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Q&A: Pregnancy, birth and newborn kittens

Many questions will surely arise if your cat is pregnant. Below we’ll answer the most frequently asked questions for pet owners expecting kittens! 

How long does pregnancy last?
The average tends to be around 63 days, although it varies depending on the size of the litter, and could take up to 69 days. You must pay close attention after day 59-60.

What are the symptoms of giving birth?
The so-called nesting behaviour, common to most species,may occur days before delivery, when the female looks for a place to give birth. To help her, we can place a crate or a big cat bed in some quiet spot, along with food, water and cat litter nearby.

One or two days before delivery (prodromic phase) female cats behave in an odd and agitated way and even stop eating. When labour begins, and as a result of the pain caused by contractions, the cat starts to move restlessly. If you see that your presence is disturbing her during the birth, it is better to move away. Other cats or animals may disturb her as well. You can discreetly keep an eye on how the birth is going but your cat will know very well what she has to do. 

What happens as soon as the baby kittens come out?
The mother bites off the bag and licks the kittens to clean the secretions, strengthen the maternal bond and stimulate breathing. This licking could be rather intense.

How long do they keep the umbilical cord?
In addition to licking the newborn, the mother also cuts off the umbilical cord and ingests it after taking out the placenta.

How can I tell the gender of the kittens when they are born?
Like in other species, it depends on the distance between the anus and the genital orifice.

In the case of females there is almost no separation between the anus and the vulva. In males, there is a bigger separation between the anus and the penis, as testicles develop in that area. The penis can even slightly come out.

How do I get a newborn kitten to pay attention to me?
It is quite complicated to make a little kitten pay attention to you. Historically, cats have not been domesticated for as long as dogs have, and their behavioural patterns are, thus, also different.

Just by being near you and playing nicely, they will eventually get used to your presence. However, being with their mother and siblings is more crucial for their proper socialisation. They should not be taken away from their mothers until they are 10-12 weeks old.

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