Compared to humans, cats aren't pregnant for very long. But that means you might not find out until days before the due date.
pregnant cat sitting sidewalk
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| Credit: yanjf / Getty

If you suspect that your cat or a neighborhood feline might be pregnant, how long do you have before she delivers a litter of kittens? Cat pregnancy does not last long—only a few months. But that means if she's expecting, you'll need to prepare for her to give birth quickly. 

How Long Are Cats Pregnant?

The length of time a cat is pregnant is significantly shorter than a human pregnancy: about nine weeks compared to the human nine months. To get more specific, the cat pregnancy gestation period is between 58–67 days, says Margot Vahernwald, DVM and owner of Park Hill Veterinary Medical Center in Denver, Colo. 

But there's an important caveat: Unless you know when your cat mated with a male companion while she was in heat, you probably won't be able to tell whether your cat is pregnant until she's close to giving birth. 

How Can You Tell If A Cat Is Pregnant?

Vahrenwald says the easiest way to tell if your cat is pregnant is when she looks heavier, but that might not be noticeable until she's only two or three weeks from her due date. Even the more advanced methods take awhile, and can be expensive. Two of the nine weeks of a cat's gestation period are gone by the time an ultrasound can determine pregnancy. And a cat pregnancy test won't be effective unless your cat has been pregnant for nearly a month.

Your best bet to find out if your cat is really pregnant is to visit the veterinarian and get advice for next steps from there.

What To Do If Your Cat Is Pregnant

If you confirm that your cat is expecting a litter of kittens, there are some things you can do to help prepare her for the role of Mama Kitty. First of all, your cat will be eating for both her and the babies—about 25 percent more, according to Cats Protection—so she'll both need more food and food specific to kittens

"They need those extra calories," Vahernwald says.

As your cat gets closer to their due date, they'll begin looking for a place to give birth. You can help out by preparing a quiet area away from the busy parts of your home, like a bathroom or closet. You can add a box, blankets, and newspapers to make her more comfortable during the birthing process.

Once the time comes, Vahernwald suggests cat owners keep an eye on their cat giving birth from a distance. Don't hover too close by, because if your cat feels threatened, she'll stop labor. 

As always, consult your veterinarian with any questions about your cat's pregnancy and how you'll eventually care for the kittens. Many, like Vahernwald, will recommend having your cat spayed to prevent future pregnancy, since spaying your cat can significantly improve her quality of life.

Cats go into heat often and can have up to three litters each year, Vahrenwald says, so spaying your cat can prevent a potential "population explosion."