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How to Tell If a Stray Cat Is Pregnant? 10 Vet-Approved Signs

Written by: Keri-Beth Clur

Last Updated on July 5, 2024 by Catster Editorial Team

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How to Tell If a Stray Cat Is Pregnant? 10 Vet-Approved Signs


Dr. Lorna Whittemore Photo


Dr. Lorna Whittemore

BVMS, MRCVS (Veterinarian)

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

Learn more »

There are many challenges to taking in a stray cat. First, you need to make sure that they’re healthy and uninjured. Second, you should locate their owners in case they are simply lost rather than abandoned. Unfortunately, many stray cats end up pregnant because they aren’t cared for, haven’t been spayed, and are exposed to male cats on the streets that haven’t been neutered.

Whether you decide to look after the stray cat yourself or aid in finding them a home, you need to determine whether they’re pregnant. Fortunately, the signs are quite obvious once you know what to look for, so keep reading for the rundown!

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Top 10 Ways to Tell If a Stray Cat Is Pregnant

1. Heat Cycle Change

Female cats typically start to go into heat at around 4 months of age, which will repeat itself around every 2–3 weeks unless they become pregnant. You’ll know they’re in heat because they tend to wander more, become very vocal, and spray urine. A cat will stop going into heat if they’ve been spayed or are pregnant. However, for the latter, other signs will emerge.

cat fight
Image Credit: Gerhard G., Pixabay

2. Weight Gain

If your cat has gained a few pounds in the past few weeks, it doesn’t necessarily mean they’re pregnant. However, if a few other signs on this list accompany the weight gain, there’s a high chance you’ll be welcoming her kittens into the world in a few weeks. A pregnant or nursing cat is referred to as a queen.

If you’ve recently taken the stray in, this sign may be a tricky one, as you won’t know whether they were overweight a few weeks prior. However, stray cats tend to be underweight because they’re not receiving a nutritional diet.

3. Darkened Nipples

A change in the cat’s nipple appearance will become visible from around day 15 of the pregnancy, making it one of the earliest signs you’ll notice. This change is referred to as “pinking up.” During this phase, you’ll see her nipples become bigger and more visible until they protrude through the queen’s coat.

Further on in the pregnancy, it won’t just be the nipples that have enlarged, but her breasts will also become full and ready to feed her kittens.

Pregnant Cat Nipples VS Normal Cat Nipples Infographic
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4. Vomiting

Unfortunately, just like humans, queens can also get morning sickness. It’s another early pregnancy sign that may appear before any other obvious sign of pregnancy, such as a rounded abdomen and enlarged breasts. However, this sign is not very common nor lasts very long. Make sure to provide her with plenty of water to rehydrate.

Of course, if nothing else about the stray’s body points to a pregnancy and they show other signs of illness, take them to the vet immediately, as they may be unwell rather than pregnant and in need of treatment.

5. Swollen Abdomen

As the queen progresses in her pregnancy, the kittens will continue to grow bigger and bigger. At around halfway through the pregnancy, you’ll notice her abdomen start to swell. When she’s standing on all fours, you’ll notice that her belly is hanging low, and she’ll look very rounded if you look at her from behind. You should also be able to notice the bulge when she’s lying on her side.

male hand touching the pregnant cat's belly
Image Credit: AYDO8, Shutterstock

6. Movement in Their Abdomen

As the queen moves closer to her delivery date, you’re going to start to feel those little kittens moving, and eventually, you’ll be able to see it, especially when she’s lying on her side. Feeling and seeing those little kicks is an easy way to confirm that she’s pregnant.

Don’t worry if you feel many little kicks; it’s not unusual for cats to carry up to 12 kittens!

7. Nesting Behavior

If you’ve noticed a change in the stray’s usual hangout spot, this may be another sign that she’s pregnant. As the queen gets ready for delivery, she’ll instinctively start to look for a safe, quiet place to give birth to her kittens. She’ll begin to spend quite a bit of time there in the days leading up to the birth of her kittens.

She will leave that spot for food and water, so if you know where her nesting spot is, you can make things easier for her by leaving food, water, blankets, and other soft and warm items that she’ll use near her safe spot, so she doesn’t have to wander far.

A pregnant Donskoy Sphinx cat sleeping
Image Credit: Azovsky, Shutterstock

8. Less Active

If you’ve ever been pregnant, you’ll remember how tired you felt all the time. It’s no different for queens. Although cats already sleep often throughout the day, you’ll notice even more of this behavior, and you’ll see them walking around your home or property less and less.

For the most part, you won’t have to wonder where they are, as they’re likely sleeping the day away in the spot they’ve prepared to give birth in.

9. Increased Appetite

Don’t be surprised if the pregnant stray starts begging for more food and seems hungry after regular meals. She’s no longer eating to sustain her body alone, but the bodies of her kittens too. She’s not being greedy; she requires the added nutrition and should receive 25% more food than normal cats. Don’t forget about water—during her pregnancy and once she starts feeding her kittens, she’ll need clean, fresh water at all times.

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Image Credit: MaraZe, Shutterstock

10. Acting Affectionately

Pregnancy affects a cat’s body in numerous ways, including their hormones, which can cause the queen to act more affectionately. Depending on how friendly and trusting the stray cat is, she may start to come into your home and sleep on soft, comfortable surfaces, meow around you, and rub against your leg. If you’ve built up a relationship with the stray, she may even begin to curl up on the seat next to you.

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How to Confirm Cat Pregnancy?

If you’ve noticed a couple of these signs in the stray cat, you may want to get confirmation and advice from a veterinarian. You can lure the queen into a cat carrier and take her for an examination at the veterinarian. They’ll be able to confirm the pregnancy from as early as 15 days into her term by using an ultrasound. Palpation and X-rays are other methods of confirming the pregnancy.

Image Credit: Libre, Shutterstock

How Long Are Cats Pregnant?

Cats can be pregnant for up to 64 days; however, they may give birth a few days before or after this. Compared to humans that are pregnant for around 280 days, a queen’s gestation period is considered relatively short. Although they aren’t pregnant for very long, they’re able to grow between one and 12 kittens during that time.

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So, if you’re wondering whether the stray cat you’ve bonded with is pregnant, check for all the signs mentioned here. If the cat only has a few of them, they may just be sick, but having several of these signs is a tell-tale sign of kittens to come.

As a final check, take the cat to the vet to make sure. The vet will also give you steps to take from there, which will make things easier when the cat gives birth.

Featured Image Credit: Selyutina Olga, Shutterstock

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