Whether you’re planning to breed your British Shorthair with a pedigree stud or find your pet with an unexpected litter of kittens on the way courtesy of some local tom, it’s useful to know how long the pregnancy will last so you can prepare your home for the happy event. There are few things more adorable than a little round British Shorthair kitten; these chubby bundles of fluff are sure to charm their way into your heart.
How long are British Shorthairs pregnant for? The typical gestation period for a domestic feline is 65 days. You should brace for impact any day after Day 62, as it’s possible your cat may give birth a little early. That said, it’s been my experience that if a British Shorthair does veer from the typical 65 days, she is more likely to go into labour a couple of days late rather than have an early litter.
You’ve come to this page because you’re looking for answers. Here you can learn about the normal length of a feline pregnancy, what to expect when your British Shorthair is expecting, and what to do to make sure she has a happy, healthy pregnancy and birth. We’ll tell you what to look out for and how to stop any problems before they start. To learn more about the expectant British Shorthair, read on.
Pregnancy and the British Shorthair
How long are British Shorthairs pregnant for? In this breed, pregnancy usually goes on for 65 days or a little more; if she hasn’t given birth by day 70, you should get medical advice as there may be a problem. You can predict her gestation fairly accurately from the day she’s mated if you know it.
If you don’t (and were perhaps unaware that she was even engaging in liaisons with male cats at all) you can make an educated guess based on various physical signs which we’ll go into later in this article.
Unlike some other breeds, especially ones with larger heads, your British Shorthair cat is unlikely to have a difficult time bringing her kittens into the world but she does need proper care. You may notice that your cat is even hungrier than usual during her pregnancy; this is the one time I will tell you to indulge the British Shorthair’s hearty appetite.
These cats are big eaters and will often snack all day long if they get the chance, so it’s normally necessary to curb their food intake or they can become overweight. In the case of a pregnant queen, you should try and keep her to her usual diet early in the pregnancy because she could gain weight and complicate the birth.
Once it’s advanced you can usually let her eat as much as she likes, in fact, it may be dangerous to limit her food too much as she needs that additional nutrition for her growing kittens. If she’s off her food, lethargic or generally out-of-sorts, she may be unwell.
In general, you can carry on as normal, just ensure that she has the necessary vet checkups and stays away from anything that could harm her or her kittens. If your British Shorthair isn’t an indoor cat you should consider keeping her inside while she’s pregnant.
When the due date approaches you should set up a kittening room and keep her in there as much as possible. Cats, even the amiable British Shorthair, sometimes disappear into an inaccessible part of the house to give birth. If she hides in the crawlspace, inside your sofa, up the chimney or some other improbable location and gets into difficulties, it may be hard to assist her and her kittens.
How can I tell if my British Shorthair is pregnant?
The next question people usually ask is how long after mating will a pregnancy reveal itself? There are one or two signs that may occur in the first week or two; most noticeable of all may be that your queen cat finally stops calling. British Shorthairs are a quietly chatty breed with a soft meow, but a queen on heat can still set up a lot of rackets.
When she stops, it’s likely you’ll notice. (Bear in mind that some queens go on calling while pregnant so this sign won’t be present in all cases.)
Your British Shorthair may become even more affectionate than usual, seeking you out and wanting to be close to you. She may become more chatty and talkative too. Between the two-week and three-week marks, you may see “pinking” of her nipples, they might become redder and stand out more.
Some queens get “morning sickness” like a human mother, and this can be a sign that she’s pregnant; nausea in your expectant cat should not be brushed off, however, as it can be a sign that something is wrong rather than just an effect of pregnancy.
Eventually, your cat’s tummy will start to look larger but this is unlikely to happen until the fifth or sixth week of pregnancy. By the seventh week, her tummy will be decidedly round. At about this time the kittens will also start moving visibly.
If you think you’re seeing movement, wait for a time when your Shorthair queen has settled down for a snooze or is relaxing nearby, and observe her abdomen. You may be able to make out the small motions of the kittens inside. If you do see movement in the kittens, you can be fairly sure you’re only a couple of weeks away from the happy event.
How do I know if my pregnant British Shorthair is having a healthy pregnancy?
You will, of course, have taken your queen cat to the vet before allowing her to fall pregnant and had her checked for any conditions that might compromise her pregnancy. If you think she might be pregnant, schedule another vet visit so you can make sure no problems have arisen. The vet will be able to help work out her due date if you’re not sure when she mated. Your vet can also help determine how large of a litter she’s expecting; at around the third week this can be done by palpating her abdomen but a more accurate result can be achieved later on, via ultrasound.
Note that a heavily pregnant cat may become less active as her kittens get larger and this is quite normal, but if she’s reluctant to get up at all, especially earlier in the pregnancy, it’s a bad sign. A pregnant cat who’s constantly ill or off her food is another red flag; it’s especially dangerous if she also stops drinking, as dehydration is especially perilous at this time. In the final day before she gives birth it’s entirely normal for a mother cat to stop eating altogether, but if she goes for more than a day without food you should seek medical advice.
Keep an eye out for any discharge from the vagina, as this is a symptom of an infection, very dangerous for a pregnant mother and her kittens. Take her to the vet as soon as possible.
My British Shorthair is close to giving birth! What should I do?
If you haven’t already, set up a kittening room. This can’t be in a place where she could be startled or harassed by curious interlopers. She needs to be in a quiet part of the house where no other pets or family members can bother her. She will want a safe, private place to give birth; a large cardboard box with one side cut away is a good option. Line it with clean bedding, old towels and blankets, for her to nest in (I stress CLEAN, as dirty bedding can harbour germs that will harm the kittens’ health).
The room should be kept warm and you may want to provide a heating pad (although you should also avoid overheating as very young kittens can’t regulate their body temperatures). The room should have a litter-tray, of course, remember that a heavily-pregnant cat may struggle to get in and out of the box, so provide one with low sides.
You should keep this very clean, scooping at least twice a day and changing the litter. Her food and water bowls should be very near the bed-box as she won’t want to go too far from her nest. These need to be kept scrupulously clean, too.
Change the water regularly and wash out the bowls with boiling water at least once every day. Any lingering bacteria can be a threat to her health and especially that of her kittens. The typical labour lasts around three or four hours but can be longer for large litters.
If your cat has been in labour for more than eight hours you should contact your vet for advice. If you can manage to do it without disturbing her too much, you should try to change her bedding every day. Hot wash everything to kill bacteria and viruses hiding in the fibres which could hurt the new arrivals.