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Help and advice if your pet suffers from cat flu, cat colds or other ailments

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It’s no simple task trying to determine whether or not your cat is pregnant.

Many inexperienced cat owners are completely unaware of the signs of heat and will not know if their cat is pregnant until its well into the gestation period.

If your cat has come in and out of heat, but then appears to stop cycling, the chances are high that she is pregnant.

Cats are only pregnant for around nine weeks so the various stages of pregnancy proceed quite quickly.

A cat will not begin to bulge significantly until a couple of weeks before she is due to deliver.

So there are a few signs to watch out for which will alert you to the fact your cat is pregnant.

These include enlarging of the nipples which become softer and more pink, an increase in appetite and weight gain and the abdomen area becomes more rounded. Some cats may also start to behave more affectionately than normal, show signs of morning sickness and start to carry out nesting activity.

If you suspect your cat is pregnant it is advisable to take her to the vet for confirmation of the condition.

Palpitating of the abdomen or ultrasound are ways of confirming pregnancy, and an x-ray can be taken to confirm the size of the litter. Average litter size is two to five kittens.

Cats require very little special care during pregnancy - they just need to be allowed to eat what they want and be protected from

illnesses and parasites. Cats do a great job of getting themselves through their pregnancies.

Others should ensure their pregnant cats gets plenty of exercise to keep their weight under control. They should also be given food which is high in nutrients and plenty of fresh water.

Around three weeks before a pregnant cat is due to give birth she should have premium kitten food added to her diet. This should be increased weekly and in the final week she should be eating all kitten food. This should continue until after the kittens have been weaned.

The key is to provide small but frequent meals - three to four will be fine. A cat will eat around twice as much food in the last few weeks of pregnancy and first weeks of lactating, as she did before pregnancy.

Owners should never give a drug supplement to a pregnant or nursing cat unless advised to do so by their vet.

A delivery box should be prepared about a fortnight in advance and consist of a cardboard box lined with towels or other container such as a laundry basket. Shredded newspaper should be placed in the bottom and then covered with a towel. The container should then be placed in a quiet location.

Sometimes a cat will choose not to give birth in a container you provide but may opt for a location of her own liking. Either way, during the last three weeks of pregnancy, she should be kept indoors at all times and separated from any other cats in the home.

Signs to watch out for when birthing time is near include restlessness, vaginal licking, discharge of milk from the nipples and increased activity.

Fresh food and water should be placed near your cat and her litter box should be easily accessible.

A cat will start to pant heavily just before delivery and will lick the newborn vigorously in order to stimulate their respiratory and circulatory systems. The afterbirth will normally be eaten. Kittens may arrive anything from a few minutes to a few hours apart.

An owner’s assistance will generally not be appreciated or needed. However you may be called upon to help clean away the fluid-filled envelope surrounding each kitten. You should break the sac with your fingers and use some sterile cotton to remove any matter from the kitten’s nostrils and face.

A piece of sterile string should then be tied around the kitten’s umbilical cord, approximately an inch away from the body. The chord should be cut on the side of the knot which is away from the body, and the chord end should then be dipped in iodine.

The kitten should be given to the mother straight away for licking, and if licking doesn’t take place the kitten should be rubbed gently, but vigorously, with a dry towel.

Sometimes it may be necessary to seek veterinary assistance when problems arise during delivery. You should do this if a placenta is not visible with each birth, there is a delay of more than three hours between kittens, a kitten is lodged in the birth canal or if a cat is going through abdominal contractions for more than an hour without giving birth. Finally, you should call a vet immediately if any excessive bright red bleeding or green discharge is detected.

Mother and kittens should be left alone for at least three days, ideally in darkness, and you should avoid handling the kittens until they are at least a week old. The mother is more than capable of dealing with the kittens’ feeding, cleaning and toilet training for the first weeks.

Kittens will eventually start to explore and you can offer them dried food which has been moistened with mother’s milk substitute or water. Within seven to 10 weeks the kittens will be weaned and eating solid food. At around eight weeks the kittens should be taken to a veterinarian for their initial checkup and vaccinations.