If your female cat has not been spayed, you run a serious risk of one day learning she is pregnant. Even the most vigilant cat owners are encouraged to have their cats spayed in order to prevent unwanted pregnancy. Moreover, fertile female cats will go into heat every two weeks if you have an unneutered male cat around. This makes controlling pregnancy quite difficult. Nevertheless, once your cat has become pregnant, it is important to offer her the proper care. So how can you tell if your cat is pregnant?
As with humans, cats will experience a number of changes when they become pregnant. While we can’t just go to the local supermarket and pick up an early pregnancy test for cats, there are some signs that appear after the first few weeks of gestation. Before day 15 or 20, the only sign of pregnancy is likely slight weight gain, so your cat will likely need an abdominal ultrasound in order to confirm pregnancy. After day 20, fetal heartbeats can also provide definitive evidence of pregnancy.
During the first 20 days of development, kittens grow in the uterine horns. After this point, the embryos can be felt through the abdomen as evenly spaced masses approximately the size of a grape. However, palpitating the mother cat’s abdomen effectively requires veterinary expertise so you should not attempt this on your own as there are many structures in the abdomen that can be easily confused for embryos. Moreover, excessive poking and prodding of the cat’s abdomen can damage the placenta and may even lead to miscarriage.
Another sign of pregnancy is morning sickness. Though not incredibly common, pregnant cats may experience nausea and vomiting during the third or fourth week of pregnancy due to the many hormonal changes they experience. Apathy, lack of appetite, and vomiting are all signs of morning sickness which may last only a few days. In fact, even the most attentive cat owner may not recognize the signs of morning sickness, so veterinary advice may still be required.
After about 30 days of pregnancy, cats develop obvious pink nipples and their belly size will grow noticeably. However, at this stage, fetal kittens are contained in capsules of fluid and are not detectable by palpation. As your cat’s delivery date approaches, her breasts enlarge and you may notice they express a milky fluid from their nipples.
Ultimately, it can be very difficult to determine if your cat is pregnant until closer to the delivery date. Ultrasounds and x-rays are very effective at detecting pregnancy, but you will obviously need to visit your cat’s vet. In fact, unless you are an experienced cat owner or breeder, you may not be able to tell if your cat is pregnant until much later in the pregnancy. If you are concerned about your cat’s health or the health of potential fetuses, you should be sure to make a vet appointment as soon as possible.