Cat Care

Preparing for the Birth of Kittens

Cat Care > Cat Breeding > Preparing for the Birth of Kittens

Preparing for the Birth of Kittens

The most important preparation to be made is to provide the cat with a warm, comfortable and quiet place in which to give birth to her kittens. This should be introduced when it is noticed, usually during the last two or three weeks, that the cat is becoming restless and obviously searching for a suitable place to make a 'nest'. An ideal 'kittening' box is a large, strong, cardboard box, with the sides measuring about 60 to 80 centimeters. The flaps that form the top of the box should be taped together with parcel tape, and one of the sides cut round on three sides to form a hinged lid. This then becomes the top of the box. At the front, a square of cardboard should be cut out and removed to form an entry hole for the cat. The lower edge of this should be about 15 centimeters above the base of the box so that the kittens cannot accidentally fall out when the; are small.

The base of the box should be lined with layers of newspaper which the cat will scratch and tear to make a nest. Newspaper has the advantage that it can easily be removed and replaced if it should become wet or soiled during or after birth. It is safer not to add a blanket at first as it is possible for tiny kittens to become trapped if it becomes wrinkled or folded.

The box should be placed in a warm quiet corner away from the noise of family activity as the cat needs security and privacy. A litter tray should be placed near the box. It is to be hoped that the cat will accept the box as a suitable place to have her kittens. It has to be said, however, that a cat can have her own ideas about a nesting place and may select somewhere entirely different. It is also a natural part of a cat's behavior to have more than one potential site and to make the final choice when labor is about to start. This can be a place outside in a garden shed or garage, and many a mother cat has returned home after a period of absence, slim and hungry, having obviously had her kittens elsewhere. She may then bring them to the house, laboriously carrying each one by the scruff of the neck. It is preferable to keep the cat confined in the last days of her pregnancy, using her box and litter tray, but this may not be possible with a very independent cat that is used to roaming at will.

At some stage during the last month of pregnancy, the cat needs to be treated for roundworms. A veterinary surgeon should be consulted about which product to use and the timing of the treatment. It is also necessary to worm the cat during the period when she is suckling the kittens. Some cats become a little constipated towards the end of pregnancy. If it is noticed that a cat is straining or producing hard motions, veterinary advice should be sought. Usually a teaspoonful of liquid paraffin added to the food or some oily fish helps to resolve the problem. It is important that there should not be hard stools present in the rectum that the cat has not been able to pass as these can cause a narrowing of the birth canal and a more difficult labor.

If the cat is a long-haired one, it may be advisable to cut away the fur around her nipples and vulva using round-ended scissors. It is better not to do this, however, if the cat objects or becomes upset. The majority of cats accomplishes the process of birth very ell on their own and do not require human assistance. It may r-e advisable, however, to have one or two items prepared and 21 hand in case intervention is necessary. These include:

  1. Setting aside one or two small clean towels in case a kitten has to be handled and dried following its birth;
  2. Having ready a pair of scissors and some strong sewing thread, which have been sterilized by boiling or immersion in a proprietary solution. Rarely, these may be needed for ing off and cutting an umbilical cord;
  3. Setting aside a hot-water bottle with a good protective fitted cover. A kitten can be placed on or near a warm hot-water bottle if there are any difficulties while other kittens are being born.
These items should be placed in a convenient space close to the kittening box so that it is not necessary to search for them, perhaps in the middle of the night. In the great majority of cases precautions will not prove to be necessary.