Pregnancy and Gestation in Cats
Determining Pregnancy continued...
By 35 days, the nipples become pink and obvious, and the size of belly is increasing. The fetuses are floating in capsules of fluid and can no longer be detected by palpation. As the time of birth approaches, the breasts enlarge and a milky fluid may be expressed from the nipples. However, many queens have breast enlargement after a normal heat, so this alone should not lead to a pregnancy diagnosis.
Ultrasounds are noted for being very accurate fairly early on in detecting pregnancy, but they are not as valuable as X-rays for determining the exact number of fetuses. Ultrasound can indicate viability, though, showing fetal heartbeats. An abdominal X-ray will show fetal bone structure past day 43.
X-rays are also used as an alternative to ultrasonography when it is necessary to distinguish among pregnancy, false pregnancy, and pyometra. They should be avoided in early pregnancy.
By day 49, the kittens are sausage-shaped and their heads are large enough to be felt as separate structures. Late signs of pregnancy are an obvious
pear-shaped abdomen and fetal movements, easily detectable during the last two weeks.
The first prenatal visit should be scheduled two to three weeks after mating. Any further tests your veterinarian believes are necessary can be scheduled at this time. Your veterinarian will discuss any diet changes or supplements that might be indicated. Intestinal parasites, if present, should be treated by your veterinarian.
Vaccinations, most medications, and many deworming products are not recommended once pregnancy is established. This includes some of the flea and insecticide preparations, dewormers, and certain hormones and antibiotics. Tapeworm medications, in particular, can be quite toxic. Droncit is a tapeworm preparation safe for use in pregnant queens. Revolution is a flea control product approved for use in pregnant and lactating cats. Live virus vaccines (for example, feline panleukopenia and feline respiratory virus) should not be given to pregnant females. Check with your veterinarian before starting a pregnant queen on any drug, supplement, or medication.
One week before the expected kittening date, make an appointment to have the queen checked again. Your veterinarian will want to discuss with you the normal delivery procedures, alert you to signs of potential problems, and give you instructions for care of the newborns.