How to Care for a Pregnant Stray Cat?

Reviewed By Kim •  Updated: 01/15/21 •  11 min read
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Have you encountered a pregnant stray or feral cat in your yard? Is she hanging around and does she look like she’ll give birth at any moment? If so, then you may need some advice on how to handle the situation. If you’re like many people, you’ll want to offer the pregnant momma cat food and a safe place to give birth. There are some things you’ll need to consider before offering aid. We’ll cover these and other information in this article, so you can provide the best care for this momma cat.

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The Difference Between Stray and Feral Cats

When you see cats that seem to be living outdoors, you may simply refer to them as stray cats. However, there’s a big difference between stray and feral cats. The common connection between these cats is that they’re independent and living outdoors. Otherwise, they’re quite different kitties. Feral cats have generally been living on their own, without human contact (for the most part). They know how to live outdoors and can take care of themselves. They’re independent and may not trust humans for many reasons. In other words, feral cats are not socialized with humans. They may live in colonies with other feral cats and only bond with one another. Stray cats, on the other hand, are cats who are socialized with humans for most of their lives. They may have escaped their pet parents or been dumped by people who no longer wanted them or could keep them. These cats are highly dependent on humans for food and may not understand how to care for themselves when living independently outside. Stray cats may eventually become feral cats, especially the longer they live away from humans. However, strays can become a beloved pet once again. They may find their way back home, be adopted by a new family, etc.

Why is it important to understand the distinction between feral and stray cats? If you have a cat that seems homeless living around your home, she could be feral or stray. A feral cat may accept food, but no attention and will not require or want any other assistance. On the other hand, a stray cat will seek out your help, as she’s more dependent and may not be able to find food and shelter on her own. Telling the difference between a stay and a feral cat can be difficult. You can observe the cat to see how she behaves. Stray cats may seek you out, while feral cats will stay away. In addition, a stray cat will likely be living alone, while the feral cat may live in a colony with others. Stray cats will show different behaviors compared to feral cats. Feral cats may appear to protect themselves and not make eye contact. Stray cats, on the other hand, may look you in the eye, walk near you and show friendliness. A stray may also “beg” by meowing, while a feral cat will be quiet. These are a few of the ways that may help you to discern if the momma cat is feral or stray.

Always use caution when approaching a stray or feral momma cat. She will be anxious, especially if she’s close to giving birth. You want to avoid scaring her or being bitten, etc.

Caring for a Pregnant Stray Cat

So, how can you care for a stray pregnant momma cat? First and foremost, you’ll need to avoid physical contact with the stray kitty, until you manage to befriend her and perhaps catch her. Pregnant animals are more wary of everything during this time. They’re carrying additional little lives and need to be careful in order to carry the unborn kittens to term. The stray momma cat will probably try to avoid you at first. Some may try to reach out to you in cat-like way; however, most will tend to avoid physical contact or letting you get too close. That’s OK. Respect the momma kitty’s space.

You might first try providing her with food several times a day. Leave the cat food in a clean dish on the ground. And don’t forget a water dish! Leave them next to each other, and in a place that’s somewhat sheltered, so the stray cat will feel secure and comfortable while eating and drinking. Over time, you may find she comes closer—and that’s a good sign. Over time, she may gradually allow you to pet her and scratch behind her ears. Don’t force anything—when it comes to petting her, wait for her signal that this is OK. It may take some time—just be patient.

Cat Nesting Area

The closer to her delivery date, a mother cat will begin searching for a safe place to give birth to her kittens. Nesting may begin a couple of days before she’s due to give birth. What’s the mother cat looking for? According to Feltcave, she’s searching for a safe, secure and isolated place to give birth like a cat cave. The optimal nesting spot will be dim, quiet and peaceful—just the perfect place to have her kittens.

You may notice a pregnant stray cat searching for a nest—if so, this could mean she’s close to going into labor soon. At this point, you may want to consider catching her.

How to Catch a Pregnant Stray Cat

You may want to try to catch the pregnant momma-to-be cat if she’s close to giving birth. This brings up a question—how long are cats pregnant? The gestation period for a cat is usually from 57-68 days. You’ll suspect she’s close to delivery if her belly is bloated—you may even be able to see her unborn kittens moving! If you believe catching the stray is necessary, you’ll have to do so very carefully and, of course, humanely. This can be done with by purchasing a feral cat trap available at local pet stores or you may even be able to rent or borrow a trap from the local animal welfare organization or the local animal control agency. You’ll have to make sure the trap will not hurt the stray, and that she will be quickly taken out of the trap. Remember, stress could make the cat go into premature labor, and this should be avoided at all costs.

