certainly eating more “normally” now.

She may become restless and begin nesting in earnest – difficult to see from the webcam inside the boxes.

Other signs are that she may begin purring, (we have seen plenty of this) meowing, panting, licking her genitals and she may vomit. A vaginal discharge may be seen and eventually contractions will come. Not all signs apply to all cats.  We are still waiting for the latter signs, but things seem to be moving in the right direction.

…  Anne