Cat Care

Cat Pregnancy

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Cat Pregnancy

The normal outcome of mating is ovulation, fertilization of the released eggs by the sperm of one or more torn cats, implantation of the embryos in the womb and pregnancy. The eggs are released from the ovaries and fertilized high up in the oviducts (equivalent to the human Fallopian tubes). The oviducts are a pair of narrow tubes that connect each ovary with the womb. The eggs travel down the ducts and become attached inside the womb or uterus, which is roughly Y-shaped, having a short 'body' and two longer 'arms' or 'horns'. The eggs or embryos become lodged at regular intervals along each horn of the uterus and eventually become attached to its lining. A placenta develops to nourish each foetus and to remove waste products.

Oxygen and nutrients pass from the blood of the mother cat via The placenta to the developing foetus, and waste products pass the other way. All the mother's blood is filtered and cleaned by her kidneys and waste products are eliminated in urine. The mother cat's blood, and that of each developing foetus, remains entirely separate. Each foetus develops into a fully formed kitten within a fluid-filled membrane or amniotic sac and is attached to its placenta by an umbilical cord.

The usual length of cat pregnancy, or the gestation period, is 63 to 65 days in cats. There is a degree of variation between individuals, however, and kittens may arrive a few days before or after the expected time. Cat pregnancy can be difficult to diagnose with certainty in its early stages. A common sign about three weeks after conception is a deepening in the color of the nipples, which become a definite pink and possibly slightly enlarged. At about four to five weeks, an experienced person is able to feel the foetuses within the abdomen. At this stage, they feel rather like small, round pebbles but may easily be damaged by inexpert handling. From six weeks onwards, the foetuses grow very rapidly, and the cat's abdomen starts visibly to increase in size. During the final stages of cat pregnancy, from about seven to nine weeks, it may be possible to see the kittens moving, especially when the mother cat is relaxed and lying still.

A small proportion of pregnant female cats (about 10 per cent) continue to have oestrus cycles and may call every three weeks. This is because of a deficiency in the hormone progesterone, which is produced during pregnancy and normally inhibits oestrus cycles at this time. If the cat is allowed to roam, it is possible for her to mate, ovulate and for the eggs to be fertilized and implanted in the normal way. In this situation, the cat is pregnant with two sets of foetuses at different stages of maturity-a condition known as 'superfoetation'. When this arises, the cat goes into labor when the first set of kittens is ready to be born. The immature foetuses are usually expelled at the same time and are frequently dead or do not survive. Rarely, the second set of foetuses is retained and are born alive at the appropriate time.

For the first six weeks a pregnant cat should continue to receive her normal ration of food. There is no need to add vitamin or mineral supplements in the cat diet as long as she is eating a good, balanced diet. When the foetuses have entered the stage of rapid growth, during the last month of pregnancy, the mother cat's appetite increases and this aspect should be considered for proper cat care.She should be offered a correspondingly increased amount of food as a separate meal. The quantity should be gradually increased until she is being offered up to half or even twice as much as usual. The food should always be divided and given as several small meals throughout the day so that there is less discomfort from a swollen uterus pressing on an overloaded stomach. Also, if she is fed a little and often, the level of nutrients and energy supply is maintained at a more constant level.

There is no need to try to limit the activities of the mother cat. Exercise is good for her in the early stages of pregnancy in keeping muscles well toned. In the final month, her increased weight and abdominal distension will normally stop the expectant mother from attempting any over-vigorous manoeuvres. Great care should be exercised throughout the pregnancy in handling, and especially in lifting, the mother cat. She should always be lifted with one hand under her 'armpits' (axillae) and the other supporting the weight beneath her rear quarters and tail. The cat can be then held in an upright position supported against the person's chest. In this way, no pressure is exerted on the abdomen of the cat.