During pregnancy, the queen will need the extra calories supplied from kitten food. This type of diet will also be important while she is nursing her litter, as her calorie demands can triple in an effort to supply the nutrition for her kittens.
Flea control products approved during pregnancy (e.g., topical Frontline) should be used to prevent a flea infestation, as fleas can kill newborn kittens. Ideally, your cat was vaccinated prior to getting pregnant so her colostrum or first milk is better quality for her kittens. Cats should not be vaccinated during pregnancy.
During the last 1-2 weeks of her pregnancy, try to offer the queen an area of low traffic (both human and other pets), minimal drafts, and soft bedding. A queen will often seek out her own area to nest and eventually queen – typically a closet.
When her delivery day arrives, you may notice a drop in her rectal temperature, similar to a dog. You would need to monitor her rectal temperature on a daily basis starting about 1 week from her expected delivery date to note this decrease in temperature (usually less than 99F) from her normal body temperature. The expectant queen will become more restless; grooming herself more, pacing, vocalizing, panting and nesting all suggest labor has started.
Active labor occurs when there are strong abdominal contractions. When this happens, a kitten should be produced within an hour. If not, there is a problem and you should seek veterinary assistance. When a kitten is born, the placenta is passed either with the kitten or shortly afterwards (third stage of labor). Usually, the queen will eat the placenta and membranes. Typically, a kitten is born every 30 to 60 minutes. If a queen is anxiousor tense, she may stop delivery for several hours. Do not try to move the queen to a better location once labor as started. This may stress her and cause her to stop labor, which may disturb the fetuses. She may also reject or neglect her litter if she is stressed.
Once labor is completed, you may want to clean the queening area by removing soiled towels and replacing them with clean ones. The queen should have clean water, food and a litter box source near her nest. To help keep her calm, these items should be for her use only and should not be accessible to other animals in the home. Kittens typically nurse for four weeks and then start transitioning to solid food during the fourth to sixth week of life. By six weeks, the kittens should be on all solid food. By eight weeks of age, the kittens are ready for their new homes. All kittens for sale in the state of Florida require a veterinary certificate of inspection (including a fecal test), vaccination and deworming prior to sale.
Dr. Deirdre Carver-Raffa is our in-house theriogeologist at Town and Country Animal Hospital and a Board Certified Diplomat of the American College of Theriogenologists. A true reproductive expert, she is the only veterinarian with these credentials in the Naples/ Bonita Springs/ Marco Island area. If you have any questions about pregnancy or any other reproduction issues, from breeding timing to artificial insemination, etc., please call our office at (239) 353-5060 to schedule an appointment with Dr. Carver-Raffa.