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How To Tell if a Cat Is Pregnant

Est. read time: 9 min.

Wondering how to tell if a cat is pregnant? Have you noticed a change in your unspayed cat’s physical appearance or behavior lately?

If so, you might be asking yourself, Could my cat be pregnant? and What are the signs of a pregnant cat?

There are a few key signs that you can check for when wondering if your cat is pregnant because these symptoms occur during the gestation period for cats. Knowing about these signs will help you get a clearer picture of what’s going on with your feline.

Is my cat pregnant? 

The gestation period for cats is typically between 63 and 67 days, which is about 9 weeks. If you begin noticing changes in your cat’s appearance or behavior, such as gaining weight or sleeping more often than usual, it could be an indication of cat pregnancy. 

You can always take your cat to the vet as soon as you notice any of these behavioral changes. However, there are even more signs and symptoms that you should look for before bringing your cat in for a vet visit.  

Signs of a pregnant cat

Calico cat sleeping with swollen abdomen - how to tell if a cat is pregnant
© Judgefloro / CC-BY-SA-1.0

Outside of weight gain and increased sleeping habits, other pregnant cat symptoms include things like increased appetite, affectionate behavior, nest building, and swollen nipples. Let’s take a closer look at other tell-tale signs of cat pregnancy. 

Heat cycles change

Normal heat cycles for cats are somewhere between 10 to 14 days. During their heat cycles, your female cat will often be more affectionate, groom herself more frequently, meow much louder than usual, mark her territory often, and possibly lose her appetite. If the heat cycle suddenly stops, your cat is likely pregnant. 

Weight gain

During the length of pregnancy, females will gain around 2 to 4 pounds of body weight. Keep an eye on your pet’s weight and make note of any increases in how much she weighs. 

Increased appetite

Your pregnant cat will be eating for more than just herself. As a result, you’ll notice your cat is eating more food and more frequently when she’s pregnant—so changes in eating habits are an indicative sign of pregnancy in cats. 

Nesting behavior

To prepare for the delivery of her litter, your cat will look for quiet, secluded places to give birth. You might also notice her becoming more territorial with other animals if they threaten to infringe upon her space. 

Increased sleep patterns

Your cat will spend more time sleeping when she is pregnant. If you notice your cat napping more often throughout the day, then it’s possible she is pregnant. 

Change in nipple appearance

If your cat is pregnant, you’ll be able to see the nipples poking out from underneath her fur. You’ll also notice that her nipples look swollen and rosier than usual, too. Breeders refer to the color change as a process known as pinking up. 

Swollen abdomen 

Around the halfway point of the gestation period, you’ll notice your cat's belly start to swell. The swelling will start at about five weeks into the gestation period up until birth, so a swollen stomach could likely indicate that your pet is pregnant. 

Vomiting

Just like human mothers-to-be, your cat can experience what you would call morning sickness. Vomiting can be an early sign of pregnancy, too. However, if the vomiting continues and no other symptoms of pregnancy occur, take your cat to the vet as soon as possible.  

More affectionate

Due to hormonal and neurological changes during pregnancy, you may notice your furry friend is seeking out your attention more often than usual. This increase in affectionate behavior can be an indication of pregnancy. 

Positive ultrasound 

The best way to know if your cat is pregnant is via ultrasound by a veterinarian. The vet can perform an ultrasound to detect pregnancy as early as two weeks. Later in the pregnancy, the vet can also perform an abdomen check and X-rays to see how many kittens your cat is carrying.

More reclusive

While increased affection is a common sign early in your cat’s pregnancy, later on you may notice that your cat is more reclusive. In particular, your cat may be more apt to hide or shut herself away in her nesting area the week leading up to labor. Sometimes cats skip this phase and continue to be affectionate and clingy with their humans.

Restlessness

24 to 48 hours before labor, your cat may show signs of restlessness. These include pacing back and forth, acting fidgety, hovering near her nesting area, and generally showing signs of discomfort. 

Vocalization

Close to labor, your cat may meow, chirp, or cry out more than usual. 

