Hopefully you have been getting ready for kitten birth for the last 9 weeks, because your pregnant cat is in labor!
The first stage of labor will usually last from 6 to 12 hours, but sometimes as long as 24 hours.
During this first kitten birth stage, you may notice her begin breathing out of her mouth and panting.
She may also begin purring and acting more restless than usual.
Stage 2 labor is active, hard labor. Once she gets in position to give birth, they should arrive no more than 30 to 60 minutes from this point.
You will know she has reached stage 2 if her restlessness increases even more, and will she will lay on her chest–with her rump slightly elevated and her tail to the side–or she may lay on her side.
If she is not already in her nest box, try to carefully lift or guide her. She may resist this interference.
If she does, get a clean baby blanket or towel to place under her and just let it go. They can always be moved later after the kitten birth.
Cat Care During Labor
Your cat’s basic personality will dictate your level of involvement.
Does she want you by her side?
Be there for her, talking gently and stroking her but do not do her work for her.
Only interfere in the kitten birth if the kitten’s life is in jeopardy; if you open the amniotic sac and clean the kitten before she does, she may not know what to do with it, since her instincts have been interrupted.
Does she want her space?
Give it to her within reason. Watch the kitten birth from a reasonable distance so she doesn’t feel too crowded, and be ready to step in in case help is needed during the birth.
If she has refused her nesting box, do make sure she delivers them somewhere that is accessible to you–don’t let her crawl under the bed, for example.
The Nest Box for Kitten Birth
Where your cat has her kittens and subsequently raises them doesn’t have to be a fancy setup.
It can simply be a large cardboard box with one side cut down for easy access for the queen, or a large plastic dog crate with the door removed and a kitten proof barrier.
If you have the space, you can also designate a closet in an unused room. Just remove one door and put a baby gate across the opening.
This large area works especially well once the kittens begin moving around, but newborns still need a smaller space (such as a box within the closet) so they don’t blindly crawl too far from warmth and milk.
As tempting as it is to pile in the nest box with lots of comfy layers, don’t.
For the first 2 weeks, the newborn kittens could suffocate and they will not be able to climb over towering mountains of fluff just to get to mom’s milk.
Don’t make their young lives hard! A single plush towel will do.
The most important thing about a nest box is that your pregnant or nursing cat feels secure and comfortable after the kitten birth.
If she doesn’t have reasonable privacy and a sense of security she may end up moving her litter to a less than desirable location.
The Time Has Come: Kitten Birth!
Your cat may be meowing, howling, or panting but it is not as painful as it looks.
Compared to a human birth, a kitten’s birth is not as difficult because she doesn’t have to pass such a large skull!
The first kitten comes out in it’s own amniotic sac, or amnion. The queen will tear this open with her teeth and eat it, and will lick the kitten’s face and body to stimulate breathing.
She will do this for each subsequent kitten after birth, which may be seconds or minutes apart.
Sometimes, although rare, she may give birth to a subsequent kitten over an hour later.
After the Kitten Birth
So, her delivery went smoothly and you can stop worrying and just enjoy the sight of all the brand new babies.
Make sure mom has cleaned and “fluffed” them all, and check that all kittens seem healthy.
It is also important to ensure that each kitten can find and latch onto a nipple without getting pushed away by its siblings, especially if there is a runt in the litter.
Kitten birth problems or concerns? See this page on newborn kitten care.
Once the new family looks to be at peace and all is well, give your cat some soothing words, some chin scratches, and some peace and quiet to rest with her litter. She’s had a hard day!