Cats have an average gestational period of 63 to 65 days, with a five day variation on either end of that figure, according to the "Clinical Textbook for Veterinary Technicians." During this time, signs signifying that the cat is carrying a litter of kittens arise. Since it isn't possible to test cats for pregnancy via blood or urine, the physical signs may be the only indication that your cat is pregnant.
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Pregnant cats experience an increase in appetite and a proportionate amount of weight gain. During early pregnancy, it can be hard to determine whether your cat is pregnant or simply gaining weight. By week four of the cat's pregnancy, the cat's body has changed in shape and gained enough weight to make the pregnancy visible, according to the "Clinical Textbook for Veterinary Technicians."
Palpation and Visualization
Between three and four weeks into the cat's pregnancy, a trained veterinarian is able to palpate the cat's abdomen and feel the kittens inside. Later in the pregnancy, it can be hard even for a trained professional to distinguish the developing kittens from the fetal membranes. This change in feeling occurs around 32 days into a cat's pregnancy.
Veterinarians may also visualise a cat's pregnancy using special technology. For example, after three weeks an ultrasound may be performed to visualise the heartbeats of the kittens. After 43 days, the bone structure of developing cats can be safely visualised using X-ray equipment, though "Radiography in Veterinary Technology" warns that X-rays should be avoided early in a cat's pregnancy.
For several days leading up to labour, a pregnant cat seeks out a quiet place to give birth. She may scout out several isolated locations before deciding to favour one. Once she has decided upon a spot, a pregnant female cat will often drag items to the area to make it more comfortable during the impending birthing process. If your cat is amassing towels, blankets, pillows or soft objects in a hard-to-reach area, she may be quite advanced in her pregnancy, according to the "Clinical Veterinary Advisor."
By three weeks into a pregnancy, a cat's nipples become deeper in colour and more pronounced. Breeders refer to this as "pinking." By six weeks into the pregnancy, the nipples become larger and the breasts may be prominent. This indicates the production of milk in preparation to nurse the kittens. Several days before birth, a pregnant cat may begin leaking milk. This is most evident if the cat lays on a fabric surface and leaves wet spots behind.
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- "Clinical Textbook for Veterinary Technicians"; Joanna Bassert, Dennis McCurnin; 2009
- "Clinical Veterinary Advisor: Dogs and Cats"; Etienne Cote, DVM; 2006
- "Radiography in Veterinary Technology"; Lisa M. Lavin; 2007
- "Shelter Medicine for Veterinarians and Staff"; Lila Miller, Stephen Zawistowski; 2004