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Female cats may become pregnant as early as six months of age if they are not surgically sterilised. Pregnancy in cats usually progresses well, and the mother cat, or "queen," usually delivers a healthy litter of kittens. Female cats that are allowed to roam freely outdoors can become pregnant and give birth to more than two litters per year. The gestational period for a cat is between 63 and 65 days.
There are some subtle early signs that will indicate that your cat may be pregnant, including an increased appetite and nipples that become very pink within two weeks of becoming pregnant. By week three of gestation, a veterinarian may be able to verify the pregnancy by feeling the cat's abdomen. By the fourth week, the cat may appear slightly heavier in the stomach and on her sides.
Cats may gain up to 25 per cent of their body weight during pregnancy; this means a weight gain of between 0.907 and 1.81kg. for the average cat. The fetal kittens grow quickly, but their bones do not develop until approximately 45 days into the pregnancy. At that time, an X-ray may determine how many kittens are in the litter. Veterinarians who use ultrasound equipment are able to verify the pregnancy earlier.
Pre-Labor and Labor
In the week before the delivery, the cat may begin looking for a safe place in which to give birth. This is known as "nesting," and a cat owner may want to observe where she goes to prevent her from hiding to have her kittens. Physical signs that the birth is near include a drop of milk appearing when a nipple is gently squeezed. For cat owners monitoring the pregnancy process, a rectal temperature that drops to 37.2 degrees C indicates that delivery may take place within 24 hours. As the birth nears, the cat may quit eating. When labour begins, the cat may begin to frequently lick her abdominal and genital areas. She may alternately lie down and pace, and she may vocalise her discomfort by yowling. The first kitten may arrive within an hour after labour begins, and additional kittens may be born every 15 minutes or so.
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