Kittens, kittens, kittens, kittens...
February 20, 2012 4:30 PM   Subscribe

Kitten is pregnant! Help please!

As mentioned in a previous question of mine, I currently own 2 (well, babysitting a 3rd for a friend of ours) cats: a male acquired in September 2011, who got neutered mid-January 2012 and a loving little lady cat, who I got as a Christmas/Birthday present from my partner, and was 'bought' after having been spayed.

Now, I realize I am terribly irresponsible for allowing this to happen, but please, do bear with me as I'm trying to find out what's the best course of action to take.

The reason for the male cat kitten to have been neutered so late at around 7 months old had to do with the fact that before and after getting him, I'd been reading several articles about how early neutering can cause hormonal growth problems and decided to leave the surgery for after the brunt of his growth was done. I don't regret doing it for the reason that he's a wonderful, normal-sized kitty. although I know that things would be much simpler if I had.

Having never actually owned a female cat, and considering that female cats don't bleed like dogs do, I was a complete ignorant regarding signs of cat heat and never really did notice any signs of the female kitten being in heat, nor did I ever notice any signs of mating. The male and female did get along after a couple weeks and would/will occasionally sleep in the same couch, but nothing more than that. I did notice her belly getting slightly rounder and firmer, but didn't think much of it since the same had happened to the male's before a growth spurt and indeed, she was/is rather small for her age.

It was a HUGE surprise, last week, when we finally realized that there was something wrong with her (finally reaching the conclusion that she must've been/was/is pregnant) and rushed her to the vet, only to be told that she was NEVER SPAYED, and that an emergency spay would be too dangerous and it was better to wait it out.

Taking her back to the family where we got her from is not an option. Looking back, this was an horrible thing to do because there's no paperwork binding her to the family (only to us because of the vet visits) and although she is a truly loving, sociable kitten... never again.

Now, she's due around the mid of March and I'd like to know what are the better options:

- Considering we currently house another two cats, should she be completely separated for them? (There's only two rooms where this is possible, the shower room and a spare room with some closets where it is always freezing cold).
- What is the best thing to do with the kittens (assuming they are born alive and healthy)? My partner is strongly for culling them as we do not want any more (adult) cats in the house. But I'd like to take them to a shelter if possible? This is my our biggest disagreement about the whole thing so far.

We didn't get either kitten from a shelter, so we're not sure if it's possible to raise them to an acceptable age (say, 10-12 weeks) and then take them there to be adopted, without getting into any sort of issue.

Honestly, we try to be responsible owners for all our critters (big and small!) but this has really blown us away. Please send help! (Forgive me for any spelling error, slightly shaky here).
posted by Trexsock to Pets & Animals (30 answers total)
There are not a few vets around me who will terminate later-term cat pregnancies. Can you check out other vets? I never heard of it being risky but hopefully a vet can chime in.
posted by schroedinger at 4:33 PM on February 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

Yeah, call other vets to see if they'll do a spay/abortion.
posted by k8t at 4:34 PM on February 20, 2012

I swear I won't threadsit, just wanted to clarify:

I was told it would be very risky to get the spay, not because of her being 4 weeks due, but because of her size, age and the fact that she is already extremely big. (That's what I was told).

I will see if I can take her to another vet soon, though the second closest one (very very very rural area) is not someone I trust, so it might be difficult. I shall persevere. Though as much as I'd love to make it easier for her, I don't want to risk her dying either, so please, stick to the questions, considering she does have the kittens (and they are born alive, that is).
posted by Trexsock at 4:37 PM on February 20, 2012

if she's due in mid march, there's still plenty of time to have her spayed, which will abort the kittens. do it very soon, she's only about halfway along.

please do not allow your partner to kill the kittens. how is that less humane than taking them to the shelter? i'm just gonna leave that, but c'mon.
posted by virginia_clemm at 4:39 PM on February 20, 2012 [15 favorites]

Emergency spay is risky but you may find a vet who will do it.

If not, you have a few weeks to find a cat rescue. I know a number of people who foster through rescues and they are all awesome people who are very knowledgeable and will explain the process to you. In all likelihood you will need to take care of the mother and kittens until they are weaned, at which point they will go into foster care. Most Petcos and some Petsmarts work with local cat rescues, you can also check Yelp.
posted by Lyn Never at 4:39 PM on February 20, 2012 [2 favorites]

more humane, damn.
posted by virginia_clemm at 4:40 PM on February 20, 2012

Sorry to not answer the question you want answered, but I've got to agree with the above - you can still get her spayed, and you really should. You don't want the kittens, the animal overpopulation crisis is beyond staggering and other animals will have to die to make room for them at a shelter, it would be inhumane to turn them loose, putting them on Craigslist or giving them away to strangers is a terrifying prospect...

