A cat who is about to give birth goes through the same ritual as many other mammals do. The process is natural, and a mother cat rarely needs assistance unless she is unable to deliver the kittens herself. A quick review of the process will help breeders and pet owners understand how a cat gives birth.
Signs of an impending birth are obvious, and include panting, vomiting, restlessness, excessive grooming, nesting, or crying. This, in addition to the search for a convenient area to deliver her young, will indicate that she is about to go into labor. A mother cat’s temperature will drop as an indication that contractions will begin within thirty-six hours, at the most.
It is important to have made preparations and accommodations for the pregnant female by this time. At the very least, you’ll want to have a heating pad, some disinfectant, cleaning materials and clean cloths or towels. Once this initial phase of labor begins, its too late to move her and her kittens to a more convenient area – the stress may contribute to a neglected litter or disinterest in continuing the natural labor that has already started.
The second stage of labor begins with hard contractions every thirty seconds that eventually produces the first kitten within thirty to sixty minutes. An entire litter is usually born within six to twelve hours, with kittens being delivered at intervals no more than sixty minutes.
As the kitten emerges from the womb, the mother will usually pull the amniotic fluid membrane that surrounds the newborn, allowing it to breathe. If she doesn’t, this might one of the only times it might be necessary to intervene. The final stage of labor involves the passing of the placenta, attached to the umbilical cord of each kitten. Again, the mother will usually gnaw through and attempt to eat the placenta to free her kitten.
For the most part, a human’s role as a midwife to a cat birth is to look for complications. If there are strong contractions that last for sixty minutes without producing a kitten, it may be an indication that one of the kittens is blocking the birth canal. A cesarean delivery will likely be required by a veterinarian as the mother exhausts herself with contractions.
The mother must also deliver the placenta at the end of the birthing process. If not, she can develop a dangerous fever or infection, or lose her appetite, affecting the health of her kittens. This is another instance that calls for immediate medical attention, sometimes requiring spaying and hospitalization for recovery.
Finally, some mothers aren’t as interested in their newborns as they should be, and they are completely vulnerable at this critical stage of life. If she doesn’t care for her kittens, you will need to step in, clean them up, perhaps use the water bottle and rub the kittens to stimulate them and wipe them down with a warm towel. Sometimes bottle feeding is necessary if the mother continues to ignore her young.
The birthing process is far from glamorous, but if owners and breeders take the time to responsibly breed and care for their cats, they will ensure healthy offspring that eventually find good homes.