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Guide to breeding for your pregnant cat

Breeding and pregnancy

The idea of your cat surrounded by cute kittens may be appealing, but breeding is a serious commitment. As well as providing extra care for the mother, you will have to plan ahead for the kittens’ future.
Guide to breeding for your pregnant cat
Guide to breeding for your pregnant cat

Planned breeding:

Do not consider breeding from your cat unless you have good reason to believe that you will be able to find a home for every kitten. Many kittens end up in rescue shelters or are put down because they are unwanted. If you own a pedigree cat of a popular breed you may find a ready demand for her kittens, although you should never be motivated by profit (and the expenses involved in breeding can
be considerable). Should you decide to let your pedigree have a litter, you will need to do some research to find a reputable breeder with a suitable stud tom.

Mating:

Unneutered cats are considered mature enough for planned breeding by about 12 months of age, although they can become sexually active before then. The females, known as “queens,” come into season in cycles of 14–21 days, mainly during spring and summer, with each season lasting for three or four days. When a queen is ready to mate, or “in heat,” she will show obvious signs, including constant calling, lying down with her rump raised, and rolling or rubbing herself against the floor. The scent of her urine will also attract any toms in the area. This is the time to take the queen to the breeder, where she and the stud tom you have chosen will be placed in adjacent pens. When she starts making advances to her prospective mate, the two cats will be allowed access to one another. Mating usually occurs several times, so it is common practice to leave the pair together for at least a day or two. Once home, keep the queen confined to the house for several days. She could still be in heat and attractive to nonpedigree local toms.

Signs of pregnancy:

The average length of pregnancy in cats is between 63 and 68 days. The first sign that mating has been successful will be a slight reddening of your cat's nipples, which appears around the third week of pregnancy. In the following weeks, the queen will steadily gain weight and her shape will change as her belly swells. The kittens she is carrying can be easily felt during a vet's examination after about the fifth week. Never try to carry out any kind of investigation yourself. Unskilled handling of a pregnant queen can cause damage to both the mother and her developing kittens.

Prenatal care:

An expectant cat needs plenty of nourishment and her appetite will increase toward the end of her pregnancy. Your vet can give you guidance on feeding, and will suggest suitable supplements to add to your cat's diet if necessary. It is also vital to have your cat checked for parasites, which she could pass on to her kittens. The vet may ask you to bring a sample of your cat's stools to test for intestinal worms, and can also give you advice on which flea treatments are safe to use during pregnancy. Well before your cat is due to give birth, prepare a kittening box for her in a quiet corner. This can be bought ready-made, but a sturdy cardboard box serves just as well. It should be open at one side to give the queen easy access, but not so low that newborn kittens can roll out. A thick lining of newspaper provides warmth and comfort, and is easily replaced when soiled. Encourage the queen to spend time in the box so that she feels at home in her kittening area and, hopefully, will go there when labor begins (see pp.84–5). If your cat is naturally active, there is no need to stop her from jumping or climbing, but she should not be allowed outdoors during the last two weeks of pregnancy. Avoid picking her up unless absolutely necessary, and ensure that children handle her gently when they play with her.

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