First of all, cat breeding should be approached responsibly, and only those with a pedigree for which it is certain that their gene pool is not burdened with a congenital defect should be allowed to breed. There are more than enough stray and unwanted cats in our country; shelters are bursting at the seams, and there is no need to increase the cat population.
Cats reach sexual maturity as early as 6 months of age, so even a barely grown kitten can be fertilized. Don't rely on the fact that your cat is still too young for kittens, and don't let it out before neutering to be safe. Needless to say, outdoor cats (including tomcats!) should be neutered.
However, if you have a purebred cat and you have kittens in mind, your cat has already become pregnant, or you've simply decided to have kittens with your "paperless" cat, it's good to know what to expect.
Cats are pregnant for 9 weeks (58-72 days), and in the early stage she may suffer from nausea, just like us. You may notice a loss of appetite. At around two weeks of pregnancy this will start to change, and the future cat mom will begin to eat properly and gain weight. Her behavior may also change. A cat that isn't cuddly may suddenly become affectionate, and a friendly companion may turn into a grumpy monster :).
Kittens slowly get bigger, gain weight and become palpable. It is even possible to determine their number after the third week with an X-ray. Heart sounds can be checked by ultrasound, but the exact number of kittens can only be detected when they have developed skeletons, which is around week 4 - 5. There isn't much you can do for a pregnant cat, except for one very important thing - providing high-quality food. Food for kittens is suitable; it will give both the cat and her kittens all the necessary nutrition. You can also add milk for kittens to help your cat stay in shape. Also make sure she's drinking enough, and try to motivate her to drink.
The prenatal phase starts a week before birth. The milk line swells and milk begins to drip. The cat begins to "nest" - looking for a warm and safe place to give birth to the kittens. At this point you can help her by offering lined boxes and beds. Don't worry if the mother suddenly stops eating or significantly reduces her food intake. This happens with some cats a few days before they give birth. So take it as a sign that you will finally get to see the new additions to your family in the next two days or so. We'll talk more about the birth itself in the next article.
Have you ever taken care of a pregnant cat? How did you manage it? Were you worried about the cat, or did you not give it much thought? Do you have any tips for those who are yet to experience it?