Here's How to Tell if Your Cat Is Pregnant
If you suspect your cat could be pregnant, it can be hard to tell in the immediate days following her meetup with a male cat. But there are few ways to determine if your cat is pregnant as she gets farther along.
One sure-fire way is to have her blood tested, but that can cost a pretty penny (upwards of a few hundred dollars in most cases). Luckily, there are other methods of telling whether or not your cat is pregnant than a blood test—and most of them are much more affordable than a cat pregnancy test.
Keep in mind that cats can become pregnant very early in life. They become sexually mature around four months old, which is why veterinarians recommend spaying your kitten quickly and before she has her first heat. Without the procedure, your cat has the potential to become pregnant multiple times a year over the course of her entire adult life, says Margot Vahrenwald, DVM and owner of Park Hill Veterinary Medical Center in Denver, Colo.
Vahrenwald says the gestation period for a litter of kittens lasts around 58–67 days, or nine weeks. Cats are only pregnant for a few months, so finding out if she's expecting needs to happen quickly so you can prepare for kittens accordingly.
Signs a Cat Is Pregnant
Your Cat Will Gain Weight and Eat More
Perhaps the easiest or most noticeable sign that your cat is pregnant is that she'll look heavier, Vahrenwald says. But you might not notice the apparent weight gain until your cat is two or three weeks away from her due date.
As she prepares to give birth, your cat will also start eating more. Pregnant cats will need 25 percent more food than they normally eat, and Vahrenwald says cat owners should switch to food aimed for kittens.
"They need those extra calories," Vahrenwald says.
Your Cat May Experience Morning Sickness
There are other physical signs, too, but Vahrenwald notes that those can be a little harder for owners to track. Cats can endure their equivalent of morning sickness, but Vahrenwald says that might not tip owners off because cats aren't strangers to throwing up.
Your Cat's Nipples Will Get Swollen and Change Color
A pregnant cat's nipples will also darken with about three to four weeks left in the pregnancy and will eventually become engorged with milk, Vahrenwald says. But you have to look hard because most cats will have plenty of hair covering them (except the hairless ones).
What to Do If You Think Your Cat Is Pregnant
If you see these signs and suspect pregnancy, you can take your cat to your veterinarian. There, she can have blood drawn for a pregnancy test or have an ultrasound taken, but both those options can be expensive, Vahrenwald says.
Another option might be having an X-ray taken. As the kittens' bones start to form while still gestating, an X-ray will be able to show the size of the litter.
Signs a Cat Is About to Give Birth
The amount of time cats are pregnant is around 9 weeks. As her pregnancy reaches its final days, the cat will start looking for a place to give birth, a quiet place away from the rest of the activity of the house. That means the kittens will be arriving soon. You can help your cat prepare by creating a comfortable birthing space with boxes, blankets, and old newspapers.
As with all issues affecting your cat's health, Vahrenwald said cat owners should visit with their veterinarians about their cat potentially becoming pregnant, and to better understand what steps you can take to prevent an unplanned cat pregnancy or make sure she and her litter of kittens are healthy and happy.