Breeding, Vet Minute

How to Help a Cat Have Kittens

What can you do to help a cat in labor? While most cats are quite independent when it comes time for queening, in this Vet Minute, Revival’s Director of Veterinary Services, Dr. Marty Greer, shares some ideas on what you can do help make the queening process more comfortable for your pregnant cat. Dr. Greer will address nesting areas, pregnant cat nutrition, supplements and other tips on how to help a queening cat.

How to Help a Cat in Labor

How to Help a Queening Cat

Queening in cats is the process of having kittens and whelping in dogs is the process of having puppies. Some cats are really pretty private about this and they may not necessarily want you to help too much, but it’s likely you don’t want these kittens born in a laundry basket in the closet so it’s a good idea to have some preparation of someplace that is appropriate for her to have the kittens.

What Can I Do To Help a Cat Have Kittens?

Cat breeders recommend using something like a popup crate or a zipper crate that you can move around the house so that it can be where it’s convenient for her to have it, it’s a nice quiet area so you can move it to a room where there’s not too much commotion or activity. You don’t need to have a bunch of little kids running in and out of the room during the process of queening. The zip up crate gives you the access of you can reach in and out but you can keep her confined so she doesn’t take off. They also recommend having a queening box for her. It can be a litter box that’s been unused as a litter box or a storage box that’s nice and large so she has room in there to have the kittens and it is easy to cleanup, it is plastic, it’s clean, it’s not sterile, but it’s very clean. You can use the Breeder’s Edge Repeat pads for the surface that the kittens can be born on. The Breeder’s Edge pads have good absorbency and good traction, so during cat labor she’s got some place to kind of move her feet into so the kittens don’t come out, slip sliding around, because they’ve got a nice absorbent surface that is warm on the underside where they are born. Of course a heat source underneath them, because we want to make sure we keep the kittens warm during the birthing process, especially when they are first born and they are kind of wet. It takes a little time for them to dry off. So I like to have a heated surface underneath part of the box, but not the entire box so that if the kittens are too cold they can move to a warm area, if it’s too cool they can move to a different area. Then some OB Lubricant with a feeding tube of sorts that you can insert into the vagina of the cat if you need to put some lubricant in.

What if a Kitten is Born Tail First?

Kittens are 40 percent of the time born with the backend first or feet first, that’s not a breech birth. Sixty percent of kittens are born headfirst. And sometime when they are coming backend first, the hair because of the direction that it grows, if the kitten gets a little dry it gets a little tough for the female to pass it, so lubricant can be very helpful. You can put it on a gloved finger, you can put it in with a tube. Of course you want to wear gloves, you don’t want to put your finger into the vagina, or pull on a kitten without wearing gloves because you want to keep everything as clean as possible so there’s less risk of her developing an infection.

Calcium for Cats in Labor

The Breeder’s Edge Oral Cal Plus gel that we use for puppies and for female dogs during labor can also be used on the queens during their labors. The dosing for that would start at the time of labor, not to exceed 1 cc per dose, but can be repeated several times during labor. We know calcium improves the quality of uterine contractions, even if we don’t use any oxytocin. Sometimes a wee bit of oxytocin is a good idea, but it needs to be just a tiny little dose. We like to stick to the Breeder’s Edge Oral Cal Plus calcium gel as much as possible.

When it comes to pregnant cat nutrition, make sure that the queen is on an appropriate pregnancy diet, so she’s got enough calcium. A kitten diet would be appropriate during her pregnancy. Many times these cats don’t need a lot of help. If they’re purebred cats or they’re struggling a bit to have their kittens, then you may want to intervene. But many cats do very well on their own as long as you’ve got a controlled setting that is quiet and safe for her to have her kittens.

If you need help or have additional cat health questions about what can I do to help a cat have kittens, call us at 800.786.4751.

Written by: Marty Greer, DVM

Director of Veterinary Services

Marty Greer, Doctor of Veterinary Medicine, has 40+ years’ experience in veterinary medicine, with special interests in canine reproduction and pediatrics. She received her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine from Iowa State University in 1981. She’s served as Revival’s Director of Veterinary Services since 2019. In 2023, Dr. Greer was named the Westminster Kennel Club Veterinarian of the Year.

If you need help, call us at 800.786.4751.