Feline Reproduction - Pregnancy


Deworming treatment for pregnant cat

Question: hi.... my niece has a cat and she is pregnent. but they noticed that she has worms she is due any time. and she asked me if i though she should worm her. i said no not now. to weight . i think there tape worms she said they look like little megits grose i know.... lol but i told her to weight . untill after the babys are borne, but!!!! then she will be feeding them . is it safe to worm her when she is milking?????? we dont want to hurt the babys can you please let me know what we can do to help her . thanks always diane

ps thank you for having this sight on the net... may god bless you pss my niece has 4 little children . i told her to keep the kids away from the cat . is that a good idea?? could the kid,s get worms? my niece has little money and cant afford a vet so once again i think you for your help

Answer: Diane- It is usually best to wait to deworm a cat until after it has had its kittens. It is a good idea to deworm the cat with a medicine that kills roundworms after the kittens are born and then every 2 to 3 weeks until the kittens are weaned. Pyrantel pomoate (or tartrate) is a good dewormer for roundworms that is also very safe. It can also be given to the kittens once they are 4 to 6 weeks of age. Roundworms can cause damage in people and so it is best to avoid contact with cat feces and to routinely deworm cats who are in contact with children. The worms that you are seeing are probably tapeworms, as these tend to be about 1/2 inch long or shorter and to move some at first. These are actually worm egg sacs rather than worms but they are an indication that tapeworms are present in the cat's intestines. Your niece will probably have to buy dewormer from this worm from a veterinarian to find an effective product. Praziquantal (Droncit Rx) or epsiprantal (Cestex Rx) are the best deworming ingredients for tapeworms. There are some combination products that kill tapeworms and other worms and contain this ingredient along with others. I think that there may be an over-the-counter product now containing praziquantal but I am not sure of that. Tapeworms are not especially harmful but it would be best to get rid of them. Tapeworms are carried by fleas so good flea control will help prevent them from coming back. Tapeworms can infect people but the are transferred to people the same way they are to cats -- by ingesting fleas. Most people don't ingest fleas but sometimes toddlers will. Mike Richards, DVM 2/18/2004

Pregnancy - how do you tell

Question: Dear Mike, I'm a new subscriber , and I have a cat. I'm not very experienced about cats so i'd like to ask for your advice. My cat is 1 year and 4 months old . I took her with me to the country side and left her in the yard running free (she's never been out of the house befor, i live in a flat) and she was kind of in that mood you know, she wanted to mate. I don't know what happened but i'd like to know if she is expecting little kittens. Can you help me? She is a little softer then she used to be, she was kind of a wild cat so i don't know what to say. Could you help me please? Olimpia P.S. What can i do about the flees she might have got? Answer: Olimpia- It is usually possible for your vet to feel kittens in the abdomen after the first three to four weeks of pregnancy (so three or four weeks after mating might have occurred). There isn't a reliable sign of pregnancy other than this, that I know of. It is highly likely that an unspayed cat in this age range would be fertile and mating in cats is a very fast affair (less than five minutes total time) so it can happen quickly and is easy to miss if you aren't constantly watching her when she is outside. If she was running free outside for any length of time the odds are really high that she is pregnant. It would be a really good idea to have your vet examine your cat if you think pregnancy is possible because your vet can do a prenatal examination to make sure there are no problems, as well as help you prepare for the arrival of the kittens and provide you with information on caring for the kittens as they grow up, too. There are three really good flea control medications for cats, fipronil (Frontline tm, Frontline Topspot tm), imidocloprid (Advantage tm) and selamectin (Revolution tm). Lufenuron (Program tm) also works well for indoor cats, after treatment with something to kill adult fleas. I am pretty sure all of these can be used during pregnancy but it is best to read the package insert, just to be sure. Mike Richards, DVM 9/6/2002

Giving aid to your cat during difficult deliveries, stillborn kittens

Question: Dr. Mike-

I just went threw a terrible experence with My Cat Mindy and would like of you to have advice regarding my situation for other first time owners of pregnant cats.

