How To Tell If Cat Mating Was Successful?

Bringing new kittens into the world can be an exciting and rewarding experience for cat owners. However, the cat mating and breeding process can also be nerve-wracking, especially if it’s your first time and you don’t know what to expect. How can you tell if your cat’s mating was successful? What are the signs to look out for?

This comprehensive guide covers everything you need to know about determining if your cat’s breeding attempt succeeded. We’ll walk you through the entire cat pregnancy timeline, early signs of conception, and symptoms during the later stages of gestation. Follow along for tips from feline mating and whelping experts so you can feel fully prepared for kitten season!

What Happens During Cat Mating?

To understand how to tell if mating was fruitful, it helps to first review the feline breeding process from start to finish:

  • Going into heat. A cat’s fertility window opens when she enters her mating season or estrus cycle, which occurs every 2-3 weeks from spring through fall. This is the period where she’ll be receptive to breeding.
  • Mating rituals. When ready to mate, the female cat becomes vocal, rubs frequently, and holds her tail up and backs up to the male cat, signaling her readiness. The mating itself includes a lot of biting and grabbing by the male cat and distressed vocalizations from the female cat.
  • The mating tie. After penetration, male cats will bite down on the female’s neck and the two will stay “tied” or “locked” together for 15-20 minutes. This mating tie increases the chances of a successful fertilization.
  • Multiple matings. Cats are induced ovulators, meaning the act of mating triggers the release of eggs. For maximum fertilization potential, the mating tie and ejaculation need to occur multiple times, from 2-7 times, during the heat cycle.

Now that you’re familiar with what happens during typical cat breeding, let’s dive into the timeline of what happens next and how to confirm if the mating resulted in conception and pregnancy.

Early Signs of Conception: First 1-3 Weeks After Mating

During the first few weeks after your cats mate, watch for any of the following subtle early signs of pregnancy in your female:

  • Decreased appetite. Her appetite may start decreasing 1-2 weeks after being bred. That’s because rising progesterone levels cause morning sickness similar to in human pregnancy.
  • Weight gain. Your female will start gaining weight right away if conception occurred. Note that this early weight gain is from fluid and developing mammaries rather than the kittens themselves.
  • Enlarged nipples. Look for pink, enlarged nipples around 2 weeks after mating, as her body starts preparing to nurse kittens.
  • Increased affection. You may notice increased vocalizations and demands for attention. Her body is going through changes thanks to maternal hormone shifts.
  • Lethargy. She may sleep more often and be less energetic during early pregnancy.
  • Nesting behaviors. She may scout for new napping locations around your home and demonstrate nesting behaviors like shredding papers or blankets.

While promising, none of these early signs guarantee a successful conception at this point. The only way to confirm feline pregnancy starting around 2 weeks after mating is through diagnostic testing at the vet. We’ll cover the options next.

Diagnostic Tests to Confirm Cat Pregnancy

Starting at around 2-3 weeks after your cats mate, your veterinarian can perform special tests to definitively diagnose a pregnancy:

  • Palpation. The vet feels your cat’s abdomen to detect swelling of the uterus and embryos. This can confirm pregnancy by 21-25 days after mating.
  • Ultrasound. An ultrasound allows visual confirmation of fetuses starting around 3 weeks. It’s more accurate than palpation alone.
  • Relaxin testing. This blood test detects the hormone relaxin, which is produced only during feline pregnancy. It can diagnose pregnancy as early as 1-2 weeks along.
  • X-rays. Abdominal radiographs can visualize developing fetal skeletons 3-4 weeks into gestation. Take care though, as multiple x-rays can risk harming the fetuses.

Work with your vet to decide which option is right for confirming your cat’s pregnancy status. Catching it early means you have more time to prepare for kitten season!

Definitive Mid- to Late-Term Signs of Cat Pregnancy

By 4 or more weeks since the mating, a pregnant cat will start exhibiting unmistakable symptoms as the fetuses grow. These mid- to late-term signs include:

  • Morning sickness. This may include lethargy, vomiting, and a loss of appetite in early stages of pregnancy. Offer bland foods like boiled chicken to relieve nausea.
  • Enlarged abdomen. Starting around 3 weeks along, her belly will rapidly expand as the fetuses grow. Note that some non-pregnant, overweight cats may show abdominal enlargement too.
  • Stronger fetal movement. You may see and feel babies shifting in the abdomen starting around 4 weeks. There will be more defined rolling and kicking motions by 8 weeks.
  • Enlarged mammary glands. The mammary tissue starts developing by week 3 or 4 but you’ll notice significant enlargement and milk production by 6-8 weeks pre-birth.
  • Shift in nipples. Around 5 weeks along, her nipples may darken and protrude outward as they prepare to deliver milk.
  • Behavior changes. Hormonal shifts lead to needier, more vocal behavior and shifts in sleep patterns as her abdomen swells. Provide ample comfy beds as her mobility decreases.
  • Clear vaginal discharge. You may notice a semi-transparent or cloudy discharge around 4 weeks into pregnancy as her mucus plug forms. Alert your vet to any greenish or bloody discharge though, as that requires prompt vet examination to ensure health of mom and fetuses.

By keeping an eye out for all these changes, you can feel fully confident your cat mating was a success by mid-pregnancy. Next we’ll cover how to estimate size of litter she’s expecting based on these distinctive symptoms.

