Breeding, Shelter and Rescue Resources

Queen Cats: How to Help a Cat Give Birth

You have managed feline 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.

Where Do Cats Like to Give Birth?

A female cat is called a queen and queening is what it is called when a cat gives birth. Queen cats usually have little issues 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.
  • Breeder’s Edge Repeat Pads are useful as a place for the kittens to be born on. They are absorbent, soft and have good traction.
  • 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.

How to Help Your Cat Give Birth

When it comes to how to help your cat give birth, we want to see kittens birthed from start to finish within 12 hours. Most cat 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.

How to Help a Cat in Labor

Signs of Labor in Cats

Early signs of labor in cats are variable, but can include:

  • Temperature drop due to decrease in progesterone – 12 hours
  • Showing restlessness, vocalizing, pacing, panting, vomiting and grooming – two to 24 hours
  • Nesting behavior starts – 24 hours
  • “Settling in” nesting – few hours before birth
  • A pregnant cat purring loudly can mean they are close
  • Queen cats typically stop eating 24 hours before birth, but some will eat during labor

How Long Does It Take for a Cat to Give Birth

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 have more questions on how to help a cat give birth, call us at 800.786.4751.

Written by: Donald Bramlage, DVM

Donald Bramlage, Doctor of Veterinary Medicine, practiced veterinary medicine for 30+ years and is known for his work in managing parvovirus. He received his Doctor of Veterinary Medicine from Kansas State University in 1985. He served as Revival’s Director of Veterinary Services from 2011 until his retirement in 2019.

If you need help, call us at 800.786.4751.