Pet Articles

Cat Giving Birth

Giving birth – Dr. Bruce Fogle DVM

Problems are rare

  • Do not fuss with your cat when she’s giving birth
  • Monitor her activities during birth
  • Feline birth is usually uncomplicated. In her chosen, secluded, warm den , the mother-to-be digs at the surface, often purring rhythmically. Soon her breathing quickens and contractions begin. Once contractions occur every 30 seconds, delivery is imminent. About 70% of kittens are born in a diving, head-and-front-feet-first position.

Cleaning up

A good mother licks away the membranes and stimulates each kitten to take its first breath. If she fails to do this, you must intervene.

Further contractions expel the placenta, which is eaten after the cat chews through the umbilical cord. A mother consumes all birth wastes to prevent predators from knowing there is a litter of helpless kittens.

The mothering instinct

Good mothering is based on genetics, emotional maturity, and the experience the cat had with its own mother. There is no more fearsome form of aggression than that of a mother cat defending her litter. She will not bluff, but will defend her kittens ferociously.

Shortly after birth, her first instinct is to keep her litter together and remove it from danger. The family will probably move again about four days later.

The scruff response

To move her kittens, the mother carries them, one at a time, by the scruff.

When scruffed, a kitchen instinctively stops wriggling and draws its limbs close to its body to prevent injury in transport. The scruff response remains intact throughout a cat’s life.


A kitten uses heat receptors in its nose to find a teat and then returns to the same teat throughout its suckling period. it stimulates milk release by kneading on its mother’s breast with its forepaws, a behavior that some cats continue to perform on soft textures, such as woolen garments, into adulthood.

Mother’s milk is highly concentrated in both fat and protein, which help kittens grow rapidly. Kittens that initially latch onto the most productive teats grow fastest, unless they are displaced by more dominant littermates. Suckling for nourishment lasts for five to six weeks, but it continues for emotional benefits for an equal length of time.

In Italy, Dr. Eugenia Natoli has observed how other females within a cat community may act as midwives, vigorously licking the newborn and even chewing through their umbilical cords.

After birth

During the first few weeks, a kitten depends on its mother to stimulate all of its body functions. Her licking prompts each kitten to release its bladder and bowels. She also continues to consume her kittens’ waste products, to hide their presence from predators.

-After cleaning up the area around the newborn kitten, the mother eats the amniotic sac. She licks the kitten dry to prevent it from getting cold.

-The mother licks the kittens face to clear the mouth and nostrils of mucus. She is vigorous and rough, making the kitten gasp for its first breath.

Absent fathers

Mating is the only time that most cats come into close contact with others.

After mating, the male leaves and rarely has any role in the upbringing of his young.

Ask the vet

Q : How soon after giving birth will my cat’s next heat follow?
A : At birth the mother produces more of the hormone prolactin, which stimulates both milk production and milk release. The suckling of her kittens stimulates the continued release of prolactin, which suppresses other hormone activity. When her kittens stop suckling, the mother’s prolactin levels drop again. She can be calling again within seven days.

Excerpted with permission from Cat Owner’s Manual by Dr. Bruce Fogle published by Dorling Kindersley Copyright 2003. All rights reserved. You can purchase the Cat Owner’s Manual at

5 Responses to this Article, So Far

  1. Avatar Jamey says:

    My cat is 6 weeks pregnant and has 2 more kittens that are 7 week old will the queen make milk for both litters

    • Avatar Marko says:

      As far as I know yes.

      PLEASE consider spaying this poor female cat. This is hard on her and her body and Millions of healthy cats are put to death every single year because there are too many cats and not enough homes for them.

      Please help solve this problem by being responsible and spaying/neutering your pets…..
      Good luck

  2. Avatar Kailey says:

    Can I spay a female while she is pregnant?

  3. Avatar Fallon says:

    I have an outdoor cat thats about three weeks. I want to bring her in soon so I can help if needed because she was abandoned by her mom and I don’t know if I should. Should I because her mothering instinct might not be strong?

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