Continuing our newborn kittens: start to finish series, we’ll now cover the labor process.

Similar to a cat’s mysterious daily behaviors and nonchalant attitudes, the process of going into labor can be just as puzzling. The good news is that feline pregnancy, labor, and birth is not nearly as dramatic as it is for humans and dogs.

Most of the time they’re complication-free, but as a pet owner you will probably want to make this process as easy as possible and be prepared just in case your involvement is needed.

How to prepare for the birthing process

If you are planning on being present during your cat’s labor, you’ll want to monitor her temperature levels in order to predict the moment of birth. You can do this by taking her temperature with a thermometer daily from two weeks before the due date.

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The temperature of your cat should normally be between 38.3C (101F) and 39C (102F). If the temperature drops below 37.8C (100F) you can generally expect the birth to take place within twenty-four hours.

The best thing you can do at that time is to prepare a nice little nesting area. Opt for a room that can stay dark, without noise and temperature changes. Allow your cat to get comfortable in this area and leave enough food and water close by.

Signs that your cat is going into labor

  • She’ll retreat to the nesting area and look rather anxious and restless.
  • Expect her to go into labor anywhere between 62 and 67 days.
  • Repetitive licking of the abdomen and birthing area is a clear sign.
  • Your cat will have a slight discharge but you aren’t likely to spot this because of the persistent licking.
  • Your cat will lose all interest in food as her focus will primarily be on licking.
  • She might start yowling and sit with her mouth open
  • Her unrest will be clear, but don’t interfere with the process.
  • When giving birth, the pregnant cat will lay on her side squatting downwards to release the kittens.

It is very important that you give your cat privacy when she is in labor. You can leave the door open just enough to monitor the process, but other than that don’t interrupt her.

How long should you wait?

It all depends on the cat, but the first kitten is bound to appear within an hour of her going into labor.

The other kittens will be born in 10 to 60 minute intervals. At this point your cat will be licking vigorously at the amniotic sac to free the kittens and allow them to breathe.

When Should You Lend a Hand?

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Depending on the nurturing nature of your cat, this might sometimes be a problem. If you notice that your cat is struggling to set them free or negligent of this process, this is where you can step in.

Grab the kitten that is still covered in the amniotic sac and rub her/him gently with a towel until the sac disperses. If you notice that your cat is not releasing her kittens from the umbilical cord, this is also a process where you can assist. Use dental floss to tie around the cord and snip it at about an inch’s length.

Even though you might be eager to help, it is very important that the mother does most of these activities by herself. This is her way of bonding with the newborn kittens as well as acknowledging them as her own.

During the birth of the first kittens she will start with nurturing process like feeding them milk; if she is not doing this you can help by placing the kitten on her nipple. Don’t be alarmed when you cat eats some of the afterbirths – this is natural and part of the process.

If the whole event is taking longer than seven hours, it would be wise to take her to the veterinarian (just in case).

These are just a few tips and tricks to keep in mind when you suspect that your cat is going into labor.

Next article in the newborn kittens: start to finish series – how to care for newborn kittens.

Topic for Discussion:

Has your cat ever gone into labor? How did it go? Tell us in the comments below!
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