Estimating Litter Size Based on Abdominal Enlargement

Once you’ve confirmed your cat is pregnant via testing and outward symptoms, estimating litter size can help you prepare. Here’s how to gauge roughly how many kittens are coming based on abdominal enlargement:

  • 4 weeks pregnant: No visible swelling.
  • 5 weeks pregnant: Only slight swelling noticeable when stroking along abdomen. Estimated litter size is 1-2 kittens.
  • 6 weeks pregnant: Abdomen is visibly enlarged but still firm. Estimated litter size is 3-4 kittens.
  • 7 weeks pregnant: Significant but still firm swelling of abdomen and mammary glands. Estimated litter size is 4-5 kittens.
  • 8 weeks pregnant: Large, obvious pregnant belly that’s softer as kittens take up more room. Estimated litter size is 5-6 kittens.
  • 9 weeks pregnant: Pendulous belly and obvious pregnant waddle. Estimated litter size is 6+ kittens.

Keep in mind each cat’s pregnancy carries differently, so use these timelines as general guidelines only. Have your vet confirm litter size and health via x-ray or ultrasound around 5-6 weeks along.

Preparing a Birthing Area for Delivery

In addition to monitoring your pregnant cat’s symptoms, you’ll need to prep a nesting area for the impending birth, ideally by week 7 of gestation. Here are some tips:

  • Choose a quiet, low-traffic area of your home away from other pets. A closet, bathroom, or spare room works well.
  • Provide plush bedding like blankets, towels, or pillows that are machine-washable.
  • Consider getting a kittening box, which has high-sides to prevent newborns from wandering.
  • Line the area with pee pads, puppy training pads, or layers of newspaper for easy cleanup.
  • Set up a lamp or heating pad covered with a blanket to provide supplemental warmth if needed.
  • Gather birthing supplies like sterile scissors, dental floss, towels, and kitten formula nearby.

By setting up an ideal birthing space in advance, you’ll be fully ready to tend to mom cat and her new arrivals once labor begins.

Recognizing the Signs of Impending Labor

Your cat will start exhibiting telltale behaviors and symptoms just prior to labor beginning:

  • Nesting behavior intensifies. She may pace around or move bedding materials the day before labor starts.
  • Mammary enlargement. Her teats will enlarge markedly and may start leaking milk hours before birth.
  • Drop in body temperature. Her temperature will decrease 12-24 hours before labor and be less than 100oF during delivery.
  • Loss of appetite. She’ll refuse food as contractions begin.
  • Restlessness. You may notice more frequent shifting in positions, tail twitching, and panting as her body prepares.
  • Vocalizing. Low-pitched moans, growls or yowls can signal the start of strong contractions.

When you observe these late-term pre-labor indicators, assist your cat into her prepped birthing area and notify your veterinarian that delivery is imminent. You’ll likely welcome the new additions within 12-24 hours!

Signs of Healthy Cat Labor You Can Expect

Your cat will progress through typical feline labor in three main stages:

Early labor

  • Lasts 6 to 12 hours as contractions begin
  • Light, intermittent straining
  • Starts searching for a private nesting spot

Active labor

  • Intense, frequent bouts of forceful straining
  • Rupture of the placental sac with a gush of fluid
  • Fetuses delivered one after the other with 5 to 30 minutes between births
  • Each should take just a few contractions to pass

Delivery of placentas

  • Placentas follow 10-15 minutes after each kitten
  • She may eat placentas to regain nutrients and energy

Delivery complications are always a risk, so monitor closely for:

  • Prolonged late-stage labor with over 2 hours between kittens
  • Very extended labor over 24 hours
  • Green or bloody discharge before placentas passed
  • retained placentas over 30 minutes after birth

Contact your vet promptly if concerned labor is not progressing smoothly. But in general, you can relax once all kittens and placentas are delivered and mom is nursing and tending to her babies. Enjoy your new cat family!

Post-Birthing Care Tips for Mom and Kittens

Your job caring for the queen and kittens has just begun once she completes delivery. Here are some after-birth care tips:

For mom:

  • Let her eat/drink normally and monitor for post-birth vaginal discharge
  • Watch for signs of fever, vomiting, diarrhea or abnormalpain that could indicate infection
  • Ensure all placentas were passed and notify your vet if she still strains or has discharge 24 hours later

For kittens:

  • Gently wipe off placental sacs and allow mom to tear open and clear airways
  • Tie off umbilical cords with sterile floss 1 inch from belly
  • Check that all are breathing and nursing well, supplementing weak kittens with kitten formula
  • Weigh each newborn to ensure they are gaining weight daily
  • Keep kittens confined to the nest when mom needs a break

By providing attentive care for mom and kittens, you can ensure your new cat family thrives. Raising a healthy litter of kittens is very rewarding.

Signs of Successful Cat Mating and Pregnancy: Key Takeaways

Hopefully this guide gave you a comprehensive overview of what to look for to determine if your cat’s mating was fruitful and gestation is progressing smoothly. Here are the key takeaways:

  • Look for early symptoms like enlarged nipples, weight gain, and nesting behaviors around 1-3 weeks after breeding.
  • Have your vet confirm pregnancy via palpation, ultrasound, x-rays or relaxin testing starting at 2-3 weeks.
  • Clearly enlarged abdomen, fetus movement, and milk production by 4-8 weeks confirm successful conception.
  • Monitor for signs of impending labor like nesting, teat enlargement, and low body temperature around 9 weeks.
  • Kittens will arrive after noticeable strong contractions and straining in a normal delivery.
  • Provide attentive post-birth care for the new mom and kittens.

With diligent observation and proactive veterinary care, you can ensure a healthy feline pregnancy and delivery. Enjoy the delightful experience of raising a new litter of kittens!

Tip: Be patient if cat mating doesn’t take initially. It’s normal for it to take a few estrus cycles for conception to occur. Let her rest then try breeding again next heat.