I work for PETA and I can help you line up a vet who will spay your cat for you. Please memail me or email me at if you're interested.
posted by srrh at 4:42 PM on February 20, 2012 [4 favorites]

1. did you search the internet about how to care for a pregnant cat? i'm sure there's tons of stuff about how/when to separate cats, and how to make the process safe for all teh ktties.

2. in addition to rescues, i think craigslist is ok. one guy who tortures cats doesn't mean that every person looking for a cat on craigslist is like that. rescues can be over cautious. the only way you can be certain they will be taken care of well is to do it yourself. i think if you start putting ads up now you'll be able to collect a big list of people by the time they're ready to give away, and if the people are serious you'll be able to weed out at least the flakes.
posted by cupcake1337 at 4:50 PM on February 20, 2012

also, as much as there's an overpopulation crisis, if i were in your situation, i wouldn't want to get my cat emergency spayed/abortion b/c i wouldn't want to risk my cat's life.
posted by cupcake1337 at 4:52 PM on February 20, 2012 [4 favorites]

One consideration with the spaying is that pregnancy and birth is also dangerous, especially if your cat is, as you say, small, with large kittens. Deciding between spay and birth is not weighing up risk against no-risk, but rather one risk against another, and they may well not be very different.

To answer your questions more thoroughly, yes, they need to be separated. Especially if you are not sure whether your other cats have ever had cat flu. They might be asymptomatic (now), but it doesn't mean they couldn't give it to the kittens before they can be vaccinated.

Absolutely shelter instead of kill. Seriously? I wonder whether your boyfriend's preference is because he is embarrassed at the shelter judging you when you bring the kittens in, and culling seems less embarrassing. If so, that's understandable, but it's a pretty selfish reason. And shelters probably won't judge you if you bring in healthy kittens, with the story that you told here. They see LOTS worse.
posted by lollusc at 4:56 PM on February 20, 2012 [2 favorites]

i have worked in vet hospitals for over 10 years and i have NEVER seen a cat die from a late term (or mid term in this case) spay. if you are concerned, ask for her to get supportive care, like IV fluids, blood pressure monitoring, thermal support, pre op bloodwork, etc.
posted by virginia_clemm at 4:58 PM on February 20, 2012 [3 favorites]

Sorry, you said "partner", not "boyfriend". Please excuse any mistaken assumptions about gender or relationship there.
posted by lollusc at 4:59 PM on February 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

Just wanted to add that I'm not in the US (Netherlands) and there's no craiglist here. The cats were gotten from local families whose contact was at a petstore here.
posted by Trexsock at 4:59 PM on February 20, 2012

Get a second opinion about getting the cat spayed. Possibly a second vet would be capable of doing it.

If this is not possible, yes, bring them to a shelter. Kittens are adoptable. (Your shelter can also give you advice on how to take care of the pregnant cat and also the kittens for 8-12 weeks until they're big enough to be adopted.)
posted by jeather at 5:03 PM on February 20, 2012

Please, please, please, please, please do not kill the kittens, once born..I cannot even fathom, oh dear.

Anyway, yes get a second opinion about the spay or take them to a shelter once they are old enough to be separated from the mother. No earlier than 6 weeks.
posted by DeltaForce at 5:05 PM on February 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

[Folks, I know this is a touchy subject but please (a) stick to the question asked as much as possible here and (b) do not get into side-arguments about this stuff.]
posted by cortex (staff) at 5:19 PM on February 20, 2012

Since the vet felt that it was too risky to perform the spay this late, I'm assuming he/she feels that the cat would be safer to carry the kittens full-term and birth the kittens. If this is the case, you can find plenty of resources on the internet about how to help with the process and how to keep her safe from the other cats.

You made a mistake, but now is not the time to beat yourself up over that. Focus on finding the safest solution for your cat and either have her birth the kittens and wean them, and then deliver them to a shelter, or get the spay now. Don't worsen the situation by allowing your partner to kill the kittens once they are born.
posted by Piglet at 5:30 PM on February 20, 2012

Jesus. Okay, I'm not against the notion of having her spayed now if you can, but seriously, you know what most people do when this happens? They tell everybody they know: "We have accidental kittens on the way. Do you want a kitten? Do you know anybody who wants a kitten?"

