Congratulations! Your cat is having kittens, or has already had them.
You’re excited, but kind of at a loss when it comes to how to care for them. If you’ve never taken care of newborn (or older) kittens before, it can all seem a bit overwhelming. Maybe even a bit like having a lot of fuzzy little human babies.
The good news is, their mother should, for the most part, instinctively know how to care for them. That takes a bit of the weight off your shoulders, doesn’t it? And you have this list of kitten FAQ’s we made for you to refer to, so relax.
We’re sure you’ll be happily playing around with them in no time.
- What should you do when your cat has kittens?
- Why do cats move their kittens?
- How long does it take for cats to have kittens?
- When does a kitten become a cat?
- How do you catch a kitten?
- How long does heat last in cats?
- Why does my kitten bite?
- How do I get my kitten to stop biting?
- How long do cats live?
- How big will my kitten get?
- How can I tell if my cat is depressed?
- When should I declaw my kitten?
- How should I care for newborn kittens?
What should you do when your cat has kittens?
It’s important to be prepared even before your mother cat gives birth. You shouldn’t worry too much, though; most mother cats give birth themselves, without any complications at all. All you really need to do is provide a nice “nest” for them to have their babies in, and watch over them in case they need to be taken to the vet.
If you notice your cat getting restless, seemingly looking around for a place to settle down and have her kittens, you should put her in a room that you want her to have the babies in. Ideally, the floor should be resistant to any staining, and the room should be kept dark and quiet for her comfort. Let her get used to it, and put some food and water within her reach too.
Once her contractions start, she may yowl, pace around, and lick at her belly frequently. When giving birth to the kittens, she will lie on her side or squat as she pushes them out. You probably won’t need to do anything to help; all you should really do is keep a close eye on her, but not disturb her. Usually she’ll give birth to her first kitten within an hour or so, and it’ll take 2-6 hours total to have the rest.
When the kittens come out, they’re covered in an amniotic sac, which is an outer membrane filled with clear fluid inside. Their mother should begin licking them immediately, to tear the sac open and stimulate their breathing. If this doesn’t happen, you can help her by breaking the sac yourself and rubbing the kitten down (gently!) with a towel until they start to breathe.
The umbilical cord can be cut to around an inch long with some dental floss if your cat doesn’t bite through it, but usually she’ll do this on her own. She’ll probably immediately start nursing the kittens, even before all of them have been born. She might also eat the placentas, but this is normal.
If a kitten spends longer than 15 minutes in the birth canal, you can help by wrapping it in a towel and gently pulling it out by the hips or shoulders. Kittens usually come out of the canal head- or tail-first. Either is normal. If your mother cat spends seven hours or longer in labor, she should be taken to the vet.
Contact your vet if you notice any other issues, such as fever in the mother, smelly vaginal discharge after giving birth, weak kittens, fewer placentas than kittens, or anything that you suspect might not be normal.
Why do cats move their kittens?
Cats move their kittens because they no longer think that the place they gave birth is safe enough for them. This doesn’t mean that it isn’t safe; your cat just might instinctively want a more private place to raise her vulnerable babies. Because cats are private creatures, this happens fairly often. There might be too many people coming and going, and so she may move them to a closet or a more isolated room.
You might want to start socializing with the kittens early so that they become used to people, but we suggest that you leave them alone for around 8 days to two weeks. This is when they open their eyes and can handle more stimuli.
How long does it take for cats to have kittens?
A mother cat should be pregnant for around 9-10 weeks, or 62-67 days. If her pregnancy lasts longer than this you should contact your veterinarian. Like we said before, labor usually lasts between 2 and 6 hours on average, with 30-60 minutes per kitten.
When does a kitten become a cat?
This varies depending on people’s beliefs and the cat themselves, but we’ve seen numbers anywhere between 6 months to 1 year. If the kitten has become sexually mature, it’s usually understood that they’re transitioning from little baby to sophisticated adult.
How do you catch a kitten?
If you find a stray kitten and you’ve made sure that their mother isn’t anywhere in sight, you might want to try catching them and taking them to a shelter. There are a few ways to do this. You can purchase a humane trap, or make your own. Usually placing some canned food in a trap with a trapdoor that shuts behind the kitten does the trick. Don’t rush into this; it’s easiest if you wait a few times before bringing the trapdoor down. This way, the kitten will begin to associate the trap with receiving food, and will be more comfortable climbing into it.
