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Managing Queens – Helping Cats Give Birth

You have managed gestation effectively and mom is healthy, nutritionally sound and ready for the workout of giving birth. Getting kittens on the ground as effectively as possible is the goal.


Queens usually have little issues delivering (queening) if the location is secure. Pregnant cats should have a nesting area they are confined to for seven days before expected delivery. The queening box or cage area must be free from other cats and humans whom she’s uncomfortable with. If a queen is disturbed by her environment, she will delay birth until she can find a more desirable, quieter location. Queen comfort encourages timely labor and delivery.

  • Create a closet effect for the cage with barriers. Cardboard or towels work well.
  • Provide a dry nest that is quiet and away from the vision of other cats or humans.
  • Nesting material is helpful as mom can arrange or “nest” if she wants. Shredded baby diapers are often used by breeders.
  • Dim the lights or shield the nest box when labor is close.
  • Queens will often seek out their owner for comfort. The owner is generally not a threat to her giving birth and can provide reassurance.
  • Keep strangers away for two weeks. After two weeks, queens are often glad to have someone quietly show their kittens attention.


We want to see kittens birthed from start to finish within 12 hours. Most breeders report a 60 minute average between births after the first kitten, but cats have the ability to interrupt labor and start again in 24 hours. This protective mechanism is not desirable, and the delayed birth raises concern about kitten viability. We want mom’s attention on delivery, mothering and nursing.

Early signs of impending labor is variable, but can include:

  • Temperature drop due to decrease in progesterone – 12 hours
  • Showing restlessness, vocalizing, pacing, panting, vomiting and grooming – 2 to 24 hours
  • Nesting behavior starts – 24 hours
  • “Settling in” nesting – few hours before birth
  • Queens usually purr loudly when they are close
  • Queens typically stop eating 24 hours before birth, but some will eat during labor.

The entire birthing process can be over in two to six hours but the goal is 12 hours. Arrested labor is normal in the queen after the first kitten and can resume as long as 24 hours later. Though considered normal, we find more kitten loss with arrested labor and prefer labor to continue once mom delivers the first kitten. The ultimate goal is to get her comfortable enough to birth kittens quickly and allow her to get on with mothering and nursing.

If you need help, call us at 1-800-786-4751.

-Dr. B
Don Bramlage, DVM, Director of Veterinary Services at Revival Animal Health

The materials, information and answers provided through this website are not intended to replace the medical advice or services of your personal veterinarian or other pet health care professional. Consult your own veterinarian for answers to specific medical questions, including diagnosis, treatment, therapy or medical attention.

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