How To Tell If A Cat Is Pregnant?

Getting a new furry addition to your family can be an exciting time. But if your female cat has been outside and around male cats, you may find yourself wondering if she is pregnant. Knowing the signs of feline pregnancy can help you determine if kittens are on the way and help you properly care for your expecting cat. This complete guide covers all the key things cat owners need to know about pregnant cats and how to tell if a cat is pregnant.

Physical Signs Your Cat is Pregnant

There are some clear physical signs and symptoms you can watch for to determine if your cat is expecting kittens:

Enlarged or Pink Nipples

One of the earliest signs of pregnancy in cats is enlarged nipples. When a cat is pregnant, their nipples will become more prominent and enlarged around 2-3 weeks after conception. The nipples will also take on a pink or reddish color compared to the normal light pink tone. The area around the teats will swell with milk glands in preparation for nursing kittens.

Weight Gain and Enlarged Abdomen

As the kittens grow inside your cat, she will start putting on extra weight and her abdomen will expand. A pregnant queen’s belly will become noticeably enlarged around 3-4 weeks into the pregnancy. Her sides will bulge out and the belly will hang lower. She may gain 2-4 pounds over the course of the pregnancy, especially in the last few weeks before birth.

Increased Appetite

With kittens to nourish, an expecting cat’s appetite will markedly increase around the 4th week of pregnancy. Some cats may eat 25-50% more food than usual to take in extra nutrition and calories for the developing fetuses. Make sure to provide a high-quality kitten or pregnant/nursing cat food diet.

Behavioral Changes

Along with physical changes, you may notice behavioral shifts like lethargy, clinginess, or reclusiveness. The expectant mother cat may start hiding away in closets, boxes, or under beds more. This nesting behavior prepares her for the birth. She may also become more affectionate and vocal demanding more attention.

Mammary Gland Development

Other body changes to look for include enlargement of the mammary glands in addition to the nipples themselves. The glands will swell and extend on the belly in prepartum preparation for producing milk. Your cat’s teats may also secrete a whitish fluid called pre-milk that nourishes newborn kittens.

When Can You Tell a Cat is Pregnant?

So when can you make a confident diagnosis of feline pregnancy after observing these signs? Here is the timeline of when pregnancy symptoms typically emerge:

  • 2-3 weeks after mating – Enlarged pinkish nipples, mammary gland growth
  • 3-4 weeks after mating – Abdomen expanding, obvious weight gain
  • 4 weeks after mating – Ravenous appetite, behavioral changes
  • 5-6 weeks after mating – Obvious enlarged abdomen, lethargy

By 3-4 weeks after your cat has been in contact with an intact male, you should be able to tell if she is pregnant through the physical symptoms. Some cats show sooner, while others take longer. But all pregnant cats will demonstrate noticeable symptoms by the 4 week mark at the latest.

How Long is a Cat Pregnant?

The typical feline pregnancy lasts about 63-65 days on average, or around 9 weeks. But anywhere from 58 to 72 days is considered normal. Here is the stage-by-stage timeline:

  • Days 1-14 – Fertilization and implantation
  • Weeks 3-4 – Noticeable symptoms emerge
  • Weeks 5-6 – Abdomen swelling, mammary gland enlargement
  • Weeks 7-9 – Nesting behaviors increase, lethargy
  • Day 58-72 – Delivery of kittens

So once you determine your cat is expecting, you have about 2 months to prepare before the kittens arrive. Make sure to take your pregnant cat to the vet for care.

Seeing the Veterinarian

It’s important to schedule a veterinary visit as soon as you suspect pregnancy. The vet will be able to confirm your diagnosis and check your cat’s health. An ultrasound or manual palpation exam after 3-4 weeks can reveal kittens. Key things the vet will do include:

  • Confirm pregnancy with exam
  • Determine due date/how far along
  • Check for potential complications
  • Discuss nutrition needs
  • Recommend preventatives like deworming

Follow your vet’s advice for providing the best care for an expecting cat. Proper nutrition and limiting stress are very important for healthy kittens.

Ensuring Proper Nutrition

When your cat is eating for a litter of kittens, her nutritional needs increase drastically. She needs more protein, vitamins, minerals, fatty acids, and calories. Increased nutrition helps fetal growth and milk production.

  • Feed a high-quality kitten formula or cat food for pregnant/nursing cats. These diets are specially formulated with extra nutrients.
  • Feed up to 50% more food than normal. Provide unlimited access to food and monitor eating habits.
  • Avoid giving treats or people food. Stick to the planned diet to ensure complete nutrition.
  • Ensure access to clean, fresh water at all times to stay hydrated.
  • Consider nutritional supplements if your cat needs help maintaining weight and milk supply. Discuss options with your veterinarian.

Proper diet is crucial for healthy development of kittens in the womb and after birth. Don’t cut nutritional corners during this demanding time in your cat’s life.

