Many a cat owner has come upon a completely unexpected litter of newborn kittens in their home or yard because they never suspected their female cat was pregnant. Cat pregnancies are relatively short and usually uneventful, making it difficult for some cat owners to detect pregnancy if they are unaware of the symptoms of pregnant cats. With information about the symptoms of pregnant cats owners are better prepared to properly care for their female cat during the pregnancy and to assist her with delivery if necessary.
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The average gestational period for cats is 63 days. Initial symptoms usually begin at about the third week of the pregnancy.
Symptoms of pregnant cats begin with a change in the appearance of the cat's nipples. The nipples will become larger and turn pink in colour. Beginning at week four of pregnancy, symptoms include an enlargement of the abdomen and increase in appetite. By week six, symptoms include behavioural changes like an increase in mothering activities and more careful movements. Before labour, one of the final symptoms of pregnant cats is nesting behaviour that includes the creation of a "nest" for delivery.
When pregnancy is suspected, a veterinarian should be contacted to confirm the diagnosis. An ultrasound can be used to confirm cat pregnancy beginning at three weeks of pregnancy, and abdominal palpitation can be performed beginning at four weeks of pregnancy.
When pregnancy is detected and confirmed by a veterinarian, owners can more closely determine the onset of labour by taking their cat's rectal temperature daily. The normal rectal temperature for cats is between 38.0 and 38.8 degrees C, but it will drop about -16.7 degrees C within 24 hours of the start of labour.
Certain feline conditions are commonly confused with pregnancy, including mastitis, cancer of the mammary glands, fluid or organ enlargement in the abdomen and infection in the uterus.
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