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What to Expect When Your Cat is in Labor

Reviewed by Dr. Peter Kintzer, DVM, DACVIM on Thursday, April 2, 2015
Posted June 17, 2014 in Cat Diseases & Conditions A-Z

(Editor's Note, Dr. Peter Kintzer: Given the large number of homeless dogs available for adoption that would be wonderful pets and companions, very careful thought and serious deliberation should be undertaken before electing to breed your dog. Please consider adoption and click here for more information>)

In the first part of this two part posting we talked about supporting your cat during her pregnancy including trying to have a clear idea of her due date and how many kittens are on the way. Now we will talk about helping her through the big event itself.

How do you know your cat is in labor?
As we discussed in part one, towards the end of your cat’s pregnancy you should be taking her rectal temperature every day waiting for a sudden drop below 99 degrees.  

When labor begins, most cats pant and vocalize and may become restless and pace around like they are looking for something. You can try to make your cat comfortable where you would like her to have her kittens (you may have a box or an area already set up), but don’t force the issue. If she chooses a different location, you should just support her there. You don’t want to upset her or disrupt her labor at this point.Kitten in someone's hands

In the second stage of labor, contractions become stronger and more visible and you may note a small amount of clear, tan or blood-tinged vaginal discharge. Note that it is perfectly normal for kittens to be born either head first or back-end first. Either way; according to Canine and Feline Reproduction, by Margaret Kustritz; once contractions are seen, a kitten should be born within four hours. If your cat’s pushing hard, a kitten should be passed within 30 minutes.

Third stage labor involves the expulsion of the placenta. Again, you need to be aware. Count to be sure your cat delivers the same number of placentas as she does kittens. Then, feel free to take away the placentas and dispose of them.

(Most cats are known to lick the newborns to remove the membranes and to stimulate breathing, but not all of them will. Kitten care is beyond the scope of this posting but by all means familiarize yourself with the procedures in case you do have to step in and care for the little ones.)

How do you know if there is a

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Mike has more than 35 years of experience in companion animal veterinary practice and is a valued member of IDEXX’s Pet Health Network team since 2013.