Place the trap in an area where you know she’ll visit and then bait it will some tasty cat food—chicken and fish might be a good choice for bait. Once you’ve caught the pregnant momma cat, then you’ll want to take her to the vet immediately. The vet will give her a physical, which may include imaging to determine when her kittens will be born. The vet may also suggest spaying the cat at the appropriate time after she gives birth.

Cat’s Birthing Process – What to Watch For

When the momma cat has found the perfect nest, which may or may not be the area you’ve prepared for her, then she’ll settle in to rest before she gives birth. It’s best to leave her alone and only observe her from a distance. Most cats have no problem with giving birth. However, there are some things you should watch for, in case she has a difficult birth. Watch the time in between the birth of each kitten. It’s normal for cats to have as much as 30 minutes between the birth of her kittens. However, if your cat shows signs of distress, it will be necessary to take her and the kittens to the veterinarian.

Here are the signs the mother cat is having a difficult labor:

Birthing difficulties can be caused for various reasons, including a kitten coming out backwards (hind feet first), uterine inertia (muscles are too weak for the labor process), an extremely large litter of kittens and more. If the stray cat is showing any of these signs (or others), then it’s time to take her to the vet ASAP. Once the kittens are born, if all seems well, then leave the momma cat alone to care for the kittens. Don’t touch or hold the kittens for the first few days. A nervous mother may abandon the entire litter if she’s stressed out from your presence and/or if you’ve been touching the kittens. So, it’s best to leave them alone, until the mother cat has begun to trust you.

How to Catch a Feral Kitten

Just like feral cats, feral kittens will have had no socialization with humans. They will try to do anything and everything to avoid humans. These little precious bundles of fur will be afraid and possibly even aggressive towards humans. You’ll need a lot of patience to provide the right kind of care. With enough patience and care, you may even win them over to becoming little precious companions. When it comes to trapping feral kittens, be sure to trap the mom and the kittens all together. The kitten(s) will need the momma cat to successfully grow and thrive. Mother’s care is the best, after all. Be sure to use a humane trap that captures the kittens and mother cat without harming them. All you want to do is catch them, not hurt them.

Just as you do with an adult cat, you’ll have to bait the trap with something enticing to little kittens and their mom. You might try canned cat food such as chicken or fish to bait the trap. Once you’ve caught the kittens and their mother, it would be best to take them to the vet for a checkup. Not only will the vet examine the new little family, but they will also be the best source of information on the care of mother and her kittens. The vet may also offer advice on how best to socialize the kittens and may speak with you about spaying the momma cat, and possibly the kittens when they’re old enough.

How to Get Stray Kittens to Come to You

First of all, never chase a stray kitten. The only thing you’ll accomplish is to scare the poor thing and cause the kitten to become more anxious and scared. Not only that, but a kitten’s instinct is to get as far away from danger as possible. The kitten perceives you as the danger—this is only natural. So, never chase after stay kittens. Rather than chasing the kitten, it’s best to sit within eyesight of the kitten, making no move toward her. Just sit quietly and observe her behavior. Over time (it may take days), the kitten may become more accepting of you and may even start to come closer. If the kitten approaches, sit and let the kitten come and sniff you, rub on you, etc. Avoid making any sudden movements or sounds, as this could scare the kitten away. Just sit quietly and let the kitten become acquainted with you. And don’t forget to use food or snacks as a way to draw the kitten to you.

Eventually, the kitten may decide you’re safe and want to snuggle. When you get to this point, you might try to pet the kitten. See where she likes to be scratched and petted. You may be surprised to find that you’ve now got a new little fur baby on your hands! We hope this guide has helped answer some of the questions you may about how to deal with pregnant stray or feral cats. Patience and care are needed when it comes to helping a stray or feral mother cat and her kittens.

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Kim is a talented author, who loves animals especially dogs. She engaged in writing books and articles relating to animals a decade ago. Kim resides in Chicago with her husband and son. The family is the proud owner of a dog and a parrot (Jack and Lily). Kim wanted more than these two pets, but her husband put his foot down... She often visits elementary schools to talk to the kids about what she learned about pets and how they could learn from them.