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

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Reviewed by JoAnna Pendergrass, DVM

pregnant cat

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 have some planning to do. Most pet parents do not intend on their cat becoming pregnant, so planning might need to be done at a moment’s notice.

Examples of planning include preparing new litter and giving your cat special attention if she is going to have kittens soon. A formulated cat food diet and nutrition program are also really important for a pregnant cat. A pregnant cat needs proper nutrition to be able to sustain a healthy pregnancy, provide nutrients for her kittens before and after birth, and be healthy enough for the act of giving birth.

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How Long Are Cat Pregnancies?

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

Pregnancy Behaviors

The most common symptom of a pregnant cat is her behavior. For example, she may become more loving and affectionate, or to the contrary – more aggressive. In addition, she will begin to show signs of sudden excitement.

This behavior is known as “quickening”, and it is a critical stage of a cat’s pregnancy in which the fetus begins to move. 

Like pregnant women, pregnant cats can experience morning sickness.

During the third to fourth week of pregnancy, 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 many 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 tend to prefer remaining indoors. The cat’s appetite will also continue to increase throughout the sixth week. Be aware that, as her belly grows, she will probably need smaller and more frequent meals; continue to feed her a diet that’s specially formulated for pregnant cats.

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In addition to these behaviors, 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 5  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 6 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 pregnant.

Early Stage

This is a 4-week period after fertilization. Several symptoms may be observed, including weight loss, morning sickness, and lack of appetite due to nausea.

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

When an ultrasound checkup is performed by a veterinarian at 3 to 4 weeks, the presence of kittens is observed. Your cat will start gaining weight as she begins to regain appetite.

Middle Stage

At this stage, there is increased weight gain. An abdominal x-ray will show 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 to give birth. The pre-labor stage usually starts 1 week before delivery.

Several signs 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 characterized by the cat licking her abdomen and genitals, which will stimulate birth.

Watch Out for These Signs

Several tell-tale signs will help you know when your cat is close to giving birth:

    1. Her appetite has almost doubled in the past few weeks.
    2. Her kittens are moving around in her abdomen quite clearly.
    3. She will display ‘nesting’ behavior, such as looking for a warm, quiet safe place to give birth. For this reason, it’s recommended that you provide a suitable ‘nesting box’ for your pregnant cat.
    4. A drastic or complete loss of appetite when her labor pain is due to start.
    5. ‘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.
    6. Your cat may ‘call’ for you. Regardless if you have ever been around when your cat gave birth in the past, you will not be able to mistake this specific sound.
    7. She will start cleaning her rear as she feels her body change in preparation for the delivery of her kittens.
    8. She is uneasy and will start moving in and out of her nesting box.

Final Thoughts

How do you know your cat is in labor? Well, it is your responsibility as a pet parent to familiarize yourself with your cat’s pregnancy and birthing process.

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 they should, and the vet needs to be called in to assist.

In anticipation of your cat’s pregnancy, proper preparation will ensure that the kittens’ birth will be worry-free. For additional info, check out this cute info-graphic from our friends at kobipets.com.

55 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. AvatarSvetlana Safronova

      What if your cat chooses a place to birth her kittens in a heavy plastic bag area in your kitchen closet ? While you worry Is that safe, with all this human babies warnings about plastic bags in a crib ? Or I have to stop her Labour by removing her out of there ???

      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
    1. Avatarsissy

      This is my first time to own a cat. I didn’t know she found a way outside and i could not find her for about an hour. she is normally clingy to me anyway. will she become more clingy?

      Reply
    1. AvatarMischelle Campbell

      Ugh… Didnt help at all. Our pregnate cat went into hiding in an area we cant get into thru a hole in our basement wall. She isnt making any noise and hasnt eaten in a day. Should i be worried? Because i am..

      Reply
      1. AvatarDan

        This is basically happening to me (except she found a way to get under my bed even though I sealed it up like a bank vault). It’s been 4 hours now and haven’t heard a peep and am getting nervous. What was the outcome for you?

        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. AvatarNash

    Hi should l let the male cat be with my queen while she in labor and throughout the growth of the kittens?

    Reply
  10. 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
    1. AvatarMargo Ross

      Don’t try to feel them during birth, it could cause problems during birth. I’d leave her totally alone during birth until each full comes out, then you step in with towels and rub them gently but vigorously to get them breathing, wipe their noses after rubbing. Then let mama step in and lick them. When she licks the fur backwards it warms them right up.

      Reply
      1. AvatarKaren

        Hello! I think my kitty is 4-6 weeks pregnant. Last week, her belly was starting to look pregnant. But yesterday and today, she looks less pregnant. Is that normal?

