Fortunately, over 99% of kitten deliveries occur without complications and/or assistance from their owners. However, when your queen is set to start labor, it is comforting to recognize the symptoms and signs of labor in cats.
24 to 48 hours before labor in cats starts, your queen might seem restless, anxious and she might me extremely affectionate. The queen will be looking for a warm, quiet and dark place. This will become her place to nest and have the litter. You have to know that this nesting behavior can occur up to 72 hours before labor starts. At this stage, just prepare her nesting environment by placing old sheets, blankets, litter, food and water in her room.
The first stage of labor, which usually lasts for about 24 hours, is characterised by restlessness, vocalisation and nesting behavior. She might be panting and purring a lot. However, some normally affectionate queens may show signs of aggression towards their owners as the time of parturition approaches. The queen will often lick her genitals a lot more than usual as well. The best sign that stage two of labor in cats is imminent, is when the queen stops eating for at least 12 hours.
Once stage two of labor in cats starts, kittens are usually produced quite quickly with relatively little abdominal straining but often with a loud scream. The birth of the first kitten takes 30-60 minutes and the interval between delivery of subsequent kittens varies from 5 to 90 minutes. Most queens will sever the umbilical cord, eat the placenta and clean the kittens without requiring any assistance.
Frequently a queen will suckle the first born while parturition continues. Occasionally, the second stage of labor in cats may be divided in two parts, with the queen resting for as long as 12-24 hours between deliveries of her kittens. This usually happens when the queen does not feel safe due to the presence of strange people or other animals.
Stage three of labor, the expulsion of the placentas, usually occurs after each kitten is delivered and the queen usually cuts the cord and consumes the placentas. Placenta contains nutrients that will help the queen producing quality milk. It is rare for placentas to be retained – the administration of oxytocin is advised in such cases. After birth, the kittens will try to suckle quickly. It is important for them to receive the first milk from birth, the colostrum, because it contains important antibodies.
Because she will be breastfeeding for about five – six weeks, the queen will need more water at the beginning to compensate for her loss of fluids. It is a good idea to leave a bowl of water permanently near the delivery room. At the end of the lactation period, usually around 5-6 weeks, the queen’s milk production will decrease and she will no longer be interested to breastfeed. It is now the time for you to place a bowl of dry food specifically for the kittens. Around 8 weeks, the kittens can finally be separated from their mother and live their own lives.
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