Essential pet advice with vet Jo Gourlay

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This week we continue with the topic of cat reproduction, moving on to looking at the early signs of pregnancy and the extra requirements necessary to keep her healthy while in kitten.

The first thing to ascertain, if the pregnancy was not planned, is how far along it is. The average feline pregnancy lasts 60-65 days with early signs including a lack of coming into heat, her nipples becoming enlarged and red (known as pinking up), sickness and weight gain.

It’s important to get your cat examined by your vet as soon as you suspect she is pregnant to work out what stage she is at, check she is physically well and get advice from them about the pregnancy and birth. Depending on the stage of pregnancy and your individual vet’s choice, neutering may still be an option; for all concerned wherever possible it’s far better to ensure they are neutered before reaching this point.

By allowing either sex of cat outside unneutered you also increase their risk of contracting potentially fatal diseases such as FIV (Feline Immunodeficiency Virus) and FeLV (Feline Leukaemia Virus), of which only FeLV can be vaccinated against. In addition, they are more likely to come home with scratches and bite wounds which may become infected or form abscesses, as well as being more inclined to cause problems spraying urine and potentially even be at heightened risk of road traffic accidents due to wandering further looking for mates. Even if you intend to have a litter from your cat, by letting them run free you lose the control of trying to ensure their mate, and, therefore, their kittens, are healthy and disease free.

An important consideration in caring for a pregnant cat is making sure she gets the right nutrition. For the first few weeks, her normal complete adult cat food is fine but after the fourth week a kitten food should start to be very gradually introduced.

Again, your own vet will advise on which one is best for your individual cat, taking into account their current food and any dietary issues. Usually they will remain on the kitten diet right through pregnancy and while providing milk for the kittens. It contains the higher calories and correct balance to help sustain kitten growth. It’s sometimes necessary, especially in later pregnancy, to split the daily food requirement into several small meals.

Ideally, vaccinations should be up to date prior to mating as this will help to pass on some immunity to the kittens. If your cat is not vaccinated or they have lapsed or are due, then you will need to discuss this with your vet as not all vaccinations are safe during pregnancy.

For the same reason, if your cat needs to be treated for any other condition during this period always mention they are pregnant so that the most appropriate drugs can be selected. Even some routine worm and flea treatments are unsafe so always double check before giving anything.

Next week we focus on the birth and the kittens first few weeks.