        Reply
        1. Mallory CrustaMallory Crusta

          Hey Karen, it’s hard to say why your cat looks less pregnant today. Are you certain that your cat is indeed pregnant? Look for other pregnancy signs in line with this stage of gestation. Also, I’d confirm that your cat is eating enough and getting adequate nutrition to support both her and the kittens.

          Reply
          1. AvatarSamantha

            Morning sickness could be the cause like with some of us humans we loose weight from being sick them gain it all in the end lol

  11. 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
  12. 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. Mallory CrustaMallory 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
  13. 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. Mallory CrustaMallory 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
  14. 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
  15. AvatarSamantha Pasborg

    My cat is 64 days pregnant today, she has whitish brownish stuff coming out of her vagina, she has been pacing back n forth around the house, and she is super clingy but only a meow here and there, she also isn’t eating as much!!! The kittens are moving like crazy in her belly and her breathing movements have picked up a little not much but a bit!! Could she be going into first stage??

    Reply
    1. AvatarJade Metcalfe

      Hya. My cat is 65 days pregnant today. She is clingy. And she can’t keep still. However. She has displayed no nesting behaviour and she is still eating a lot more than usual, she’s jist following me everywhere. I have 2 young children and am really worried that she wont go somewhere more private as when the kittens come I don’t want her to feel unsafe. Anyone got any advice on how I can get her to go somewhere out of the way of the kids because I feel awful shutting her in a room alone if she feels she wants to be around me.

      Reply
      1. Mallory CrustaMallory Crusta

        Hey there Jade,

        You can try to create a secluded nesting space for her by lining a box with your clothing or beloved blankets. She may take to this spot when the time comes, but frankly, there’s no easy way to force your cat to choose the nesting place you prefer. It’s ultimately up to her to choose a spot where she feels comfortable.

        Why do you feel she needs to give birth away from the kids? Watching an animal give birth is a special experience—your kids would be lucky to be a part of the moment. Do you think you could explain the situation and encourage them to be quiet and respectful when she’s giving birth?

        I think communicating with your kids about this will be much easier and more effective than trying to change your cat’s behavior.

        Hope everything goes well!

        – Mallory

        Reply
    2. AvatarDaphne Reyes

      Yes, if your cat suffers from morning sickness and starts vomiting for the first two weeks; eat less. Then slowly it starts eating again and gain some weight then you can be sure that she is in her first stage of pregnancy.

      Reply
  16. AvatarFoster parent

    Hello, I’m fostering a cat who is pregnant. She has apparently had a litter before but I have no clue when. She is sleeping constantly and has a uri. I’m not sure whether she is lethargic from the uri or it’s normal for her. I don’t know how far along she is or how old she is. She is friendly but very clearly wants to get out of her room. I am only fostering her so I don’t know her pre pregnancy behaviors. I just want to make sure she is going to be fine giving birth.

    Reply
  17. AvatarLaura Keever

    So some background first. My cat is about 3-4 years old and she’s pregnant with her 6th litter and she’s a small cat. She’s an inside-outside cat and came to us as a stray kitten so she’s a small tortoise shell. Her 5th litter was born January 21st of this year and she had 5 that time and the times before she had 4 the 1st and 2nd litters and the 3 the next two litters. So the question and concern is… After she had her 5th litter she started peeing a mixture of pee and blood for about 2-3 weeks, I don’t know if that’s normal or something to be concerned about if she’s pregnant again. We don’t exactly have money to take her to the vet to get her checked out but we’ve been with her with every one of her pregnancies.

    Reply
  18. AvatarNancy Westberg

    Hi, Great to prepare for pregnancy. This is super helpful for me. My husband and I are thinking about our first child. So, I think this information is perfect for me to be a mother. I will keep it in my mind. Thanks for the sharing such an informative article. If you had more insight into it, I would much appreciate it.

    Reply
  19. AvatarPaula Marlowe

    I took in a stray cat around 2 months ago. When I took her to the vet he said she was nursing a litter and may be expecting another one already. After a few weeks she brought me her current litter which are around 11 weeks old now. She still lets them nurse occasionally so she has milk. How can I tell if she is expecting another litter? Her belly is big but she is walking low to the ground like she may be in heat. Is walking low a sign of labor also? We have completed her deworming so I don’t think that is why her belly is big.

    Reply
  20. AvatarJo

    I have a russian blue called corona… and i noticed she was pregnant the beginning of decemeber… shes cleaning herself non stop… is this nornal?

