Breeding, Nutrition, Puppy and Kitten Care

Queening: How Calcium Helps

Donald Bramlage, DVM

November 22, 2021

Fifty percent of kitten loss occurs just before or during birth. There are a number of reasons, one being weak contractions during queening. Calcium can help mom have effective contractions for more efficient live births.

How Can I Help My Pregnant Cat in Labor

Cat moms normally do not want company when giving birth unless she has bonded with you. Queens prefer a closed in area where they feel safe with no other cats visible. If queens feel uncomfortable, they can stop labor and pick it up again when they are comfortable. This slow birthing contributes to stress on the kitten and to kitten loss at or just before birth. It is important to house the queen in a comfortable and safe place the week before birth starts.

Getting kittens on the ground more effectively is an achievable goal. For several years we have used calcium to shorten early labor. The body’s demand for calcium increases during labor as calcium is the lube that allows the uterine muscle fibers to slide past each other creating effective contractions. At the same time, calcium is also being pulled for milk production. If there are marginal calcium levels present, the contractions are not as strong and the high risk kitten is the one still in the uterus once labor begins.

Do Cats Need Calcium When Giving Birth

Calcium is a mineral which plays an important role in muscle contraction and in building the frame we stand on. Muscles and bones actually work together. When the level of calcium in the blood is too low, calcium is pulled out of the bone. When we have excess calcium, it is replaced. This regulation works well if we do not shut it down by supplementing calcium at the wrong time.

In late pregnancy, the queen’s demand for calcium begins to increase with fetal demand and mammary gland development. The parathyroid gland requests calcium from the bone to supplement calcium levels as needed. We want the queen to gear up for the minute by minute calcium need and use her stores in late pregnancy. This allows the queens normal calcium regulation to be ready for labor and lactation needs.

When to Give Calcium to a Cat

When the queen starts early labor give her the first dose of calcium. The goal is to get two to three doses of calcium in mom before the first kitten is born. This helps get the first kitten on the ground quicker so mom doesn’t get so tired with a long delivery.

We are not speeding anything up, just making mom more efficient at her job. When the queen starts into labor and we know she is giving birth today, we give her one dose of a fast absorbing calcium gel like Breeder’s Edge® Oral Cal Plus. Calcium gel can be wiped in the mouth and does not have to be swallowed to be absorbed. Give 1 cc of gel at the start of labor and a second just before or after the first kitten is born. That is all most queens need; but if labor slows or progress is slow you can repeat the dose safely. Using calcium gel helps mom have effective contractions to get kittens on the ground efficiently.

Calcium supplementation is not difficult to understand. It’s about using the appropriate calcium supplement when needed and not before. Calcium makes moms more effective at their job when giving birth. If the queen’s job is easier, she is less tired and does not give up on the last kitten which avoids a C-Section. Queens who are not tired do a better job at mothering during the first 24 hours. That saves kittens!

If you need help with how to help a queening cat, call us at 800.786.4751.

Last reviewed by the Marty Greer, DVM.

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.