Taking the Labor out of Pet PregnanciesPublished December 15, 2008
Unless they are breeders, most people spay or neuter their pets to avoid pregnancy. But if they wait too long, or miscalculate a pet's age, they might be faced with a pregnant pet. Taking the proper steps during a pregnancy will make the situation less stressful for owners and pets alike. Read on for tips on caring for your pregnant pet.Unless they are breeders, most people spay or neuter their pets to avoid pregnancy, but if they wait too long, or miscalculate a pet's age, they might be faced with a pregnant cat or dog. If a female cat was in heat and was close to an un-neutered male cat, a tom, she will likely become pregnant.
Taking steps to recognize the pregnancy, properly caring for the pet during the pregnancy and labor, and careful handling of the resulting litter, will make the situation less stressful for owners and pets alike.
A pregnant cat is appropriately referred to as a queen. Signs that your pet is pregnant include an end to heat cycles. In cats, the nipples swell and become pinker. The queen's appetite will increase and she might also suffer from morning sickness akin to human pregnancy. The cat's abdomen will grow and she will seek out more affection from her owners. When the cat is close to giving birth, she may nest or search for quiet, private places to give birth.
Involving a veterinarian in the process is not mandatory if the queen has had routine veterinary care. But if there are signs of complications, a veterinarian's involvement is vital. A pregnant pet should be examined early on for lice, ticks and fleas and for signs of worms or other parasites. Hookworms can be transmitted to the fetuses.
A diet high in vitamins and minerals and access to fresh, clean water will help the cat stay healthy throughout the pregnancy. Toward the end of the pregnancy, the cat will become less active and she will experience discomfort as her breasts swell with milk and become hard and caked. An owner can apply olive oil and gently squeeze the area to relieve some of the pressure. The cat may lose her appetite the day before giving birth and will have a drop in body temperature.
A queen will be pregnant for about 63 days or nine weeks. This is very similar to a dog's gestational period. If she hasn't given birth after this time, she may be having delivery trouble or there might be a false pregnancy, where the cat exhibits all the symptoms of pregnancy, but doesn't give birth.
An owner can take steps to aid in the delivery by trimming away hairs around the breasts to help the kittens find them. They can also line a cardboard box with newspapers and have clean towels on hand to clean the kittens. An extra cardboard box can be used to keep the kittens in while the queen is still giving birth. If more than three hours elapses between the births of each kitten, contact a veterinarian immediately.
After delivery, some owners will be alarmed at the sight of the cat eating the placenta. This behavior is normal and some attribute it to the mother trying to erase all traces of the birth to prevent attack by predators, while others theorize that the mother cat is providing herself with enough nutrition so she will not have to leave her kittens to find food.
Once the kittens are born, schedule a check-up so the veterinarian can administer medication for roundworm to protect both mother and kittens. After delivery, the cat will have reddish discharge for about a week. Green or yellowish discharge indicates an infection likely caused by a retained placenta. Look for signs of eclampsia, a serious conditions caused by lack of calcium. Some symptoms are loss of appetite, high fever, restlessness and panting, a stilted walk and eventually coma.
Chances are the birth will have gone well. The mother and kittens should be left alone for the first two to three days. Do not let children pick up kittens. They will be weaned in approximately four or five weeks.