What should I do if my cat is pregnant?

Cats generally manage pregnancy with little difficulty, so there isn’t too much you need to do in the weeks or days leading up to birth. However, if you have never experienced the process of a cat’s pregnancy, you may want to consult a vet to receive verification of pregnancy. Plus, the vet can perform a health check and let you know how many kittens your cat is carrying. 

For cats that have regular vet visits and have been pregnant before, a visit to the vet for an official diagnosis might not be necessary since you already know what to expect. Here are a few things you can do to keep your cat healthy and comfortable throughout her pregnancy. 

Keep a clean litter box

Be sure to keep a clean litter box for your expecting feline. It will help keep her happy and healthy during her pregnancy. Scoop waste out of the litter box daily and change the litter once or twice a month for optimal happiness and healthiness. 

A great way to keep your litter box as sanitary as possible for your pregnant cat is to use a self-cleaning litter box like Litter-Robot, in tandem with Litter-Robot cleaning products. You won’t have to worry about scooping and cleaning the box constantly, all while ensuring that your pet has a healthy environment to relieve herself. 

You might also consider getting a ramp for the litter box! This can help your pregnant cat enter and exit the litter box with ease. 

Visit the vet

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Schedule a visit with your vet as soon as possible. As mentioned earlier, your vet can perform an ultrasound to detect pregnancy as early as two weeks. Anywhere between day 17 and 25 of pregnancy, a vet can also perform an abdomen check to feel for kittens in your cat’s womb. 

Vets can also take X-rays when your cat is further along to find out how many kittens she’s carrying. Kittens’ spines and skulls become visible after 42 days in the womb, so abdomen checks and X-rays are most useful after the 42-day mark. 

Wondering how many kittens are in a cat's first litter? First-time pregnancy usually results in smaller litters, but in general, your cat could have anywhere between one and nine kittens! Wow!

Maintain a healthy diet

Make sure your cat is eating sufficient amounts of food and drinking lots of water. You may want to switch over to high-quality, highly-digestible food during pregnancy as well. Some cat foods are specifically formulated for pregnant cats and are designed to help with both the growth and the development of the kittens. These foods are excellent when it comes to providing both the mom and her kittens with all of the nutrients that they need. 

Provide a nesting spot 

As your cat gets closer to giving birth, you’ll notice that she’ll start to look for a quiet and soft place to nest. Cat furniture, large cat beds, or even cardboard boxes lined with towels are a great option for pregnant cat moms because they can provide a comfortable nesting space for your cat. She’ll always be safe and cozy with the help of a nesting spot where she can rest, destress, and prepare for her big day!

Ensure a happy and healthy pregnancy 

Treat your pregnant cat like the queen she is by taking the necessary steps to provide the best environment for her throughout the gestation period. Pregnant or not, the Litter-Robot 3 Connect and the app are the perfect pairing for cats in all phases of life.  

With Litter-Robot, you’ll get notified when the litter box needs your attention. Plus, you will also be able to monitor your cat’s bathroom behaviors right from your phone! 

Tired of unsightly litter boxes in your home? With Litter-Robot’s litter box credenza, your cat’s litter box will remain out of sight and nestled inside of a charming piece of furniture, all with a modern coastal look. It’s a win-win for you and your cat!

Spay your cat afterward

While the prospect of having a litter of kittens is exciting, it is highly recommended that you spay your cat after she has healed from giving birth. Spaying your cat is not only better for her overall health, it helps curb feline overpopulation. Learn more about why a spayed cat will live longer. (And don’t forget to neuter your male cats, too!)

How can I tell if my cat is pregnant without a vet?

Signs that your cat is pregnant include weight gain, increased appetite, swollen abdomen, and change in nipple appearance.

How long does it take to tell if a cat is pregnant?

Swollen, pink nipples usually appear on a pregnant cat around week 3, while a distended abdomen will be visible around week 5.

Photo by Li Lin on Unsplash

calico tabby cat with large belly - how to tell if a cat is pregnant