A hormonal imbalance is thought to play a central role in the development of a false pregnancy, or pseudopregnancy, in which a non-pregnant female cat shows such symptoms as lactation or nursing without producing kittens. The affected female cat shows these symptoms about a month or two after her estrus (heat) is over. Depending on the severity of problem, the symptoms may last for more than a month.
The exact cause for this condition is unknown. However, hormonal imbalances, especially of progesterone and prolactin, are thought to play an important role in its development. Some female cats have been found to show such abnormal symptoms within three to four days after after an ovariohysterectomy (surgical removal of the ovaries and uterus).
You will need to give a detailed history of your cat's health, and the onset and nature of the symptoms. Your veterinarian will perform a thorough physical exam to evaluate all body systems, and to evaluate the overall health of your cat. Routine blood tests will include a complete blood count, biochemistry profile and urinalysis, all of which usually reveal normal results, unless an underlying disease is present. And diagnostic imaging such as abdominal X-rays and ultrasound is used to rule out infection of the uterus or normal pregnancy.
Unless symptoms persist, treatment is typically unnecessary. Otherwise, your veterinarian may recommend hormonal supplementation or ovariohysterectomy (removal of ovaries and uterus) to prevent further episodes.
To reduce mammary gland secretions, your veterinarian will advise you on using cold or warm packs to minimize the stimulation that promotes lactation. An Elizabethan collar (cone) can also help prevent the self-nursing or licking behavior that can stimulate lactation. In some patients, reducing the daily food intake can help to reduce the production of milk.
For those owners who are not planning to breed their cat, and do not want their female cats to reproduce in the future, ovariohysterectomy is a good solution for the prevention of future false pregnancy episodes. The overall prognosis is good and most cats improve within two to three weeks, even without treatment.
A hormone involving the secretion of milk
An in-depth examination of the properties of urine; used to determine the presence or absence of illness
The hollow bodily organ that holds the embryo and fetus and provides nourishment; only found in female animals.
The prediction of a disease’s outcome in advance
The glands in female animals that are used to produce milk; also called the udder or breast
The time period in which a female is receptive to male attention
The formation and secretion of milk and the processes involved
The process of making something larger by dilating or stretching it
A hormone that is created at the time of pregnancy