How to Tell If a Cat Is Pregnant: Labor Signs, Behavior and Timeline

Has your cat been pregnant before or previously given birth to kittens?
One thing is for sure, knowing the length of a cat’s pregnancy won’t help at all unless you know the date when she mated with her chosen suitor. As a rule, your cat keeps that information a secret!

If your cat is pregnant, then you probably have some planning to do. Most pet parents do not intend on their cat becoming pregnant, so planning must be done on moment’s notice. As a pet parent, you should prepare new litter and give your cat special attention if her or she is going to have kittens soon. A formulated cat food diet, and nutrition program is really important for a pregnant cat.

How Long are Cats Pregnant For?

So, how long will you have to wait to see your newly born, cute and fluffy kittens?
Feline pregnancy is generally 63-65 days in length – about nine weeks – but it is not unusual for kittens to be born after only 58 days or as late as 70 days gestation.

Pregnancy Behaviors

During the fourth week, your cat’s belly will begin to swell slightly. The swelling will also be more apparent in her pink nipples. Your cat’s appetite will also begin to increase. A growth formula prescribed by an expert is important.

Your cat’s pregnancy will become obvious at the sixth week. The symptoms of a pregnant cat will now encompass all changes in her behavior. A pregnant cat will begin moving around with great care.

She will try to avoid twisting and stretching actions. If she usually ventures outdoors, she will being to prefer remaining indoors. The cat’s appetite will also continue to increase throughout the sixth week.

The largest symptom of a pregnant cat is her behavior. She will suddenly begin to show signs of excitement. This behavior is known to as “quickening”, and it is the critical stage of the cat’s pregnancy in which the fetus begins to move.

She will stretch, roll, and begin to search for a safe place to give birth. Therefore, it is advised to keep your cat indoors to ensure that she does not make her nest outdoors.

Pregnancy Stages


A cat has five pregnancy stages. Each stage has specific symptoms that can guide you to tell when your cat’s labor is close.

Fertilization


Kittens usually reach maturity after a period of six months of growth. This is not always the case, as some reach maturity at the age of 12 months. As your kitten reaches maturity, heat cycles develop and your female cat can get fertilized.

Early stage

This is a four week period after fertilization. Several symptoms may be observed including: loss of weight, morning sickness, and lack of appetite due to nausea.

In the second week, cats develop pink nipples which are swollen and sensitive to the touch.
On the third week, lumps are felt when palpating your cat’s abdomen.

When ultrasound is performed by a specialist, the presence of kittens are observed. Your cat will start gaining weight since as she begins to regain appetite.

Middle stage


At this stage, there is increased weight gain. When an x-ray is done, it indicates a clear presence of kittens and how many there are.

Pre-labor


Also called the nesting stage, this is when your cat will start looking for warm places for her to give birth. The pre-labor stage usually starts one week before delivery.

Several observations may be observed including drops of milk in the nipple area, loss of appetite, and rectal temperature drop.

Labour stage

This is the final stage of cat pregnancy. It is signalized by cat licking her abdomen and genitals, which will stimulate her birth.

Watch Out for These Signs

cat meowing

    1. The cat’s appetite has almost doubled in the past weeks or so and you will be able to see her kittens moving around in her abdomen quite clearly.
    2. Displaying ‘nesting’ behavior i.e. Looking for a warm, quiet and a safer place in to give birth. For this reason, it’s recommended that you provide a suitable ‘nesting box’ for your pregnant cat.
    3. When your cat’s labor pain are due to start, her appetite will reduce drastically or completely.
    4. ‘Clingy’ behavior where your cat will feel the need to be with you, always looking for your affection and attention. As time brings her closer to the actual birth, she may start pacing around and seem particularly nervous or excited.
    5. ‘Call’ to you. Regardless if you have ever been around when you cat gave birth in the past, you will not be able to mistake this specific sound.
    6. A pregnant cat will start cleaning her rear as she feels her body change in preparation for delivery of her kittens.
    7. Cat is uneasy and will start moving in and out of her nesting box.

    Final Thoughts

    How do you know your cat in labor? Well, It is your duty as a pet parent to have made yourself familiar with your cat’s birthing process.

  1. If you have prepared adequately for the birth of the kittens, you will be aware of what to expect, detect unusual behavior, and know what to look out for if things don’t go as plan and the vet needs to be called in to assist.
  2. After the anticipation of your cat’s pregnancy, proper preparation will ensure that the kittens’ birth will be worry-free.

    For additonal info, check out this cool info-graphic from our friends at kobipets.com

  3. ’cat

23 thoughts on “How to Tell If a Cat Is Pregnant: Labor Signs, Behavior and Timeline

  1. AvatarErin olson

    This helped a lot my cat got pregnant by accident and we have never had a pregnant cat before so I need help thank you?????????????????????????☺️☺️?????????

    Reply
    1. AvatarMaggie davis

      This did help quite a bit actually. She is really clingy and it constantly pacing, having a really loud meowing call, and she is losing her appetite some. Thank you for posting this. This is her first litter and she is showing signs of soon labor. I am afraid something may go wrong, but we know a vet that can come on a moment’s notice.

      Reply
  2. AvatarMaggie Grosse

    Thank you. She is showing signs of going to start having the babies soon. This is her 1st litter. Her mother always came and woke me up to let me know it w time.

