Cat Birthing Basics
Delivering Kittens Safely
By Jessica Remitz
Preparing yourself and your pregnant cat for the birth of kittens can be a daunting and potentially exhausting process, especially if it is your first time birthing kittens. Here are some essential items to have on hand and tips to help your cat have a successful and safe delivery.
Monitoring Your Cat's Health Before Birth
Prior to the birth of her kittens, your cat will need regular veterinary care as well as a pre-breeding physical exam by a veterinarian. Her vaccinations should be current and she should be tested and treated for parasites. Your cat should also have regular exercise and a balanced, nutritious diet. You’ll also want to restrict your cat’s movement leading up to delivery so that she’s not jumping down from high places or injuring herself, said Sharona Duganne of StormHaven Cattery. Duganne also recommends monitoring your cat’s food and water consumption leading up to the delivery, as pregnant cats will often consumer more water the day before they give birth.
Building a Birthing Box
It’s important to introduce your cat to her birthing box, or to the designated place where she will be giving birth in your home, in advance of her labor to ensure she’s comfortable in the area and feels safe during delivery. Separate your cat from other cats or kittens in the home so that her birthing area is as quiet and squabble-free as possible, Duganne said. Keeping her apart from other cats in the home will also help you to monitor her food and water consumption and keep a close eye on any changes in her health. If you prefer to use a crate rather than a box, Duganne recommends a Pet Gear crate that has three doors to allow you access to the center and sides of the crate before, during, and after the birthing process.
Additional Items Needed for Birth
Before your cat goes into labor, you’ll want to make sure you have the following items prepared: reusable bed pads, clean towels, gauze pads, a thermometer, and the phone number for your veterinarian or the emergency personnel on staff. Use the bed pads as bedding for your cat and her kittens and line the birthing area with it before, during, and after. Towels can be used to clean off the kittens or help cover messy areas of the bed pads.
Some kittens are born in the breech position, particularly Siamese, so keep gauze pads handy to strengthen your grip on the breech kittens, Duganne said. Your cat’s temperature will drop slightly during the birth process, so keep the thermometer handy to check her temperature prior to birth. Get in touch with your vet should any problems or complications arise before, during, or after the process.
Items Needed Immediately After Birth
You’ll want to have certain items handy once the first kitten is born and throughout the process of birthing the litter. Keep surgical scissors close and hemostatic forceps close by to cut the kittens' umbilical cords from the placenta if the mother fails to do so herself. After the cords are severed (by you or the mother), help your cat clean her kittens by keeping a baby syringe handy to suck any fluids out of the kittens' mouths, Duganne said.
fter the birthing process is over, clean the birthing area thoroughly and swap out bloody bed pads for new ones. Keep a heating pad in a box next to the birthing area and place the kittens in it as you clean. And keep your camera handy for plenty of pictures of the newborns and their mother.
The First Few Hours
At the time of birth and for the first few hours, the mother will be busy cleaning her kittens, warming them, and allowing them to suckle. This process is essential because it allows the kittens to ingest colostrum, an important part of the milk that helps newborns to fight infection during their first days while their immune system matures. Duganne also recommends keeping Snuggle Safe heating pads in the birthing area for the mother and kittens to stay close to for warmth.
The First Few Days
To track the health and development of the kittens, keep them close to you for the first few days, Duganne said. Handle the kittens often and get them used to a person’s touch as well as the touch of their mother and littermates. It’s important to keep the kittens in a warm area to prevent them from getting hypothermia, so keep the heating disks close by and warm. You’ll also want to monitor the kittens' nursing behavior to make sure they’re getting the nutrition they need and that the mother is helping to keep the kittens clean and exposing them to her nipples for nursing, Duganne said.
You’ll want to always have the phone number for a veterinary professional that you can call and ask questions of during the process, especially if it is your first time birthing kittens. Duganne recommends picking up some books specifically geared toward cat breeding to help demystify the process and to build a strong base of knowledge for what to expect during the birthing process. If you want to continue breeding, she also recommends keeping a detailed mating record for each cat being bred.
Learn more about the StormHaven cattery here.