    Reply
  21. AvatarMary Harris

    My pregnant cat is due very soon. She picked up a little toy mouse in her mouth & walked around meowing. Went onto a corner of a closet & laid down. Never did it before. Then she came out for a bit. Started again about 15 minutes or so after. Is she in labor?

    Reply
    1. Mallory CrustaMallory Crusta

      Hi Mary,

      By this time, you probably know whether or not your cat was in labor!

      Though her behavior may have been an early sign of labor, it also sounds like your cat may have been exhibiting nesting behaviors. Since nesting begins about a week before birth, this behavior confirms that your cat is due very soon and, if she hasn’t given birth yet, will probably do so within the next several days.

      Wishing you and your cat all the best.

      – Mallory

      Reply
  22. AvatarSky

    My girl is hiding under my bed. She been under since I woke up. She’s usually following me around, she is ATLEAST 46 days… maybe more I’m guessing ??

    Reply
    1. Mallory CrustaMallory Crusta

      Hi Sky,

      It sounds like your cat may have started nesting—scoping out the house to find warm, safe, and comfy places where she might be able to give birth. I would keep a close eye on her, looking for other signs that she’s close to labor, like milk around the nipples, a reduction in appetite, and a slightly lowered body temperature. If you’re worried, you might contact a veterinarian to get an expert opinion.

      Best,

      Mallory

      Reply
  23. AvatarSammy

    Help….so my queen is currently hiding under my daughters bed scratching the carpet under there, I’ve made her several places around the house, Moses basket, cardboard box even the bottom drawers full of her blames and puppy pads, she has dried milk on her, she’s been pacing for days, her temp is now 98.2….wouldn’t say she’s in Labor? Babies r so low down x

    Reply
    1. Mallory CrustaMallory Crusta

      Hi Sammy, thanks for the comment! Between the scratching the carpet under the bed, pacing around, dried milk from the nipples, lowered babies, and lowered body temperature, everything you’ve described is textbook nesting phase. Your queen’s probably going to give birth within the next week, so I’d continue to keep a close eye and watch for any changes. Good luck! – Mallory

      Reply
  24. AvatarKaren

    I have a Cali who is very pregnant. She acts like she is going to go into labor but doesn’t. She has nested. She has been clinging on to me. Her nipples are pink and full. But nothing. She has horrible diarrhea but has this whole pregnant time. She is still eating and drinking a lot tho. How much longer?

    Reply
    1. Mallory CrustaMallory Crusta

      Hi Karen,

      Thanks for your question. It sounds like your cat is close to giving birth, but it’s hard to say exactly how close. At any rate, based on the information you’ve given, I’d think that she’s likely to give birth in the next week. Do you have any idea how many weeks she’s been pregnant? If she hasn’t given birth by the 10-week mark or if you’re worried now, you may want to ask a veterinarian for advice and assistance.

      Secondly, horrible diarrhea is not a normal part of pregnancy. I’m not a vet, but it sounds like your cat may have a chronic digestive issue like a food allergy, intolerance, or perhaps even IBD. You might want to look into a diet that’s appropriate for a pregnant or lactating mom while also supporting good GI health.

      Wishing you and your cat all the best,

      Mallory

      Reply
  25. AvatarJodie Brand

    Hi, I have a Bengal. I think she is about 4 or 5 weeks pregnant. This morning when I woke up she is very lethargic, has a temperature of 100. And she is breathing a little quicker I think. Is she okay?

    Reply
    1. Mallory CrustaMallory Crusta

      Hi Jodie, it’s always hard to say. Based on my understanding, extreme lethargy isn’t considered typical for cats at this stage of pregnancy, so this may justify a trip to the veterinarian. Wishing you and your Bengal all the best!

      Reply
  26. AvatarRebecca Guerra

    Great article, my baby Nova just gave birth 3 days ago to 6 beautiful big kittens 3 all black like their dad and two black and white like her mom and one that’s all white with some Gray spotches and stripes very cute and mom cat litterlu gave birth in my bed wanting me to be with her the whole time that how you know your animal truly loves you. Of course I had her nest inside a tent in my closet

    Reply
  27. AvatarVianna Hazel Swaren

    Hi, I thought my fur baby was pregnant because her belly is huge and she Is acting very strange this last month and a half… But right now if she is in labour she’s acting like she’s in heat looking at me like she’s confused do cats act like this when they’re going to go into labour..

    Greatful for your help,
    Vianna, kooda, and baby Swaren..

    Reply
    1. Mallory CrustaMallory Crusta

      Hello Vianna, yes—cats will often act unusual and confused when they’re in labor. It sounds likely that your cat is either in labor or getting very close to that point.

      Reply

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