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Frequently asked questions?

Typical stance of a queen in heat.

How often does a female cat come into heat?

The female cat (queen) comes into heat (oestrus) many times each year. The heat period lasts about 2-3 weeks. If she is not bred, she can return to heat in just 1-2 weeks. This cycle will continue for several heat cycles or until she is bred. The period of time that she is out of heat, can vary depending on geographic and environmental factors, such as temperature and the number of daylight hours.

The signs of heat are different in cats as compared to dogs. Cats have minimal vaginal bleeding, usually not even enough to be detected. Their behaviour is the most notable sign. Cats become very affectionate. They rub against their owners and furniture and constantly want attention. They roll on the floor. When stroked over the back, they will raise their rear quarters into the air, and tread with the back legs. They also become very vocal.

What should I do to be sure that a breeding is accomplished successfully?

Male cats are more successful breeders in familiar surroundings. Therefore, it is preferable to take the female to the males home for breeding. Most female cats require 3-4 matings within a 24 hour period for ovulation to occur. When your female returns home, care should be taken to keep her away from any entire male, as she could still be in heat.

Ages of queen and stud at which to start breeding? A female cat (queen) should not be used for breeding before she has attained her adult size, this should be 12-24 months depending on which breed she is. A male should be 12-18 months of age, this period will give you time to asses his health and suitability for breeding. Temperaments are passed to the offspring, as are genetic diseases.

Health Checks?

Before breeding with a queen or stud, both should be tested for FeLV and FIV before each breeding session. Both should be healthy and free from ear mites, fleas, and ringworm.

Temperament ?

The temperament of the queen and stud are extremely important since the kittens' personalities, depend greatly on their mum's and dad's. It is never a good idea to breed from aggressive, timid, or nervous cats.

If a heating pad is used, it should be placed on the low setting and covered with a towel to prevent overheating.

A hot water bottle should be covered with a towel. Remember, the newborn kittens may be unable to move away from the heat source. Likewise, caution should also be exercised when using a heat lamp.

Once delivery is completed, the soiled newspapers should be removed from the birthing box. The box should then be lined with soft bedding ready for the kittens' return. The mother should accept the kittens readily and settle down with them to nurse them.

The mother will have a bloody vaginal discharge for 3-7 days following delivery. If it continues for longer than one week, she should be examined by a vet for possible problems.

Queen giving birth to kittens

What should I expect during pregnancy?

Pregnancy, also called the gestation period, ranges from 58 to 70 days and averages 63 days - most queens deliver between days 63 and 65. The only way to accurately determine the date of pregnancy is to count the days from the time of breeding. If I mate a queen over 3 days, then I count 65 days from the 2nd day.

A pregnant cat should be fed a kitten formulation of a premium brand of cat food for the duration of the pregnancy and through the nursing period. These diets are generally available at your Vets surgery, or pet stores/shops. James Wellbeloved and Royal Canin, to name just a few of the top brands available.

Kitten diets provide all the extra nutrition needed for the mother and her litter. If the mother is eating one of these diets, no calcium, vitamin, or mineral supplements are needed.

During pregnancy the mother's food consumption will often reach 1.5 times her level before pregnancy. By the end of the nursing period, it may exceed twice the pre-pregnancy amount. Increasing the number of feedings per day, is helpful in allowing her to eat enough for her needs and those of the kittens.

What happens if my cat has trouble delivering her kittens?

Although most cats deliver without need for assistance, problems do arise which require the attention of a veterinarian. Professional assistance should be sought if any of the following occur:

Twenty minutes of intense labour occurs without a kitten being delivered.

Ten minutes of intense labour occurs when a kitten or a fluid-filled bubble is visible in the birth canal.

The mother experiences sudden depression or marked lethargy.

The mother's body temperature exceeds 103F (39.4C) (via a rectal thermometer).

Fresh blood discharges from the vagina for more than 10 minutes. Difficulty delivering (dystocia) may be managed with or without surgery. The condition of the mother, size of the litter, and size of the kittens are factors used in making that decision.

Is premature delivery a likely problem?

Occasionally, a mother will deliver a litter several days premature. The kittens may be small, thin, and have little or no hair. It is possible for them to survive, but they require an enormous amount of care, since they are subject to chilling and are frequently very weak and unable to swallow. Some may be able to nurse but are so weak that they must be held next to the mother. Kittens that do not nurse can be fed with a small syringe, bottle. Premature kittens must be kept warm. The mother can provide sufficient radiant heat from her body if she will stay close to them. If she refuses, heat can be provided with a heat lamp, heating pad, or hot water bottle. Excessive heat can be just as harmful as chilling, so any form of artificial heat must be controlled. The temperature in the box should be maintained at 85 to 90F (29.4 to 32.2C), but the box should be large enough so the kittens can move away from the heat if it becomes uncomfortable.


Is it likely that one or more kittens will be stillborn?

It is not uncommon for one or two kittens in a litter to be stillborn. Sometimes, s stillborn kitten will disrupt labour, resulting in dystocia. At other times the dead kitten will be born normally. Although there is always a cause for this occurrence, it is often not easily determined without an autopsy that includes cultures and the submission of tissues to a pathologist. This is only recommended in special circumstances.

Caring for the newborn kittens?

The mother will spend most of her time with the kittens during the next few days. The kittens need to be kept warm and to nurse frequently; they should be checked every few hours to make certain that they are warm and well fed. The mother should be checked to make certain that she is producing enough milk.

If the mother does not stay in the box, the kittens' temperature must be monitored. If the kittens are cold, supplemental heating should be provided. During the first four days of life, the newborns' box should be maintained at 85 to 90F (29.4 to 32.2C). The temperature may gradually be decreased to 80F (26.7C) by the seventh to tenth day and to 72F (22.2C) by the end of the fourth week. If the litter is large, the temperature need not be as high. As kittens huddle together, their body heat provides additional warmth.

