How Long Is a Cat’s Pregnancy?

Lovely siberian cat with asleep little kitten in the wicker basket close-up

Key Points

  • A cat’s pregnancy lasts 60 to 70 days, with the average being 63 to 65 days. 

  • The stages of feline pregnancy are egg fertilization and embryo development, early pregnancy, ongoing pregnancy, early labor, and delivery. 

  • A female cat is able to become pregnant when they are only four months old. 

  • Contact your veterinarian immediately if your pregnant cat is vomiting, has diarrhea, avoids using the litter box, or has bloody vaginal discharge.

  • Spaying your cat prevents mammary, ovarian, and uterine tumors and makes it impossible for your pet to become pregnant again.  

Cats are prolific and effective at ending lives and starting new ones. The domestic cat's success at hunting mice and songbirds is legendary, but their success at reproducing mini-versions of themselves is just as efficient.

The breeding season of cats begins in early spring and ends in autumn. An unspayed female can have two or even three litters a year. Unless you want to spend your time from St. Patrick's Day to Columbus Day putting "kittens: free to a good home" ads in the local newspaper, seriously consider spaying your pet. If the horse is out of the barn, as they say, do your best to make the pregnancy safe for the mother-to-be and the kittens.

This article looks at important details of a cat’s pregnancy to let you, as a pet owner, know what to expect during and after the pregnancy. Included is information on what to look out for to make sure your pregnant cat is in good health and why getting your pet fixed is a good option.

Young cat nursing mixed gray kittens

How Long Are Cats Pregnant?

The typical cat pregnancy lasts 60 to 70 days, averaging around 63 to 65. Every animal is different, and factors like trauma, medications, and exposure to toxins can influence the length of your cat’s pregnancy. If it is your cat's first litter, the pregnancy may last a few days longer than average.

Unless you know the day that conception occurred, you can only estimate how long your cat has been pregnant. Some feline pregnancy signs help you make a pretty good guess, or you can take the cat to the vet for an accurate diagnosis.

Stages of Pregnancy in a Cat

There are five main stages of feline pregnancy, beginning when the egg is fertilized by a male’s sperm cells and ending with the queen giving birth to their kittens. Some physical symptoms and changes are noticeable, depending on the week the pregnancy has reached.

The cat pregnancy timeline below sheds some light on what to expect from your cat at this time in their life. 

Egg Fertilization

The first seven days of a cat’s pregnancy are essential for embryo development. After the male sperm comes in contact with your cat’s eggs, the fertilized ovules become early-stage embryos inside your pet’s uterus.

The placenta is the first organ that grows inside the embryo; without it, the fetus can’t receive oxygen and nutrients from the mother

Early Pregnancy

After the first two weeks of the pregnancy, your cat shows signs that might convince you to take them to the veterinarian for a diagnosis. These early-phase signs of pregnancy are:

  • Morning sickness

  • Slight weight gain

  • Bigger, pinker nipples

  • Calmer and more affectionate demeanor

  • Slightly larger stomach

Ongoing Pregnancy

After five or six weeks, your cat's pregnancy is evident. They continue to put on weight, their nipples become even larger, and they say bye-bye to morning sickness. During the fifth and sixth weeks, most fetal organs have developed. The kittens inside your pet’s belly already have brains, central nervous systems, and hormonal glands. 

Although not present in all cats, some queens show a specific behavior called “quickening.” The cat runs around as if excited about her pregnancy, letting everyone know they’re going to have babies. If you say that sounds just like your sister-in-law, don't be mean.

Towards the end of this stage, the queen begins to look for and prepare her "nesting spot." Unless you want to be conducting an "Easter egg hunt" for kittens in a few weeks, you have prepared a "birthing box" for the mother-to-be. Improve the box by adding comfortable blankets, a cozy cat bed, and some of the cat's favorite toys

Having a safe, comfortable spot ready for the big event may dull the cat's instinct to find a secluded place to protect their young from potential predators.  

Early Labor

About five to seven days before your cat delivers the litter, there are several clinical signs specific to labor — although not nearly as spectacular as the labor itself. One tell-tale sign that the end is nearing is the queen’s nipples start secreting low amounts of milk to prepare the glands for delivery.

Other changes include a loss of appetite due to the kittens occupying a lot of space in her womb, a lower body temperature, and movements of the kittens in the queen’s abdomen. While early labor usually occurs by the 65th day, some cats experience it earlier. This is especially true for cats that are injured, malnourished, have an infection, or are stressed because of a recent major change in their life — such as moving homes. 

Giving Birth

Around the 65th day of pregnancy, the cat gives birth to the kittens. Some of the typical symptoms of a cat in labor are:

  • Panting and pacing

  • Excessive grooming, especially of her nether regions

  • Dark pink or dark red nipples

  • Vaginal discharge of blood 

Once your pet starts delivering their offspring, kittens should show up every 15 to 25 minutes. If more than three hours go by and you see your cat continuing to strain as if she wants to keep giving birth, call a veterinarian. The queen might be experiencing a difficult birth. 

Fluffy calico mother cat cleaning kittens ear

How Young Can a Cat Get Pregnant?

A cat’s sexual activity largely depends on solar radiation, which means they experience heat cycles from late February or the beginning of March until late September or early October. Regardless of your cat’s age, they go into heat whenever their reproductive organs tell them to, as per the weather changes previously mentioned. 

