How Long Does it Usually Take for a Cat to Give Birth?

Josie F. Turner
By Josie F. Turner, Journalist specialized in Animal Welfare. Updated: April 12, 2022
How Long Does it Usually Take for a Cat to Give Birth?

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The delivery process of a cat is a phase which can cause great agitation to feline caregivers. It is a process which occurs mostly internally for the cat. With the inability for cats to communicate verbally, it may be difficult for us to know how well the labor is going. This inadequate communication increases our anxiety as we want to ensure everything goes smoothly and that both mother and kittens are healthy. To help reduce our anxiety and increase our helpfulness, we might have a few questions we need answered.

At AnimalWised we discuss how long it usually takes for a cat to give birth. In doing so, we can help cat owners know if the animals in their care are proceeding normally or if there is cause for concern. If the latter is the case, then the assistance of a veterinary health professional is advised.

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  1. Signs that a cat is in labor
  2. How long does it take for a cat to give birth?
  3. When the kitten delivery is too long
  4. How to help a cat give birth
  5. How to know if a cat has finished giving birth

Signs that a cat is in labor

The average gestation period of a pregnant cat is between 62 and 65 days. They breed an average of four kittens. They can give birth several times a year, but are usually more fertile during the brighter months. During their pregnancy it is recommended that the cat is taken to a veterinarian for various reasons. The vet will help us to prevent any complications, establish an approximate date of birth and encourage a healthy development of the pregnancy.

Changing a cat's diet during their pregnancy is necessary to ensure they are best able to adapt to their body's new needs. We should notice that their general food intake increases as the pregnancy proceeds, until a few days before labor. At this point the amount of food they will eat will decrease or they may even stop eating altogether.

Approximating the time of birth is related to changes in the cat's body temperature. By measuring it, a vert can have an idea of the probable birth date. There are other indications that a cat may give birth, such as preparing a nesting space. This is where the cat seeks out a sheltered and safe space to both give birth and begin rearing the kittens. We can help by making a bed with soft materials and placing it in a warm place away from any drafts or other possible impediments. However, they may choose their own place and you shouldn't force them to go somewhere they don't want. Their security is paramount.

Before a cat give's birth, we may notice some symptoms of unease. They may scratch the ground, turn over on themselves, repeatedly get up and down or similar. We will also notice their general activity decreases and they will spend more time lying down. Now that we know how to have a clear idea when a cat is going to go into labor, we can discuss more about the actual event.

How Long Does it Usually Take for a Cat to Give Birth? - Signs that a cat is in labor

How long does it take for a cat to give birth?

A cat's labor is not governed by fixed rules and, like we humans, we can only speak in approximate terms. Even so, it is possible to offer some general guidelines to caregivers when determining whether the delivery is proceeding in the usual way or there are delays which may imply problems.

The first phase of the delivery is known as dilation. This is where the uterine contractions act to open the cervix to allow the passage of the young. This leads to a second expulsion where the kittens are actually birthed. To know how long is the labor period of a cat giving birth for the first time, we must bear in mind that the dilation period can be prolonged. It is possible that before the birth begins, the cat loses their mucus plug. This is the substance to uterus uses to prevent infection. The mucus plug can fall between 3 and 7 days before the kittens are born. This is not always the case as the cat may lick at the area. If they don't give birth more than 7 days after they lose their mucus plug, then we should consult a vet. The same goes if a greenish secretion occurs, but is not followed by the birth of the kittens.

How long does it take for a cat to give birth after their water is born?

It is important to differentiate between the losing of the mucus plug and the secretion of amniotic fluid after the rupture of the sac. The length of time after the sac ruptures (also known as the water breaking) should not exceed 2 to 3 hours. After this time we should see the signs of the kittens being born.

How long does it take for a cat to give birth between kittens?