Many, many people are able to deal with the problem just fine this way. I have, over the years, acquired several of my own cats this way. If you have to go to a rescue, at the very least, it's easier for the to place kittens, but you might not need to go nearly that far. I would not be assuming that you aren't going to be able to do this until after you already have born kittens (because, seriously, kitten pictures go a long way for this) and have told every living being you come into contact with.

Maybe in the end you end up with one more cat than you had before or something, but yeah, just reach out. Sometimes they have a bunch, but like, I am in the process of acquiring one through a friend of a friend who took in a pregnant stray, who had... three. Three is not many kittens to place. The overpopulation problem is something that needs to be solved on the whole, but it does not need to be something you solve *personally* in this very moment now that the problem already exists.
posted by gracedissolved at 5:36 PM on February 20, 2012 [18 favorites]

Can you call the shelter to see if they have any advice? They're the ones who can tell you if they'll take the kittens, and they might be able to tell you what the ideal age is for you to bring them to the shelter.

We didn't get either kitten from a shelter, so we're not sure if it's possible to raise them to an acceptable age (say, 10-12 weeks) and then take them there to be adopted, without getting into any sort of issue.

What sort of issues are you concerned about? Can you call the shelter directly and speak to someone there about how things work? In the US it wouldn't matter where you got the pregnant cat from. It would only matter if the shelter has space for more cats or not. Either way, if worse comes to worse, please don't let your partner kill them. I doubt he has a painless way to do it, while the shelter does.

Also, don't beat yourself up over this. You thought you had a spayed cat. It's frustrating that this happened, but you weren't horribly irresponsible. Whoever gave you incorrect information about the spaying was irresponsible.
posted by needs more cowbell at 5:39 PM on February 20, 2012 [2 favorites]

First of all, you did nothing wrong. You were under the impression that your female car was spayed, so it wasn't irresponsible of you to wait a while to neuter the male.

Second, if all the cats are getting along now, you probably don't need to separate them. You might want to put a box lined with some towels in the bottom of a closet somewhere, leave the closet door slightly open, and show it to her. Cats like to give birth in hidden spaces, so if you don't provide her a cozy dark place, she'll find her own. Even if you do make a spot for her, she may still choose her own.

"Culling" kittens is such a cruel, horrible suggestion that I personally would reconsider the relationship. Shelters are happier to see kittens come in than full grown cats, because kittens are easier to find homes for. However, Spring is peak kitten time, so you might want to start calling shelters now, and see if you could reserve a spot.
posted by MexicanYenta at 5:47 PM on February 20, 2012 [4 favorites]

[I have no idea why people think this question is one where none of the normal AskMe rules apply but let's go over them: must answer the question, must be helpful, must not rant, must not just complain about other answers. MetaTalk is your option if you can't do this. Thank you.]
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 5:54 PM on February 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

Give your current vet a call and ask about shelters and about keeping the cats separated. And don't feel irresponsible - you thought you had just one intact cat!

I think that even euthanasia at a shelter is preferable to "culling" at home. But properly weaned kittens are much more placeable than older cats.
posted by gingerest at 5:54 PM on February 20, 2012

(ms. Vegetable)
You said:
We didn't get either kitten from a shelter, so we're not sure if it's possible to raise them to an acceptable age (say, 10-12 weeks) and then take them there to be adopted, without getting into any sort of issue.

Kittens are hugely adoptable. Yes, it is possible to raise the kittens to an acceptable age and then take them to a shelter. They probably have resources to help you, too.
posted by a robot made out of meat at 6:20 PM on February 20, 2012

Holy moly, lots of tension here!

First, kittens happen. Seriously. It is not bad on you that you thought Lady Cat was spayed. I bet her former owners think she's spayed too. Hell, vets probably think they spay a bunch of creatures until they realize they just kinda forgot to snip that one little part right there and oh heeeyyyyy anybody want a kitten?

That's gotta be your tact here. Contact your local vet, contact your local shelter, and then start phoning folks and putting up notices on Facebook and in libraries and coffee shops. People want kittens. Emergency neutering and culling the kitties personally should really be your last resort -- not because I'm some emotional hippie (even though I totally am) but because you haven't explored all your options yet, and that should be your M.O. here.

On preview, what MexicanYenta said.
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 6:24 PM on February 20, 2012

Gracedissolved is the voice of common sense here. Start asking around now, and by the time the kittens are weaned, you'll probably have homes lined up for them. I mean, my goodness. People have been doing this for hundreds of years. You didn't do anything wrong, and it's not the end of the world. And I agree, in the worst case scenario, it would almost certainly be better to be euthanized at the shelter than "culled." But if you get on it now, it probably won't come to that.
posted by HotToddy at 6:31 PM on February 20, 2012

OP, I'm going to answer your actual question as asked:

If you are going to try to get a shelter, or friends, to take these kittens, then it's worth giving the pregnant cat the best care to ensure that she and they are healthy. If she herself is still growing, she will need extra food (many sources suggest kitten food) to sustain her own growth as well as her kittens'. She may also need vitamin and mineral supplements, especially calcium to aid in milk production. You want her to be as strong and healthy as possible when she delivers.