If the mother feels the kittens are in danger or if there is too much light, she may become anxious. Placing a sheet or cloth over most of the top of the box to obscure much of the light may resolve the problem. An enclosed box is also a solution. Some cats, especially first-time mothers, are more anxious than others. Such cats may attempt to hide their young, even from her owner. Moving from place to place may continue and will endanger the kittens if they are placed in a cold or drafty location. Cats with this behaviour should be penned in a secluded area.

What are the signs that the kittens are not doing well and what do I do?

Kittens should eat or sleep 90% of the time during the first two weeks. If they are crying during or after eating, they are usually becoming ill or are not getting adequate milk. A newborn kitten is very susceptible to infections and can die within 24 hours. If excessive crying occurs, the mother and entire litter should be examined by a veterinarian promptly.

When the milk supply is inadequate, supplemental feeding one to three times per day is recommended and should be performed on any litter with five or more kittens. There are several commercial formulae available that are made to supply the needs of kittens. They require no preparation other than warming. They should be warmed to 95 to 100F (35 to 37.8C) before feeding. Its temperature can be tested on one's forearm; it should be about the same as one's skin.

An alternative is goats' milk that is available in most supermarkets. The commercial products have directions concerning feeding amounts. If the kittens are still nursing from their mother, the amounts recommended will be excessive. Generally, 1/3 to 1/2 of the listed amount should be the daily goal. Supplemental feeding may be continued until the kittens are old enough to eat kitten food. If the mother does not produce milk or her milk becomes infected, the kittens will also cry. If this occurs, the entire litter could die within 24 to 48 hours. Total replacement feeding, using the mentioned products, or adopting the kittens to another nursing mother is usually necessary. If replacement feeding is chosen, the amounts of milk listed on the product should be fed.

What happens during labour and delivery?

Most cats experience delivery without complications; however, first-time mothers should be attended by their owners until at least one or two kittens are born. If these are born quickly and without assistance, further attendance may not be necessary, although it's best that a queen is not left alone. If the owner decides to leave the queen, care should be taken so that the cat does not try to follow and leave the birthing box.

Impending labour generally include signs of nervousness and panting. The queen will often stop eating during the last 24 hours before labour, however, some of mine have eaten right up to the last minute. The queen will also usually have a drop in rectal temperature below 100F (37.8C). The temperature drop may occur intermittently for several days prior to delivery, but it will usually be constant for the last 24 hours.

Delivery times will vary. Shorthair cats and cats having slim heads, such as Siamese, may complete delivery in one to two hours. Domestic body type cats (having large, round heads) generally require longer delivery times. Persian and other domestic body type kittens tend to be very large and have sizable heads that make delivery more difficult. It is not unusual for Persians to rest an hour or more between each kitten. Rarely, a cat may deliver one or two kittens then have labour stop for as long as twenty-four hours before the remainder of the litter is borne. However, if labour does not resume within a few hours after the delivery of the first kittens, examination by a vet is advised. If labour is interrupted for twenty-four hours or more, veterinary assistance should definitely be obtained.

Kittens are usually born head first, however, breech presentations, in which the kitten is delivered tail-end first, occur about 40% of the time and considered normal. Each kitten is enclosed in its own sac which is part of the placenta ("afterbirth"). Placentas are usually passed after the kittens are born. However, any that do not pass will disintegrate and pass within 24-48 hours after delivery. It is normal for the mother to eat the placentas, but I prefer my queens not to eat too many, maybe 3 at the most. In the past I have noticed, if placentas are eaten in large quantities, this can cause diarrhoea.

If the delivery proceeds normally, a few contractions will discharge the kitten; it should exit the birth canal within ten minutes of being visible. Following delivery, the mother should lick the newborn's face. She will then proceed to wash it . Her tongue is used to tear the sac and expose the mouth and nose. This vigorous washing stimulates circulation, causing the kitten to cry and begin breathing, it also dries the newborn's haircoat. The mother will sever the umbilical cord by chewing it, from the body.

It is normal for the female to remove the placental sac and clean the kittens; however, first-time mothers may be bewildered by the experience and hesitate to do so. If the sac is not removed within a few minutes after delivery, the kitten will suffocate, so you should be prepared to intervene. The kitten's face should be wiped with a clean, damp cloth to remove the sac and allow breathing. Vigorous rubbing with a soft, warm towel will stimulate circulation and dry the kittens hair.

Newborn kittens may aspirate fluid into the lungs, as evidenced by a raspy noise during respiration. This fluid can be removed by the following procedure. First, the kitten should be held in the palm of your hand. The kitten's face should be cradled between the first two fingers. The head should be held firmly with this hand, and the body should be held firmly with the other. Next, a downward swing motion with the hands should make the kitten gasp.

Gravity will help the fluid and mucus to flow out of the lungs. This process may be tried several times until the lungs sound clear. The tongue is a reliable indicator of successful respiration. If the kitten is getting adequate oxygen, it will appear pink to red. A bluish coloured tongue indicates insufficient oxygen to the lungs, signalling that the swinging procedure should be repeated.

It may be helpful to have a smaller, clean, dry box lined with a warm towel for the newborn kittens. (A towel can be warmed in the microwave .) After the kitten is stable and the cord has been tied, it should be placed in the warm box while the mother is completing delivery. Warmth is essential so a heating pad or hot water bottle may be placed in the box, or a heat lamp may be placed nearby.

Kittens less than two weeks of age should be fed every 2 hours. Kittens 2-4 weeks of age do well with feedings every 3-4 hours. Weaning should begin at 3-4 weeks of age.