In the next few weeks, cat breeding season will be fully underway. Some cats have likely already started breeding but the majority will wait until it’s a little warmer outside. Late February and early March will see the year’s highest number of cat pregnancies.
Why is there a cat breeding season? Can’t cats get pregnant anytime of the year?
Technically, yes. But female cats are what you call “seasonally polyestrous”. This means their reproductive system is active on a seasonal cycle. We refer to this as coming to heat, or “estrus”.
The other times of the year their reproductive system enters a state called “anestrus”. This is where the reproductive system is more or less dormant. Anestrus is mostly triggered by the limited daylight during the winter months. Because of this, it is less common and shorter in duration for cats nearer the equator where the amount of sunlight per day is more stable year-around.
How can I tell if my cat is in heat?
Well, the most common signs are behavioral. You will notice your cat becoming more affectionate and more demanding of your attention. They will be more persistent with rubbing their heads and bodies against you and other objects. You may notice them rolling around on the floor in becoming very vocal. Your cat’s vocalizations may be more drawn out and in a lower pitch than normal. It is also not uncommon to see vaginal bleeding while she is in estrus. A little bit of this is normal and not a cause for concern.
What do I do if my cat becomes pregnant this breeding season?
There is not much you can do other than to help see it through successfully. Feline gestation lasts between 63 and 71 days, with most cats giving birth around the 64th day.
Make sure your cat has a comfortable place to nest where she will eventually go to give birth. It should be a small sized box with several layers of absorbent materials such as newspaper or old towels. Place the box out of the way, maybe in a closet or a room that is used less than others to give your cat privacy and a sense of security.
Feed your queen, or pregnant cat, a premium cat food and do not give it any supplements unless you vet advises to do so. Don’t be surprised if you cat starts to eat up to 50% more food than usual. She needs the extra energy for successful gestation and milk production.
Is there anything I should do to help the pregnancy?
Not unless something goes wrong. For the most part, let nature take its course.
When the birthing is complete, transfer the queen and her litter to a clean box lined with linens or towels. They will stay in this area for the time being.
Check to make sure the kittens have been licked free from the sack they are born in.
Take note of the queen’s behavior and demeanor – she should be affectionate and not depressed.
Check for bloody discharge from the mother. A few days of this is normal; anything over a week is cause for concern.
The kittens should be meowing and feeding regularly. Their eyes will be closed for several days and their umbilical cords attached.
If you notice something is wrong, call your vet right away. Both queen and kitten need to be healthy for the litter to thrive.
Kitten season can be a magical time for you and your cat, but only if you wanted kittens. If you are not looking to help raise a litter, consider getting you queen spayed. This will reduce its behavioral changes during estrus and ensure she does not become pregnant. Get in touch with Catonsville Cat Clinic for any specific questions regarding cat breeding season or to schedule a visit.