Would it be possible to get, or borrow, a plug-in radiator for the freezing cold spare room? It sounds like it would be a good place for kittens, apart from the temperature.

This site seems like a good source of advice, and so does this one, but there are tons of helpful ones out there.

Lots of good kitten advice in this thread. After the first week or so, get the mother cat used to you gently petting and, soon, handling the kittens. If the kittens are used to being handled for a little while every day, they will make better pets. You're right in estimating that 10 to 12 weeks is a good age for them to go to new homes.

I wish you luck with this, and hope everything goes well for your pregnant cat, your kittens and your household.
posted by Pallas Athena at 6:32 PM on February 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

First, this is not your fault. You can look at this logically, and make your choice FREE OF GUILT AND BLAME - whatever the decision.

As others have said, make sure your cat gets enough to eat and prepare a comfortable place for her to give birth and take care of the kittens afterwards. If you have a spare room that you can shut to keep the male cat out, an extra heating source is probably necessary.

You said that you don't want another grown cat. This is ok! You don't have to feel like keeping and raising these kittens is your only choice.

Go visit some shelters around you and ASK them how quickly they usually get rid of kittens. Also find out whether they are no kill shelters. If your option is between ending their lives at birth and raising them for a few weeks and then taking them to a shelter with bad living conditions with small chance of getting adopted, the former is less cruel. If the shelters seem decent and clean, and don't have a lot of kittens in the cages growing old and lonely, then consider letting them get weaned off of the mother and eating solid food before taking them to the shelter. They will not judge you. You can explain as little or as much as you want. A lot of shelters even have anonymous drop offs where you can leave the kittens in a box with food and water after hours, and the morning workers will find them and take care of them when they come in.
posted by sarahnicolesays at 7:48 PM on February 20, 2012

Put up some adverts in local pet shops and vets. Charge 50E to cover food and vets bills (seems to be about the going rate). I'm sure you won't have too much difficulty finding homes for the kittens. Additionally, watching the kittens grow up is a lot of fun.
posted by salmacis at 3:00 AM on February 21, 2012

If the mama cat is small and the kittens are big, I would have concerns about Mamacat having difficulties with labor. If you can't have her spayed now (though I concur in recommending it), get in touch with a vet to serve as your kitty OBGYN--someone who knows about the potential emergency situation and can give you advice based on the specific cat. Keep on hand info for local 24-hour vet hospitals, if you have any nearby. Depending on vet advice, you may not want to move her to a vet once she's in labor, so plan with the vet what you'll do for a home birth or plan to board her at the vet's.

Please do not "cull" the kittens! Take the advice of people here about contacting animal shelters. Depending on the shelter, you may be able to foster the kittens: they stay in your (or another person's) home being socialized and learning good kitty manners while the shelter seeks homes for them, then they go to their forever home once they're old enough. It's a good thing for kittens to stay with their mothers and littermates for their first few months at least: Mamacat teaches them to use the litterbox and eat solid food. siblings teach each other to play politely and not bite/claw hard during play. And of course they're getting used to humans at the same time: have as many people as possible gently handle the kittens and they'll not be shy of strangers.

BTW, I had a similar situation when we took our cat to be spayed and were told not only was she pregnant, she was due within DAYS. (Very few kittens + small kittens + very fluffy mom = we had no idea!) Our cat was older than yours but still just barely out of kittenhood. She gave birth in a trash can(!) to 4 kittens, one of which was born dead, which you may want to prepare for. But the other three kittens and mom were fine and healthy.

One issue that did come up with our Mamacat was her being kinda freaked out by the kittens, I think because she was pretty young as a first-time mother. She let them nurse from her, but early on was half-hearted about grooming/snuggling them, and ever so often would flinch/move away from them with this look like "WHAT are these SQUIRMY THINGS coming at me?!" She got used to them and became a much more attentive mom within a few days, though. You will need to keep an eye on your Mamacat, especially early on, to be sure she's caring for them. It's always possible for a mother to reject her litter, and abandoned kittens can die very quickly without food/warmth/grooming. This is another thing your vet will know best about.

Good luck to you and your kitties!
posted by nicebookrack at 9:11 AM on February 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

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