A cat's labor, delivery and even pregnancy is a short process compared to the time it takes for humans to have babies. Once you suspect your cat is in labor, it'll be a few short hours before she'll have tiny kittens to tend to.
Length of Pregnancy
The average feline pregnancy lasts from 60 to 67 days, so if you know when your cat became pregnant, mark your calendar, so you know when to start watching for signs of labor. In many cases, it is impossible to know the breeding date, so you will have to make your best guess. If you think your cat may be pregnant, she should see a veterinarian for a general health screening at least once before the kittens are due.
Labor and Delivery
According to Purina, there are three stages to feline labor, each lasting a different amount of time. The length of the overall delivery will also be affected by the number of kittens born, with most cats having four to six kittens in a litter.
Length of the Stages
- Stage 1 Labor - The cat will start looking for a place to deliver her kittens. She may lick her genitalia, act restless or stop eating. This stage can last for 24 hours to 36 hours
- Stage 2 Labor - This stage occurs when powerful uterine contractions push a kitten into the birth canal, the fetal membranes rupture and the kitten is born. This can happen in as few as five minutes, but should not take any longer than 30 minutes.
- Stage 3 Labor - After each kitten is delivered, the placenta should be expelled from the uterus. This will look green to black in color and, according to The Cat Care Clinic, the mother cat will usually eat it. The placenta is typically passed immediately after the kitten, or at least within five to ten minutes.
After each kitten is delivered, the cat will cycle through stages two and three until all the kittens have been born. The total process takes two to six hours for most cats.
There may be a delay between kittens in which the mother rests. This break usually takes no longer than four hours, but in some situations, the cat may enter interrupted labor. In this case, she will groom the kittens, relax and can start eating again before continuing the delivery. This rest period can even last for 24 to 36 hours.
While the process of labor and delivery is similar in all cats, there can be some variation in how long it takes for different breeds of cats to have their kittens. Breeds with narrow and tapered heads such as Siamese are usually delivered more quickly while snub-nosed breeds like Persians have wider heads that can lead to a more difficult birth. Some of these breeds may even require a cesarean section if the kittens are too large.
Though kittens are adorable, labor and delivery are stressful for your cat, and each birth adds to the overpopulation of homeless cats. If you are not planning on keeping the kittens your cat births, bring your cat in to be spayed once she is finished nursing to prevent further pregnancies.