In theory, even a cat that’s only three or four months old can go into heat. It’s uncommon, but this is why some veterinarians spay and neuter cats very early, sometimes as young as two months old. Because of a female cat's "high success rate" for propagating their species, you may be too late to avoid a pregnancy if you wait too long.

Normally, cats experience their first heat periods when they are around five to six months old. If they have contact with the opposite gender and the fertilization of an egg happens, they get pregnant even if they are just four months old. In some cases, very early pregnancies have complications, so it is better to spay your female cat or wait until they are fully grown before allowing them to give birth to kittens. 

Vaccinations for Pregnant Cats

According to an August 15, 2023, article by, vaccination of pregnant cats and dogs is a topic to discuss with your veterinarian. The decision ultimately depends on the queen’s health, the pregnancy stage, the actual vaccine, the diseases it protects the pet against, and the risks it comes with.  

Ideally, vaccinate your cat before they became pregnant. The entire plan is typically complete by the time your pet reaches the age of three to four months. If you’ve recently adopted a cat and haven’t had the chance to take them to the vet clinic for their shots, do so as soon as possible. 

Vaccines are biological products, so they influence the way the fetuses develop inside the queen’s womb. Depending on the vaccine's side effects, your vet may advise against vaccinating your cat during this time, especially if you keep her exclusively indoors and she has no contact with other animals. 

Potential Illnesses of Pregnant Cats

Several things can go wrong during pregnancy and labor, so paying as much attention to your cat’s behavior as possible is paramount. Signs such as not using the litter box, excessive meowing as if they’re in pain, or occasional vomiting and diarrhea require a prompt visit to the vet. Note anything out of the ordinary, no matter how insignificant you think it is.

Vaginal discharge is not normal during your pet’s pregnancy unless they are in the late stage of labor and the delivery is starting. Seek veterinary assistance immediately if you see your cat eliminating blood or any other discharge.

Postpartum Care 

As the cat gives birth to every kitten, you must ensure their noses and mouths are free of mucus or tissue that might make it impossible for them to breathe properly. Use disposable gloves or cover your hands with a towel to avoid leaving any scent on their bodies. This is important because the cat must be the first to groom and touch the kittens. This enables the mother cat to recognize their kittens later.

Once the feline delivery process is over, clean the nesting box to the best of your abilities and replace the soiled sheets or blankets with fresh ones. Keeping the kittens and the queen warm at this time is essential. Pay attention to your cat’s behavior to see if they feed all the babies properly. If there is a problem, you must assume the nursing task with products such as commercial kitten milk

Why Spay Your Cat

If you do not want your female cat to ever have kittens, the best solution is to get them spayed as early as possible. You don’t necessarily have to let them experience their first heat cycle to ensure they’re a "complete cat." This is a myth. 

California-based veterinarian Dr. Lisa Goldstein states, "The process of going through a heat cycle is stressful on a female cat’s mental and physical state — not to mention your own. It can create anxiety and periods of extreme vocalization that may stress out you, your family, and any other animals in the home. In the same way, an intact male cat may become stressed if he smells a female in heat nearby. He may vocalize, spray urine, and become aggressive to other cats in the household.”

Spaying cats prevents ovarian, uterine, and mammary cancer. Mammary cancer is common in intact female cats. An undiagnosed mammary tumor can spread to the lungs. Once that happens, treatment options are limited or non-existent.

Neutering male cats reduces the risks of testicular cancer and prostate disease. It also removes the tomcat's desire to roam, seek out females to mate with, and fight other males. This also lessens the opportunity for your cat to be run over, attacked by a dog or other animal, or lost.

Fluffy white mother cat resting in backyard with five kittens

Frequently Asked Questions

Many questions deserve and demand answers during your pet's pregnancy. This article addressed some, but your vet is your primary expert source for your cat's health care. Here are three common questions about feline pregnancy.

How Much Weight Gain Is Normal?

Most queens gain about two to four pounds during the pregnancy. The amount of gain depends on the size and breed of your cat. A more accurate measurement is 20-30 percent of their pre-pregnancy weight. A hefty 10-pounder packs on two or three pounds, but a more petite cat of five pounds adds only one to 1.5 lbs. on average.

How Do You Know When a Cat Is About To Give Birth?

Chirping, pacing, and licking her nether regions are noticeable symptoms that labor is starting. Once delivery begins, there is vaginal discharge with blood. After the cat begins to strain, the first kitten takes around 30 minutes to be born. 

Should You Touch a Pregnant Cat’s Belly?

Petting your cat’s pregnant belly is allowed. Don't engage in rough play or appeal to your cat’s hunting instincts since that could result in them accidentally hitting themselves on obstacles. A queen’s abdomen is sensitive during this time, so they may prevent you from touching it. 

Keeping Your Cat Healthy

Feline pregnancies have five stages — egg fertilization and embryo development, early pregnancy, ongoing pregnancy, early labor, and delivery. Cats can become pregnant when they are as young as four months old.

While your cat is pregnant, vaccinations and parasite prevention medications are typically a no-go. Talk to your veterinarian to ensure this applies to your pet’s case. Spaying your cat eliminates certain health risks, such as ovarian and mammary cancer, and prevents your pet from ever going into heat and becoming pregnant. 

If your cat is not pregnant, you know your options to prevent it. If your cat is pregnant, you know what to expect, what danger signals to watch for, and what to do if there is a serious problem. The only other thing to do is say, "Congratulations, and good luck on your new additions."

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