    Reply
  3. AvatarAmy

    This is my cats first litter really nervous cause I think she is nesting an getting ready to have babies soon should I let her do it own her own an don’t bother her but keep a good eye on her or what do I do I’ma just really scared an nervous about her having first litter

    Reply
  4. AvatarMaggie davis

    This did help quite a bit actually. She is really clingy and it constantly pacing, having a really loud meowing call, and she is losing her appetite some. Thank you for posting this. This is her first litter and she is showing signs of soon labor. I am afraid something may go wrong, but we know a vet that can come on a moment’s notice.

    Reply
  5. AvatarRachel christine Lopez

    My cat Lily is going to have kittens but Lily lost the father and now she .her nipple are pink and getting bigger in size she licking her genitals and her Domino’s is that mean she’s about to have her kittens

    Reply
  6. AvatarElaine Shaw

    Thank you for your post. This has been very helpful. I am sure I can do this with my cat. I have set up a nice warm place for her, with a birthing box an room. 😘

    Reply
  7. AvatarRadhika

    Thank you this information was of so much use…had a ct visiting our house n then in labour…did not know what was happening until the site helped me to help the birth of 3 lil lovable.kittens

    Reply
  8. AvatarSharon

    We found a homeless cat not very old and we think she is having kittens .how will I know if she is having babies and what should I do ? have a bed for her , lots of food and water, very affectant to us what signs should I look for ?

    Reply
  9. AvatarDawn

    I can feel the babies move up until she gives birth…but the she delivers and they die…i want to help her successfully give birth to live babies…help me!!!

    Reply
  10. AvatarDenise

    This post was quite helpful. I appreciate that it was in layman’s terms I can understand. I have helped several cats with there birth but never my own. She’s quite young and the first of my own to have a litter. I think she is close to giving birth maybe a week or so. Thanks again for the information. I’ll post again after birth.

    Reply
  11. AvatarSharon Robertson

    Hi, I am fostering a pregnant cat, I have no idea how far along she is. She has removed the hair from 2 nipples and I her babies are quite active. Will she remove the hair from the remaining nipples as well and how far in advance of the babies being born do they usually do this? Sorry, I’ve fostered many kittens and bottle babies, but this is my first pregnant cat and I am in totally unfamiliar territory. Any advise is appreciated. Thank you.

    Reply
    1. AvatarMallory Crusta

      Hello Sharon,

      It sounds like she’ll be having kittens very soon—if she hasn’t already!

      Kittens start wiggling about in the womb at four to five weeks, but most people say they aren’t able to feel or see them until around the seventh week. The removal of hair around the nipples is usually seen between four and eight weeks, but it seems most common later in the pregnancy. She may remove hair from around all the nipples or may stop at two, but they will definitely be enlarged and may even leak some milk towards the very end of her pregnancy.

      Based on what you’ve said, it sounds like she’s probably between seven and nine weeks pregnant. If she’s at the late end of that range, you’ll probably notice some nesting behaviors, though this isn’t true for every cat. Some cats don’t start nesting until hours before the babies are born.

      If you need more guidance and community during labor and beyond, I highly recommend The Cat Site’s “Pregnant Cats and Kitten Care” forum. https://thecatsite.com/forums/pregnant-cats-and-kitten-care.36/

      Good luck with this new adventure!

      Best,

      Mallory

      Reply
      1. AvatarSharon

        Thank you, no babies yet but they are very active for about the past week and a half. I’m excited but nervous at the same time.

        Reply
  12. AvatarHeather

    A cat I had when I was younger gave birth to her kittens in my lap… and now i have a different cat that is pregnant with her first litter. I believe she is around 5 weeks. Her appetite has increased, she is increasingly having to know my whereabouts, and refuses to sleep until I’m in bed and she can cuddle up next to me with the blanket over her… I’m worried she may decide to have the kittens in the bed and being it is relatively high off the ground I wouldn’t want them to fall and get hurt. How do I encourage her to nest in the nesting box???

    Reply
    1. AvatarMallory Crusta

      Great question, Heather. Have you tried lining the nesting box with some of your unwashed clothes or blankets? You might even place the blanket from your bed in the box. Do you have it in a warm, comfortable location—perhaps in your room or nearby? At week five or six, she probably doesn’t have her mind on nesting yet, so it may be a couple of weeks before she starts telling you where she might want to have her kittens.

      You can do your best to make the nesting box inviting, but ultimately, your cat will most likely make her own decision about where to give birth regardless of your better judgment. She could surprise you by losing all interest in your bed when the time comes.

      Now…what should you do if your cat does decide to have the kittens in your bed? It might be a little bit gross for you, but the kittens will probably be fine. Many an adult cat was born on top of someone’s bed! You’ll have to wash or replace your blanket and carefully move the kittens after a while, but it’s unlikely that the newborns will fall off. If you catch the signs of labor early enough, you may be able to gently transfer her from the bed and into the nesting box (ideally close to the bed) before she gives birth.

      Wishing you and your kitty all the best!

      Mallory

      Reply
  13. AvatarHeather

    I have set up an old suitcase with my dressing gown in (which she nuzzles all the time) I’m predicting she’s between 4-6 weeks, her belly is swollen and increased appetite. How can I slowly encourage her to give birth in there? She has 2/3 options set up for her as a safe birthing place so any are fine. Just looking for tips to encourage her to nest in there when it’s time.

    Reply

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