Is my cat pregnant? Vet reveals 10 signs and how to care for them

Kitten resting on mom's back on the grass
(Image credit: Getty Images/Volodymyr_Plysiuk)

You’re looking at your cat and thinking they look a little bigger…and now you’re wondering 'Is my cat pregnant?' It’s a totally natural question, especially when your cat’s body shape is changing rapidly. 

I’ve been a companion animal vet for eight years, and in that time I’ve seen a lot of pregnant cats. I also used to foster cats for a nearby charity as a vet student – and learnt a lot about cat pregnancy there.

In this article, we’ll go through the signs your cat could be pregnant, and I’ll also mention a couple of conditions that can make cats look pregnant when they aren’t. We’ll then go on to explain how to care for a pregnant cat, including what to feed them (it’s not the best cat food!)

How to tell a cat is pregnant

Let’s take a look at all the signs a cat is pregnant. The first thing you might notice is your cat’s physical changes – we’ll put these first. Then, we’ll list the behavioral changes in pregnant cats.

Physical changes in pregnant cats:

1. Weight gain

If you notice your cat suddenly gaining weight, especially if you haven’t changed their food recently, it’s possible that they’re pregnant. Cats gain 1-2 kg during their pregnancy, some of which is uterine fluid, some of which is kitten, and some of which is fat deposits ready to feed the kittens. 

Weight gain is also very common in cats generally, so you shouldn’t use this as the only indication that they’re pregnant. If your cat isn’t pregnant but they’ve recently gained weight, you’ll need to adjust their food intake – our article on how much should I feed a cat should help.

2. Large belly

Alongside weight gain, you might also notice a large, rounded belly if your cat is pregnant. When a pregnant cat lies down, their belly doesn’t squash much – instead it looks very rounded! This happens later in pregnancy, and is a pretty sure sign there are kittens on their way.

Pregnant cat lying down

(Image credit: Getty Images/jaboo2foto)

3. Nipples 'pinking up'

Another common change you’ll notice in pregnant cats is their nipples going pink and growing larger. This happens just a couple of weeks into pregnancy, so is often one of the first signs that your cat is pregnant.

4. Vomiting

Some cats vomit when they’re pregnant, just like people. While vomiting has hundreds of possible causes and shouldn’t be relied on as the only pregnancy sign in cats. It’s a useful additional box to tick if you’re looking for signs your cat could be pregnant.

5. Vulva discharge

A small amount of discharge from the vulva (external genitalia) is normal in pregnant cats reaching the end of their pregnancy. It should be clear in color and a small volume, and it’s a sign that kittens are imminent. Discharge that’s dark, foul-smelling, or green is something to worry about, however! 

Behavioral changes in pregnant cats

1. Sleeping more

Some cats sleep more during pregnancy, as their bodies conserve energy for growing kittens. Of course, sleeping more can have lots of causes – don’t assume it’s pregnancy necessarily – but it’s another common sign in pregnant cats. This feature explains why do cats sleep so much

2. Increase appetite

You might have noticed a sudden increase in your cat’s appetite as their energy needs increase to feed all those growing kittens. There are other causes of appetite changes but, in a young and unspayed cat, pregnancy is a likely cause. 

Large cat eating from a bowl

(Image credit: Getty Images/Velmahr)

3. Becoming more affectionate (or aggressive)

Another common sign that your cat is pregnant is sudden but sustained affection or aggression. Pregnancy hormones make your cat’s emotions run high, and that can make them more affectionate or more aggressive. This can be caused by other things, so it shouldn’t be taken as a sign on its own.

4. Heat cycles stop

Although this is technically a physical change too, most people notice the behavioral changes associated with heat (A.K.A season) in cats. If your cat has been having regular heats and they’ve suddenly stopped, you can be fairly sure she’s pregnant (although there are other reasons heat cycles stop too).

5. Nesting behavior 

Nesting behavior is one of the last signs you’ll see before your cat gives birth, so it isn’t much good as a pregnancy warning sign. Nevertheless, if your cat starts making a nest, you can be fairly sure she’s pregnant (and that the babies will be here in the next few days!) 