My Cat was a drop off and we got her at 6 month of age (we thought she was younger). Today She began delivering her kittens. 1 2 were delivered successfully with out any trouble then came 3. Mindy had some trouble delivering it. I had to rub the kitten because Mindy was too tired. Number 4 came feet first and she did not have the strength to deliver it. We had to help it. It was dead because the placenta separated first. Number 5 came along and My husband was affiride we were going to loose Mindy. We called the vet once more and ended calling another vet. We were advised by the first to let her alone. The 2 vet said pull it out because Roy told the Vet the kitten was already dead. What are the procedures for such troubled deliveries?. If you have some help on the sight maybe another kitten will not be lost. I cried over the 2 babies.

Answer: Joyce-

There are some things that might help people who find themselves aiding a cat who is having difficulty delivering kittens.

The first thing is to know where the closest emergency veterinary clinic is and to have their phone number handy, in case the delivery occurs when the cats usual veterinarian is not available. If there is no emergency clinic try to get an idea of what your veterinarian's office recommends for emergencies. In some areas vets cover for each other on a rotating basis or make other arrangements for emergency care if there is no emergency clinic to refer to. It is often best to go to the emergency clinic if it is apparent that there have been problems during a delivery.

In general, if a kitten is not born within a few minutes of any portion of the kitten being visible outside the vagina of the female, it is best to try to gently help deliver the kitten. Using K-Y or similar water soluble lubricating jelly to coat the vagina and the kitten is helpful. Be careful to have someone restraining your cat prior to making any effort to manipulate kittens, as this sometimes causes pain and many cats will bite in response to the sudden pain. It is necessary to be gentle to the kitten (don't pull hard on a leg or tail, for instance) if it is still alive. It is definitely possible to injure a kitten trying to aid in delivering it. If the kitten is obviously dead then a little more force can be used but the emphasis switches to being gentle to Mom so that she isn't injured. Slowly rotating the kitten in a small arc in each direction can sometimes free up a leg that is blocking passage of the kitten or allow a kitten's head to be delivered if it is holding up progress. Immediately upon retrieving the kitten that is causing the immediate problem, or if it is apparent that the kitten won't be easy to deliver, go to the emergency veterinarian's. This can save any kittens that are going to come after the one that was not able to be born on its own, as they may also have difficulty. I would do this even if you are pretty sure that there are no more kittens, because it is hard to be certain of that.

There are many things that I used to think I shouldn't tell my clients to do, or allow them to do. One of these was aid in the delivery of kittens and puppies. I still worry about my clients being bitten or injured while attempting to assist in a delivery but I have not had a client cause major injury to a birthing mother (except for people trying to deliver calves) yet. So I think that most people have a good sense for when they are pushing things too hard and will seek professional help when they feel this way. I understand why many vets are reluctant to advise trying to help in a delivery but I think that more kittens and puppies die because people are afraid to help than because people tried to help and caused injuries. Just be careful if you attempt to help in a delivery and then seek professional help even if you do succeed in helping a kitten be born who is having difficulty --- not for this kitten's sake but to increase the chance for survival for any kittens that are still in the uterus.

I would not worry too much about trying to assist even though you have visual impairment. It is usually possible to feel where the obstruction is occurring and to figure out which direction to rotate the kitten to help. I think that works for me at least as often as looking at the kitten to figure out what is wrong.

Mike Richards, DVM 8/18/2001

Drontal and pregnant cats

Question: Hi, our local vet thought that Drontal was OK to give to 2 pregnant cats.

Both cats are about 9-10 lbs and got only one pill dose for 7-8 lbs. These were feral cats and one is about 2/3 the way through pregancy and the other has about a week to go.

I looked up on the web and it says that Drontal causes problems and should not be given. Is there anything that I can do at this point? Also cats seem to be doing fine and kittens are still moving. What could we see in the kittens?

thanks, Cindy

Answer: Cindy-

I have checked several sources trying to figure out what might be the basis for your question and have had to make a guess about that. Please let me know if I am wrong.

There are two similar products on the market. Once is Drontal (Rx), which is a mixture of pyrantel and praziquantel. This product is approved for use in cats. As far as I can tell from my research, this product is considered to be safe to administer even during pregnancy. The second product is Drontal Plus (Rx), which is approved for use in dogs. This product is a combination of praziquantel, pyrantel and febantel. This product should not be given during pregnancy because febantel can cause birth defects when given at two to three times the recommended dose. Since this is a very narrow safety margin, the product shouldn't be used during pregnancy.