Preparing a Whelping Area

In the last 2-3 weeks of pregnancy, your cat will start scoping out spots to give birth and care for kittens. You should prepare a whelping area with everything she needs:

  • Place whelping box in a quiet, low-traffic area without noise or commotion.
  • Line with thick, clean blankets, towels, or other soft bedding to absorb mess.
  • Include a low-sided litter box nearby for easy access.
  • Provide food, water, and toys in the space.
  • Maintain calm, soothing environment with minimal stress.
  • Resist moving or disturbing the area once she settles in to give birth.

A proper birthing and nursing area is crucial for your cat in the final stretch of pregnancy and start of motherhood. Do everything you can to make her comfortable.

Signs Labor is Approaching

In the final week before delivery, you will notice preparations your cat makes as labor nears:

  • Her abdomen will drop lower as kittens shift into birthing position.
  • Increased nesting behaviors like digging or restlessness.
  • Changes in appetite – she may eat less as labor nears.
  • Clear or bloody vaginal discharge called the mucus plug.
  • Rhythmic contractions of the abdominal muscles.
  • Frequent grooming of genital area.

Once active labor with intense, regular contractions begins, delivery of kittens is imminent. Be prepared to let nature take its course and interfere only if absolutely necessary.

What to Expect During Cat Labor

When kittens start arriving, the key priorities are keeping mom calm and monitoring for potential issues:

  • Labor lasts 2-6 hours on average, but can vary.
  • Contractions intensify as each kitten moves into birthing position.
  • Kittens arrive 10-60 minutes apart. Don’t assume labor is done after first kitten.
  • Mom will sever umbilical cords and eat placentas – this is normal.
  • Ensure each kitten is nursing and wiggly after birth.
  • Monitor for emergency warning signs like no delivery after 2 hrs of contractions.

Be patient during the birthing process. Refrain from interfering unless the mother or kittens are in obvious distress. Let your cat follow her natural instincts.

Caring for Newborn Kittens

Once the kittens have arrived, they are completely dependent on mom for everything. But here are a few tips for their care:

  • Check that all kittens are nursing within 2 hours of birth. Supplement feed if needed.
  • Make sure nursing area is warm but avoid direct heat on newborns.
  • Weigh kittens daily to ensure they are gaining weight.
  • Handle newborns gently and monitor for any health issues.
  • Discourage kids from disturbing mom and kittens. Keep area peaceful.
  • Give mom kitten food unlimited for maximum nutrition for milk supply.

With a litter of kittens to nurse and care for, a new mother demands huge amounts of energy and nutrition. Do all you can to reduce stress and support her through this demanding time.

When to Call the Veterinarian

Any concerns about the pregnancy or delivery mean a prompt call to your vet:

  • Pregnancy lasting over 72 days
  • Difficulty delivering any kitten
  • Excessive bleeding or fluid discharge
  • Stillborn kitten(s)
  • Mom abandoning litter
  • Kittens not nursing
  • Kittens losing weight
  • Any signs of illness in mom or kittens

Your vet is your partner through the pregnancy and kittening process. Discuss any concerns and develop a birthing/care plan. Better safe than sorry if you notice abnormal warning signs.

Spaying After the Pregnancy

Once your cat has given birth and weaned the litter, she can get spayed to avoid future surprise pregnancies. In fact, it is easiest and safest to spay a cat before her first heat around 4-6 months old. But if your cat accidentally got pregnant before you could spay, be sure to schedule the surgery as soon as the kittens are weaned. Spaying eliminates heat cycles, reduces certain cancers, and prevents undesirable litters. Only breed intentionally with a plan for the kittens’ future homes.

Finding Good Homes for Kittens

As the kittens grow, you’ll need to find loving homes for them. Here are some tips for responsibly homing litters:

  • Screen potential owners thoroughly to ensure responsible care.
  • Charge an adoption fee to deter bad homes just wanting free kittens.
  • Require spay/neuter contracts so adopters fix kittens.
  • Wait until kittens are 8-12 weeks old before homing.
  • Give new owners info on vet care, nutrition, training, etc.
  • Follow up with adopters to ensure kitten is thriving.

Bringing a litter of kittens into the world is a big responsibility. Make sure you have a plan to place them in caring forever homes for a happy future.


Determining if your cat is pregnant and preparing for kittens on the way can be an exciting whirlwind. Pay close attention for physical and behavioral changes in your cat. A rapidly enlarging abdomen, enlarged nipples, increased appetite, and nesting behaviors are clear signs kittens are coming. Ensure proper veterinary care and nutrition to support the pregnancy and growing kittens. Prepare a quiet whelping area where your cat can safely deliver. While labor, birth, and caring for a litter can be demanding, take joy in the miracle of new life and do all you can to get the kittens off to a great start through responsible spay/neuter and adoption. With preparation and diligent care, you and your cat can have a smooth journey through pregnancy and motherhood.