Another concern you may have when a cat is in labor is how long it should take for a cat to give birth to another kitten after the first is born. Generally, a cat will give birth to their kittens in half hour intervals. However, it is not unusual for especially rapid births to occur every minute or so. It is also possible for the next kitten to be born up to an hour. If it takes longer than this time and you are sure there is another kitten yet to be born, you will need to consult a specialist.

Can a cat give birth over several days?

Although the period of dilation may be considerably longer than the actual birth, normal feline labor proceeds relatively quickly. A cat cannot give birth healthily over several days, so if labor takes more than 24 hours it will be necessary to see a specialist to assist with any complications.

How Long Does it Usually Take for a Cat to Give Birth? - How long does it take for a cat to give birth?

When the kitten delivery is too long

Now that we have explained how long it takes to deliver kittens, we should know there are circumstances when veterinary intervention is recommended. They may include:

  • If more than 2 hours pass after the contractions have started.
  • Very weak contractions for 2 to 4 hours.
  • After 20 to 30 minutes of very strong contractions without the expulsion of the kitten.
  • If we see any obstruction in the birth canal, regardless of time.

Any of these signs may indicate a problem with either mother or babies and we will have to contact a vet. They will be best able to diagnose the problem and even use a cesarean section if necessary.

How to help a cat give birth

Generally cats will intuitively know how to give birth and do not need much in the form of intervention. However, there are some tips which might make the process a little easier:

  • Prepare a comfortable nesting area which is safe and quiet.
  • Do not disturb or manipulate the cat during labor.
  • Observe them discreetly to ensure a smooth delivery and not to crowd them during a sensitive time.
  • When the kitten is born, the mother releases it from their amniotic sac by biting it open before licking it clean and chewing off the umbilical cord. If we observe that the cat does not do any of these things, we must break the sac ourselves and bring them to the mother. We must ensure to do this with clean hands to prevent any possible infection. If the mother still does not lick the newborn kitten, we will need to clean their nose and mouth for a clean airway and gently rub their back with our finger to stimulate breathing.
How Long Does it Usually Take for a Cat to Give Birth? - How to help a cat give birth

How to know if a cat has finished giving birth

As stated in the previous sections, there should not be more than an hour between the birth of each kitten. This means, in general, if two or more hours have lapsed since the last kitten was born and the mother doesn't look like she is waiting for another one, we should be able to deduce that the labor has ended.

If you want to know how a cat behaves when the full litter is born, we need to look at her attitude. After all of the offspring are born, she will usually dedicate herself to them by licking them and checking that they feed correctly. If the cat is lying down or is still agitated, it is possible she is having trouble birthing a kitten. We once again emphasize the importance of calling a veterinarian in these circumstances. If you want some more specific information on what to look for in terms of birthing difficulties, we have this article on the 4 most common complications during a cat birth.

It is also important to note that usually cats will give birth to multiple kittens. However, it is also possible for a cat to only give birth to one, especially if the other fetuses haven't survived for a particular reason.

If you want to read similar articles to How Long Does it Usually Take for a Cat to Give Birth?, we recommend you visit our Gestation category.

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What did you think of this article?
My cat has been trying to give birth for a hour, i would want to know what is going.
rachel lynn
hi my cat had 1 kitten so far its been 3 and a half hours and she just is losing interest and she is still very big
Administrador AnimalWised
Hi Rachel,

We couldn't possibly say what is the problem. It could be obstruction or a multitude of issues. Take them to a veterinarian if you think they are in danger.
Vern skundberg
My cat hαd twσ kíttєnѕ σnє íѕ rєαllч ѕmαll αnd thє σthєr íѕ вíg αnd healthy. fσr twσ dαчѕ ѕhє hαѕ faithfully been a very great mama. I worried because ѕhє'ѕ ѕσ чσung. αnчwαчѕ the third day i wєnt tσ chєck σn hєr αnd nσw ѕhє hαѕ four kittens???!!! Idk whαt tσ thínk???
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How Long Does it Usually Take for a Cat to Give Birth?