My best guess is that there is confusion in the information about these two products. However, if I am wrong and you have found information specifically relating to Drontal and problems with pregnancy, would you please send me the web address so I can see what the references used were?

I am hoping your vet and I have the correct information and that you will not see any problems from the use of Drontal during the pregnancy.

Mike Richards, DVM 5/5/2001

Pregnancy in cats

Question: Hello I'm a subscriber who has had many pets excepts cats and my experience with cats is therefore very limited as I'm sure you'll see from the questions I'm about to ask.

Seven weeks ago we found a small female cat huddled in the corner of our balcony on a very cold morning. We brought her in and made every attempt to try and find her owners but we never found them and so we decided to keep her. She can be a very sweet little thing if I let her come to me but if I attempt to pick her up or pat her anywhere except on the head or shoulder area she will scratch me badly and bite. I had her at the vet for a check up but she was so scarred and therefore so aggressive that he couldn't handle her at all. We had scheduled an appointment for her to go back and be sedated at which time he would clean her teeth, give her her vaccinations and bloodwork etc. But now I think she may be pregnant. Since I can't handle her it's a little hard to tell but she has gained much weight on her sides and this area seems quite firm, she has 4 easily seen nipples and seems to be staying a little more to herself. Do these sound like the signs of pregnancy? I know nothing about pregnant cats so any information would be helpful. I will certainly be taking her to my vet but if I had a little infomation I think I could have a more intelligent conversation with him.

For example: What is the gestation period for cats? Does she need a special diet at this time? When I found her she was literally just skin an bones so should I expect there to be a problem with the kittens health? Do most cats deliver naturally at home or should I expect more medical interventions? She received 1 vacination when she was at the vet could that be dangerious for the kittens?

I know I've asked a lot of questions but I'd really appreciate any information that you could provide. Thank you for your time.

Answer: Karen-

The gestation period for cats is about 63 to 68 days but can vary a little in either direction.

Abdominal swelling can occur with pregnancy or with several medical conditions, including low serum protein levels from parasitism and feline infectious peritonitis. Since you don't seem to be seeing any signs of illness it is likely that she is pregnant, though.

It is a good idea to gradually change the diet to a kitten food in the last two to three weeks of pregnancy and to continue to feed the kitten food throughout the period in which she is nursing the kittens.

The odds are very good that the early nutritional problems won't affect the kittens much, because the energy demands of the pregnancy are not high early on and you have been feeding her since that time, allowing her to catch up. There is a small chance of a vitamin deficiency or other nutritional problem but even that is very unlikely to affect the kittens.

There is some disagreement in the literature about the risks involved in vaccinating pregnant cats. There is some information to suggest that vaccination of kittens with a modified live panleukopenia virus (feline distemper) vaccine during the last month of pregnancy may lead to cerebellar hypoplasia problems in kittens. This is a disorder in which kittens have difficulty balancing and with fine motor movements. However, there is also a large study that suggests that this does not occur, or if it does, it is a very infrequent problem. I think that the odds are in your favor that everything will turn out OK but as a routine rule I still think that it is better to avoid vaccinations during pregnancy when possible. Since you didn't know your cat was pregnant there was no reason to avoid vaccination at the time.

Most cats deliver their kittens with no problems. It is actually a little unusual for us to have to assist in the birth of kittens and I think that I have probably only done three or four caesarian sections for cats in the twenty-one years I have been practicing, although I haven't actually kept count.

Good luck with all of this. Things should work out OK.

Mike Richards, DVM 2/6/2001

Cat pregnancy

Question: How long does it take for pregnant cats to have kittens?

Answer: Alec-

Cats are usually pregnant between 58 and 65 days. It usually takes four to six hours for cats to deliver a litter of kittens but this varies widely from cat to cat. If there is an interval of longer than 4 hours between kittens and the cat still seems to be trying to deliver kittens or is not comfortable, she should be checked by a veterinarian.

Mike Richards, DVM 1/3/2001

Gestation length for cats

Q: How long is the feline gestation period? Thank you

A: The normal gestation period in cats is 63 to 66 days.