You can also lure the kitten into a corner with food, and then guide them non-threateningly into their pet carrier. This can be a little harder. Try to do this in a way that doesn’t frighten the kitten.
The last way to catch a kitten is to earn their trust first. This method takes the longest, but is very worth it. If they trust you, they’re less likely to be frightened when you take them home or to a shelter. Feed them every day at the same time, and be gentle and kind. After a few days or weeks, they’ll probably be used to being around you.
How long does heat last in cats?
Female cats go through cycles of heat, so unless they’re spayed, it’ll come and go. Usually, it can last for as little as a few days to as long as a week. Depending on where you live, your cat will continuously go into heat during certain months of the year. When in heat, female cats become very vocal, excessively affectionate towards their owners, and may spray urine on objects to mark their territory.
Why does my kitten bite?
Similar to puppies, kittens bite because they’re trying to explore as much as they can of the world using their mouths. They shouldn’t bite when playing with you, though. Your hands are not their toy.
If they try to bite you while playing, discourage them from doing this with a firm “no” or “ow” (don’t yell) and offer them an acceptable toy to play with.
How do I get my kitten to stop biting?
If your kitten keeps trying to bite you, make sure you let them know that biting will result in you not playing with them for a while. Like we said before, say “no” or “ow”, and walk away for a bit. Don’t ever yell at them or hit them, because won’t understand why they’re being punished for a behavior that comes naturally to them. Make sure to provide your little friend with lots of toys that can be used as practice “prey.” Most kittens love toys that they can wrestle with and chew on. They also might like a fishing pole toy, and you probably will too. It’ll keep your hands and feet away from their teeth and claws!
How long do cats live?
Usually, a domesticated cat will live for around 12-18 years. Make sure they’re well cared for and that they see their veterinarian regularly, so you can enjoy as much time with them as possible!
How big will my kitten get?
This really depends on the breed, but here’s a rule of thumb that can help you find out how much your kitten will weigh when they’re fully grown. Weigh them at four months old, and then double that weight. This is how heavy they’ll be when they’re an adult. They’ll also usually be twice as long as they were at four months of age.
How can I tell if my cat is depressed?
Again, this varies depending on the cat, but here are some signs of depression in cats:
- Vocalizing more than normal
- Change in activity (e.g. sleeping a lot more)
- Eating less or seeming less interested in their food
- Hiding more often than they used to
- Biting, hissing, and/or scratching more often than they used to
- Not grooming themselves well enough
- Not using their litter box properly
When should I declaw my kitten?
If you decide you do want to declaw your kitten, it usually should be done at three months of age MINIMUM. Any earlier and going under anesthesia is unsafe for the kitten. Vets will often declaw a kitten at the same time they’re spayed or neutered, so that they don’t have to come in twice for surgical procedures.
Nowadays, there are very humane methods used to declaw cats, and it’s really up to you to decide whether or not you declaw. If you don’t want to, most cats can be easily trained to use scratching posts or other cat furniture. Even if your cat is still scratching your furniture, there are alternative methods to declawing, like putting removable rubber caps over their nails.
This way they get to keep their claws and are still comfortable, but they can’t do any damage with them.
How should I care for newborn kittens?
We’ve already covered this subject in more detail here, but that doesn’t mean we can’t go over the basics again. Here are some things you should make sure to do when caring for newborn kittens:
- If you need to feed an abandoned newborn (4 weeks of age or less), ask your vet how to properly bottle-feed them with a commercial milk replacement. Don’t give them cow’s milk, as their digestive tracts don’t handle it very well. It can give them diarrhea.
- At 3-4 weeks old, you should be able to slowly introduce a soft and easily-chewed wet food to your newborn kittens.
- Feed kittens small portions 4-6 times a day. Their food should contain 30% protein.
- Be sure to keep them warm! When they’re very young, they have trouble regulating their temperature. A hot water bottle or heating pad placed under a towel works well, but make sure to watch everything closely: you’ll want to keep the kitties safe from burns or overheating!
- Don’t over-handle very young kittens until they’re about a week old unless you really have to. They’re very fragile, and you might make their mother upset. Handling kittens gently from when they’re 2-7 weeks old, though, helps them get used to humans and become friendly adult cats.
That’s all for our FAQ on kittens and mother cats! Feel free to look through it again if you ever need it, and don’t worry! If you’re well-prepared, we’re sure you’ll be a great kitten owner.