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If you own a good quality, healthy pedigree cat and are considering breeding from her, you will need to spend a lot of time researching the process before you get started. It is important to establish if there is in fact going to be call for the type of kittens that you will produce, in order to be a responsible owner and avoid adding yet another litter of unwanted kittens to the ever-growing cat population simply to give yourself the experience of witnessing the miracle of birth.
Even if you establish that you will easily be able to find owners for your future kittens, breeding from your cat is not something to rush into. As well as deciding on a suitable sire for your prospective new kittens, you will need to spend a significant amount of time establishing if breeding from your cat is a good idea in terms of your cat’s age, health and future lifestyle. You will also need to ensure that you will be able to take care of your cat properly during the period of gestation and accommodate for her changing needs.
The period of gestation (how long it takes from conception to birth) in cats is usually around 63 days long, although for some breeds such as the Siamese, this may be a few days longer. Just as is the case with human childbirth, cats do not give birth to a firmly fixed schedule, and so you should potentially be prepared for a few days’ difference between the guidelines and the reality of what will happen with your own cat!
Here is an at a glance guide to your cat’s pregnancy from conception to birth, week by week.
At the very beginning of your cat’s pregnancy, mating and fertilisation occur, although you will not be able to tell definitively that your cat is pregnant for a couple of weeks. If your cat is fertile and has been in contact with a male tom cat, however, she is highly likely to have conceived. Cats can even deliver a litter of kittens sired by two different male cats if they have come into contact with more than one entire male cat at around the time that they conceive! During the first week after mating, the male cat’s sperm will find the female cat’s eggs, fertilise them and make the journey to the uterus, where the rest of the pregnancy will develop.
At the start of week two, the fertilised eggs that have travelled to the uterus will implant themselves, and begin the process of developing into the growing kittens
During week three, the implanted embryos will begin to develop their organs, which causes a massive hormone surge within the pregnant cat. You may begin to notice that your female cat’s nipples have become darker and possibly more swollen in a process known as ‘pinking.’
Around week three or four, your cat may begin to suffer from morning sickness, which may make her less interested in food than normal and can also cause vomiting; not necessarily just in the morning! This is perfectly normal, but if the vomiting is prolonged or particularly severe, you should consult your vet. Your vet should be able to confirm pregnancy by means of an ultrasound scan from around 18 days after conception. At the end of week four, your vet should be able to feel the abdomen and definitively confirm the pregnancy manually, if you have not already had an ultrasound scan performed.
You should not pick your cat up after week four of her pregnancy, in order to avoid inadvertently hurting her kittens.
At week five, an experienced breeder or vet will be able to feel the kittens through the stomach wall, and may even be able to give you an idea of how many there are!
Week six is the stage at which you’ll start to notice a large increase in your cat’s appetite as she begins building up the food stores she will need to nurse the new kittens. Allow your cat as much food as she will eat, and ensure that she is fed a good quality and complete food.
You may be able to see and feel the kittens moving within the stomach at this point too!
By week seven, your cat’s pregnancy will be quite pronounced and she will have a very rounded appearance!
At week eight, you will be able to feel the kittens in the stomach without any difficulty. Your cat’s nipples will be large and prominent by this stage, and your cat will spend a lot of time grooming herself. She may begin to shed the fur on her belly, which is a natural process that sometimes accompanies pregnancy and is not cause for concern. Her fur will grow back in good time after she has delivered! Her appetite may drop off somewhat at this point, as the growing kittens press on the stomach and shrink its capacity. Your cat will also begin nesting or looking for a suitable place to give birth around now, which may or may not be the spot you would prefer her to use!
Around a week before your cat is ready to give birth, her milk will descend and you may even see milk on the tips of her nipples, as her body prepares for the birth and for feeding her coming kittens.
The growing kittens will continue to increase in size, while your cat may have a slight discharge from the vulva which may have a reddish tinge. You should be prepared for the onset of labour at any time now! If your cat appears anxious, seeks reassurance a lot or establishes herself in her nesting box or bed, this indicates that labour is probably imminent!
If your cat’s pregnancy makes it as far as ten weeks without delivery, you may simply find yourself playing a waiting game! Some cat breeds, particularly oriental cats such as the Siamese, generally make it a few days into their tenth week of pregnancy before delivering. If there is still no sign of the kittens by the end of the tenth week, however, you should consult your vet for advice and to check that nothing is wrong.
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