Pre & Postnatal advice - young stray cat

Q: Hi Dr. Mike! We will be having kittens very soon and we were wondering if you could give us a little pre & postnatal advice for mother & kittens. Here's a little background: We took in a stray kitten just a few months ago, so I'm assuming she hasn't a shots. She is still very young - will she take care of her kittens? We are setting her up with a space in the linen closet for her labor. What indications should we look for when she is birthing? Also, how old should the kittens be when we give them away (we have some good homes already!) When and what should we fed kittens as they get older? Basically, we need the rundown! You're help is greatly appreciated! Great web site! The H. Family

A: I think it is a good idea to change gradually to kitten chow as the mother cat's diet, starting about 3 weeks before she is due.

It would be a good idea to have her dewormed for roundworms as soon as the kittens are born. These are often "activated" by the pregnancy. It would be a good idea to get her vaccinated, too, but I might wait until after the kittens are weaned if she stays inside.

Cats are usually pretty secretive about having their kittens and it is likely she will have them somewhere you didn't expect and that the signs will be kittens in your sock drawer or something like that. Providing a safe secure place like you have is still a good idea, though.

Kittens should be introduced to solid food at about 4 weeks of age (3 weeks is OK if necessary). Using moistened dry cat food works best for us. They should be eating almost entirely solid food by 6 t 7 weeks of age. I think it is best to keep them with their mother until 8 weeks of age but many people let them go to new homes after 6 weeks.

Kittens should be dewormed starting at 6 weeks of age and vaccinated for the first time between 6 and 8 weeks of age.

Hope this helps. Mike Richards, DVM

Probably pregnant

Q: I have a cat (1 1/2) who was in and out of heat constantly (approx. every two weeks for a week at a time). About a month ago she got out and stayed out for two days. There was a tom cat hanging out. Since that episode, she has shown no signs of heat. She is a petite cat, maybe 5 lbs. It may be my imagination but I think she is getting a rounder belly. How can I tell if she is pregnant? How long until we can expect kittens? What do we need to do to prepare? Thanks for your help. K.

A: It is pretty likely that your cat is pregnant since the heat cycles have stopped. Your vet will be able to feel her abdomen and tell in most cases. X-rays can confirm the presence of kittens late in pregnancy and give an idea of the number of them.

Gradually changing her food to kitten chow towards the end of the pregnancy is a good idea. Make sure she has a safe place or two to have the kittens and be aware that cats like to have kittens in odd places like inside dryers and in sock drawers -- so be careful until she has them and for a few weeks afterwards to avoid losing one inadvertently.

Ask your vet about this too. He or she will be able to give you specific advice tailored to your cat. Mike Richards, DVM

Mom cat losing weight

Q: Dr. Mike, Our one year old calico cat had 5 kittens six weeks ago. Three are still with her, not having been given away, yet. So, she is still nursing them on occasion. We have noticed that even though she seems to have a good appetite and is always out of her room crying for food, that she has gotten very thin. We first attributed her weight loss to her young age, and the strain of 5 nursing kittens, but now are wondering if she might have another problem, maybe worms or something more serious. No worms have been noted in stools. It also seems that the area around her nipples seems warm to touch, recently. Maybe just my imagination, I don't know. Do you have any ideas? Thanks for your time

A: It takes an amazing amount of energy to produce the milk for five kittens. If you have not been feeding your cat a high calorie food (like a kitten food) and have not been feeding her as much as she wants, it is very likely that she is just losing weight because she is not getting enough calories to make up for the milk production.

Many cats who have kittens do have a reactivation of roundworm migration and subsequent roundworm infestation in their intestinal tract. It is usually a good idea to deworm a cat after it has kittens with a dewormer that kills roundworms. The safest of the over-the-counter dewormers are the ones containing pyrantel pomoate as the active ingredient.

The warmth around the nipples may just be inflammation associated with the decrease in nursing and development of teeth in the kittens. It can be the precursor of mastitis, though. Watch carefully for hard swellings, bruised looking areas around the nipples, excessive heat or pain. If any of these symptoms occur, have your vet check your cat.

Mike Richards, DVM

Last edited 10/31/04


Michael Richards, D.V.M. co-owns a small animal general veterinary practice in rural tidewater Virginia. Dr. Richards graduated from Iowa State University's College of Veterinary Medicine in 1979, and has been in private practice ever since. Dr. Richards has been the director of the PetCare Forum...