The first important thing is that pregnant queens need to eat high quality kitten food and should not get live virus vaccines while pregnant.
Nutritional needs change during pregnancy and in order to have healthy kittens and a normal labor, this is important.
The next important thing to know is that pregnancy lasts 65 days plus or minus 3 days. Movement of kittens can be seen or felt in the last few weeks of pregnancy. Few cats that have adequate nutrition have any problem with labor and delivery.
Cats usually start “nesting” about a week before they have their kittens
This means that they will start scouting out closets, drawers and other cozy places to have their babies. They will start to produce small amounts of milk as much as 2 days before labor starts.
Cats that have only one kitten or have had poor nutrition are at higher risk for being unable to have their kittens without medical assistance.
The ideal place for kittens to be born is a box with a towel or cloth in the bottom, but with nowhere that a newborn can get trapped such as between the box and too much padding.
Kittens should be at about 85 degrees F for the first few weeks. The queen usually provides adequate heat, but it is possible to have problems in air conditioned homes.
Once labor starts, the first kitten is generally born within a few hours, and kittens are usually born no more than an hour apart, although this can vary quite a bit.
Warning signs are bloody discharge with no kittens born within 12 hours, more than 1 hour between birth of kittens, or the queen not cleaning and caring for the kittens as they are born. These signs warrant a call to your veterinarian.
Cats need quiet and solitude during labor
Absolutely no young children and only one person at a time to paw-hold. Too much activity can cause anxiety that can delay labor and endanger the queen and kittens.
Kittens should start trying to nurse within 5 minutes of being born, but mom may be too focused on cleaning for the baby to actually get latched on in that time.
The queen will remove the sac surrounding the kitten and the placenta that is attached to the kitten. If she doesn’t, you can assist, but a normal healthy queen shouldn’t need help.
Healthy kittens are active, nursing, or sleeping in a pile. Inactive, constantly crying, isolated, or rejected kittens may be sick and need immediate care.
Kittens that get sick die quickly, so get help quickly.
While getting help, keep the kitten warm with a hot water bottle. It is also not a bad idea to give a sick kitten a single drop of corn syrup rubbed on its gums to treat hypoglycemia.
Do not give more than this without a veterinarian instructing you to do so
Try to find a veterinarian that knows how to treat neonatal kittens before the litter is born. Successful treatment of the neonate can require some experience.
Queens will stay with the kittens except to eat and use the litterbox for the first week or two. She will gradually leave them for longer periods of time.
Handle kittens very little in the first two weeks and always wash hands before handling them as they do not have completely competent immune systems yet.
At about 10 days old the kittens’ eyes will open and at about three weeks old the kittens will start to eat solid food (high quality kitten food) and be able to start exploring a small litterbox.
Kittens should be introduced to both dry and canned foods so that they recognize both as food as adults.
Kittens should stay with siblings and queen until at least 8 weeks old in order to be properly socialized.
Kittens weaned early often have behavioral problems
Kittens should be dewormed every 2 weeks until 8 weeks old and should get their first vaccinations at 8 weeks old.
Good luck and enjoy the best entertainment in the world-kittens at play!