Is your cat due to give birth soon – or even in the birthing process right now – and you want to know how to tell when a cat is done giving birth?
It can be hard to tell, but there are a few signs to look out for that indicates a cat is done giving birth. Obviously, contractions will have stopped, and there are some behavioral signs to look out for.
If your cat had a radiograph during pregnancy you’ll know how many kittens to expect. So, while obvious, that’s a pretty sure way of knowing if she’s finished and all the kittens are out.
If not, you can expect anywhere between 2-6 kittens on average to pop out. (Check this post for how many cats are typically in a litter). That doesn’t help much, does it?
Sometimes it’s difficult to be sure when the last kitten has been born because cats can take extended breaks in between giving birth. While the typical time in between each kitten being born is between 10-60 minutes, it can actually take hours!
As a little extra help, here are some of the signs to look out for that your cat has finished giving birth:
How to Tell When a Cat Is Done Giving Birth: 4 Signs to Check For
Is She Nursing Her Newborns?
A mother cat will usually nurse and clean up each kitten briefly as it’s born. You should have been observing her throughout her pregnancy, so you’ll know how much time she’s spending on her kittens.
If she suddenly changes her focus to nursing and grooming all of her kittens this is usually a sign that she’s finished giving birth. Especially if she’s relaxing (it’s exhausting giving birth to a litter), and the newborn even starts suckling from her.
Check for Contractions
It’s not always easy to feel contractions in a cat, but it’s worth checking because if you can feel contractions then you know she’s not finished giving birth.
To feel for them, gently rest two fingers on her abdomen. It’s hard to explain exactly what you’re feeling for. It’s easier to say that you’ll know if you can feel them, if not you can rely on some of the other signs I’m explaining.
Is She Still Straining?
Much like the contractions I mentioned above, from observing your cat during her labor you should be able to tell the difference between how she was straining to push each kitten out, and her behavior now.
If your cat has quite obviously stopped straining and is starting to relax, it’s very possible that all of her kittens are out. It’s also possible that she’s taking an extended break, though.
Either way, if he’s happy and not in any discomfort it doesn’t do any harm to just wait it out longer.
Has Her Breathing Normalized?
During the final stages of pregnancy and while in labor, you will have noticed your cat breathing rapidly. It affects cats differently, but typically they pant or breathe very quickly while in labor.
If you’ve observed her breathing pattern normalizing since she gave birth to her last kitten, that’s probably because it was her final kitten.
Counting the number of kittens and gently feeling her stomach is also a good way to get a good idea if she’s finished or not. 4-5 kittens and an empty tummy is pretty strong evidence. It’s not a sure thing though, with the excess fluid and kittens being so small, the ‘feel test’ isn’t 100%.
Stages of Labor In Cats
A pregnant goes through three distinct phases when they are about to drop their litter. Let’s lay them out so we can find out if your cat has gone through them yet.
1. Onset of Contractions
This stage begins with the onset of contractions and lasts for 6-12 hours on average (up to 36 hours in first-time mothers). During this stage, the cervix relaxes, and the cat’s water breaks. The cat may appear restless, pant, and lick her genital area frequently. However, contractions may not be visible at this point.
2. Giving Birth Stage
This stage begins when the kittens start to move through the birth canal and into the world. The mother cat will begin to actively push, and each kitten should be born within 10-60 minutes of the previous one.
During this stage, the mother cat may vocalize, pant, and strain. The kittens will be born in individual sacs that the mother cat will break open and clean.
This stage involves the delivery of the placentas, or afterbirths. Each kitten is usually followed by a placenta, which the mother cat will eat to clean up the area and to replenish nutrients lost during labor.
The mother cat may continue to have contractions during this stage, and it may take up to 24 hours for all the placentas to be delivered.
Cat Pregnancy Aftercare
Taking into account all the behavioral changes above. If you’re certain your cat is done giving birth, it’s time to move into the aftercare phase.
The first thing to do is to check the health and wellbeing of all the kittens and the queen. If the mother cat appears to be in any distress or is still straining an hour or so after the last kitten, contact your vet immediately.
Try not to interfere with or touch the newborn kittens unless you absolutely have to. The first moments between kitten and mother are important for their bonding phase. If the kittens haven’t started feeding from their mom within an hour, however, they may need a little help finding her teats.
Let’s not forget they’re blind (takes 7-10 days for kittens to open their eyes), deaf (for at least the first 14 days), and it has to be a little confusing having just entered the world! So, a little help can go a long way. Especially if mom cat is exhausted and taking a break, which will certainly be the case.
From here on, mom cat should get to work looking after her kittens. Albeit a very tired mom who may spend a lot of time napping. But unless any issues arise, you should be an observer for the most part.
If you want to learn more about a cat’s pregnancy and birthing timeline check out this post about what to do if your cat is giving birth for the first time.