Cats are very lovable and easy to spoil. Sometimes treats and a bit too much pampering can lead to overweight or obese kitties. However, an unspayed female cat could be pregnant instead of overweight. Pregnancy lasts approximately 60-65 days for most cats, and early identification is important, so the mother and her unborn kittens get appropriate care. Although it isn't always easy to determine if a cat is pregnant, there are several signs to watch out for.
Before looking for signs of pregnancy, try to figure out if your cat had an opportunity to become pregnant in the past 2 to 3 months. Cats that are allowed outside can easily find an unneutered male. Inside, cats can breed if they share a household with an unneutered male. A female cat in heat may try to escape from the house, and she'll draw lots of male attention if she makes it outside. Your cat may be in heat if she is more affectionate than normal, rolls around on the floor, or walks with her back and tail up. Loud or constant meowing is also a very recognizable sign of a cat in heat.
Sometimes you can guess if a cat is carrying too much weight with a visual and tactile examination. Stand over the cat and look down to observe the waistline. A cat's waistline should have a slight indentation behind the ribs. The cat may be overweight if you can't see the indent. Gently run your hands along both sides of your cat's body. You should feel the ribs, hip bones, and spine. If you can't feel these bones, they may be covered in a layer of fat.
Weight distribution is a good way to differentiate pregnancy from weight gain. Overweight cats usually put on pounds gradually, while pregnant cats gain weight rapidly. A pregnant cat develops a distinctive body shape with a round, smooth belly. Fat doesn't accumulate on the legs or neck. Overweight cats tend to have soft, drooping bellies, and excess fat accumulates in uniform layers instead of being concentrated in one area.
Look at your cat from the side. A pregnant cat may have a swayback appearance. Examine your cat's fur and skin to look for grooming issues. Patches of dull, dirty, or greasy fur and white, flaky patches of skin could mean the cat has gained weight and can't reach certain areas anymore. Although a pregnant cat may have difficulty reaching certain areas too, it's only temporary. Most pregnant cats don't show signs of poor grooming because their movements are only limited for a short time.
Overweight cats don't suddenly start eating more. Their appetite may increase slowly, and you may not notice right away. A pregnant cat can eat up to 50% more food than she did pre-pregnancy. She may clean her plate at mealtimes and beg for food. Some cats crave certain foods during pregnancy. Provide a variety of foods with appropriate nutrients to stay ahead of cravings.
Young female cats go into heat every 10 to 14 days. Your cat may be pregnant if she doesn't exhibit signs of being in heat for more than two weeks. A pregnant cat may become very affectionate towards people and other cats, especially if another cat in the home already has kittens. The expectant mother can develop milk early and help feed the babies. In these situations, the expectant mother may give birth near the existing litter. Both mothers combine their litters in one place and take care of all the babies together.
Look at your cat's belly and nipples if you aren't sure whether she's pregnant or not. Fur around the nipples becomes thinner about halfway through pregnancy. Each nipple should be surrounded by a hairless circle when the kittens are born so they can start nursing immediately. The mother cat's nipples also swell and turn a dark shade of pink or red. You may see drops of milk leak out if you rub your cat's belly in the last few weeks of pregnancy.
As the pregnancy progresses, your cat may look for quiet, secluded places to give birth. This is called nesting. Every cat is different, and some kitties don't want to be alone during labor. Your cat may want you to stay with her while she's having her babies. Take your cues from the cat to help her feel safe and comfortable.
Morning sickness is usually associated with pregnant women, but pregnant cats may experience vomiting and nausea as well. A cat's body goes through many physical and hormonal changes during pregnancy too. Your cat may seem lethargic at times. It's not unusual for a cat to sleep most of the day and night during the last few weeks of pregnancy. She's saving her energy for the big day.
Always take your cat to a veterinarian if you suspect a pregnancy. They can confirm the pregnancy with a blood test or an ultrasound. Blood test results take about 30 minutes. An ultrasound lets the veterinarian count and examine the unborn kittens to make sure they're healthy and monitor growth and development. Researchers are currently working on an in-home pregnancy test for cats that detects a hormone called relaxin. Unfortunately, home tests aren't ready for marketing yet.
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