Other conditions that can be mistaken for cat pregnancy

As a vet, there are a couple of scenarios where cats are brought to me for a pregnancy confirmation, and instead they aren’t pregnant. These conditions can mimic pregnancy:

  • Mammary hyperplasia, a sudden growth of mammary glands in unspayed female cats, even when not pregnant.
  • Phantom pregnancy (rare in cats), when there are no foetuses but the body behaves as if there are.
  • Pyometra, a womb infection that can cause appetite changes, bloated belly, vomiting and lethargy.

Grey cat with large belly lying on a grey sofa

(Image credit: Getty Images/Carlos G. Lopez)

What should I do if my cat is pregnant?

If you suspect your cat could be pregnant, the first step is to get them to the vet. They can confirm whether they are indeed pregnant, and approximately how far along they are. 

Depending on the stage of pregnancy, your vet might feel your cat’s abdomen, and recommend an ultrasound or x-ray. Ultrasounds are better early in pregnancy, while x-rays are better later in pregnancy, and may allow the vet to tell how many kittens your cat is expecting.

If the pregnancy is unexpected, and not too far along, your vet might offer you a spay, which will abort the kittens and ensure your cat can’t get pregnant again. 

Cat having an ultrasound at the vet

(Image credit: Getty Images/megaflopp)

How to care for a pregnant cat

Mostly, cats get on with pregnancy just fine on their own, and there isn’t much you need to do. Your vet will give you advice about vaccinating and worming your cat to make sure the kittens are born healthy. 

At home, you’ll need to make sure your cat has a safe place to give birth, and switch your pregnant cat (A.K.A queen) onto a new diet. As we hinted above, it’s best not to feed cat food and instead opt for the best kitten food instead. 

Royal Canin Feline Health Nutrition Mother & Babycat Ultra Soft Mousse in Sauce Canned Cat Food

Royal Canin Feline Health Nutrition Mother & Babycat Ultra Soft Mousse in Sauce Canned Cat Food

This diet is suitable for your pregnant queen and her newborn kittens when they start to wean. It’s got all the nutrients they need to make those kittens grow happy and healthy. 

Kitten food contains more calories than cat food, meaning your cat can meet her new, higher, metabolic requirements more easily. She can stay on it after the kittens are born, so they can wean onto the same diet.

For more advice on kitten care, you can read our article on caring for newborn kittens.

British shorthair kitten nuzzling its mom

(Image credit: Getty Images/Nikita Popkov)

When can cats get pregnant

Many pet parents are horrified to hear that cats can get pregnant from just four months of age. Unspayed female cats experience their first heat from four to eight months of age, and then cycle every three weeks until they are spayed or mated.

In very northern climates, cats might not cycle over the winter – it depends on warmth and daylight. But, in general, cats will be in heat every three weeks for the rest of their lives. Not sure if your cat is in heat? This article about how to tell when a cat is in heat should help.

Grey kitten sitting on a blue chair meowing

(Image credit: Getty Images/Os Tartarouchos)

None of the signs of pregnancy are 100% reliable, and not all cats will experience all of them. That’s why it’s essential to take your cat to the vet if you’re wondering if your cat is pregnant. Once the pregnancy is confirmed, follow your vet’s advice about diet, worming, and vaccinations to make sure your cat has healthy kittens. 

Is your cat making strange noises when in season? You might like to read are cats in pain when in heat? Or, to find out more about cat heat cycles, read do cats have periods? 


Frisco Sherpa Reversible Cat Mat

When making your cat a safe area for birth, this mat is a great addition due to its comfort and ease of cleaning. 

Joanna Woodnutt
Vet writer

Dr Joanna Woodnutt is an experienced vet with a passion for companion animal medicine and helping pet owners with a variety of issues like dermatology, nutrition and behavior. Jo started writing about pet health in 2017, realizing that it meant she could help even more pet parents. Since then, she has written for countless online and print publications and is a regular contributor for Edition Dog Magazine.