Premature Labor in Cats
There are many conditions that can cause a pregnant cat, or queen, to experience premature contractions leading to preterm delivery of kittens. Bacterial infections, viral infections, death of one or more fetuses, ovarian cysts, hormonal imbalances, injury, malnutrition, a change in environment/moving, and basically any kind of stress that can send a cat into mental and physical distress can lead to early labor. In some cases, a cat may be genetically predisposed to preterm labor.
Preterm delivery in cats is defined by a birth that occurs before the ideal 63 days of gestation. Generally, kittens born at 61 days of gestation, or later, have a high chance for survival.
Symptoms and Types
- Delivery before 61 days in cats
- Bloody discharge or tissue
- Loss of appetite
- Excessive vocalizing
- Cat may hide away
- May seek more attention than usual, show more affection than usual
- Bacterial infection
- Lyme disease
- Viral infection
- Hormonal imbalance
- Sudden drop in progesterone suspected
- Low thyroid levels in older females
- Non-infectious uterine or vaginal disease
- Ovarian cysts
- Emotional disturbances in household: fights, screaming
- Moving to new location
- Cold temperatures
- Receiving vaccinations while pregnant (especially those for distemper and hepatitis)
- Cat (breed) shows
- Loud noise
If you find that your cat is experiencing early labor you will want to consult with your veterinarian. You will need to begin by giving your veterinarian a thorough history of your cat's health before and during pregnancy, her onset of symptoms, and possible incidents that might have brought this condition on. Your veterinarian will perform a complete physical exam on your cat, while being careful not to bring on any further undue stress. Standard laboratory tests may include a blood chemical profile, a complete blood count, an electrolyte panel and a urinalysis to make sure that there are no underlying diseases that are causing the premature labor symptoms. The blood tests will show whether your cat's progesterone levels are abnormally low.
Ultrasound imaging will be performed to diagnose fetal death or abnormal position of fetuses, which may cause a difficult delivery. However, an ultrasound can also give your veterinarian a visual on the fetal heartbeats along with more fetal detail. If the kittens are stillborn, or if they die shortly after birth, they should be necropsied by your veterinarian to determine the cause of death.