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Normal Delivery in Cats

Margaret V. Root Kustritz, DVM, PhD, DACT

Stage I = cervical dilation
Stage II = passage of neonates
Stage III = passage of placentas
Stage II and III may be cycled through as each kitten is born.

Posterior (rear quarters) and anterior (head end first) presentation are equally common during normal parturition.

Average length of time for the birth process has been reported to be 16.1 +/- 14.3 hours, with a range of 4-42 hours. This means that there is a huge variability of what the normal time to undergo birth is.

Litter size also has a wide normal range; the average ranges from 2.8-4.2 kittens per litter. (Obviously, this is a statistical average; in whole kittens, this means about 3-4!).

Dystocia, or difficult birth is not uncommon in the cat, with one study reporting an incidence of three out of 100 births. Dystocia in cats is more commonly due to maternal (mother) causes than fetal (offspring) causes, and uterine inertiais the most commonly reported cause. There is no connection between occurrence of dystocia and age of the queen or litter size.

Review Dystocia in Queens:

Dystocia, or Difficult Birth in the Queen
Margaret V. Root Kustritz, DVM, PhD, DACT

Reported incidence of dystocia in domestic cats is 3-4 per 100 births. One study reported the Persian breed to be at increased risk. Increased risk is correlated with obesity in the queen, but not with litter size.

Both maternal and fetal causes of dystocia are reported in cats. Maternal causes are more common (3/4 of the time), with uterine inertia the most common cause reported condition. Uterine torsion (twist) and uterine rupture (burst) are reported in cats but occur rarely. Malpresentation is the most common fetal cause. Posterior (hind end first) presentation is not abnormal in the cat, and may occur as frequently as two of every 5 births.

Dystocia is diagnosed if any of the following criteria are met:

Gestation, or pregnancy, is prolonged beyond 71days.
No kitten has been passed by 4 hours after labor onset, or subsequent kittens have not been passed within 2 hours of a previous kitten. Remember that normal parturition may be prolonged in queens, with reported median birth time of 8 hours. Queens usually prefer privacy when queening; observation and isolation may be the best treatment.
Passage of abnormal vaginal discharge (dark green, black, pus, large amount of blood)
Obvious malpresentation
Queen ill
Owner concerned
When a queen is presented at the veterinary clinic for possible dystocia, a quick physical examination will be performed. Digital vaginal examination may be possible in larger queens. Radiography (X-ray) permits assessment of fetal size and number, and is well worth the time taken to complete the films.

Medical and surgical therapies have been described. Medical treatment was reported to be successful in about 1/3rd of cases in one study. The treatment recommended is oxytocin. Oxytocin will not be used where obstruction of the birth canal is suspected. Oxytocin causes premature placental separation, necessitating availability of surgical facilities should labor not progress after medical therapy.

Surgical therapies described are cesarean section and ovariohysterectomy. En bloc ovariohysterectomy, in which the entire uterus and both ovaries are removed from the queen before the kittens are removed and resuscitated, may be associated with increased incidence of stillbirths.

Overall kitten loss rates (or mortality) by 8 weeks of age has been reported at up to 30 per 100 born kittens. Causes of mortality include stillbirths, cannibalism, intestine twists, and infections. Congenital (birth) defects in study colonies include diabetes mellitus, cryptorchidism (retained testes) and anus and genital malformation.

The majority of the information in this page is has been taken from VetMedCenter.com. For further information about this useful source of informtion follow the link or look, on the internet, at www.vetmedcenter.com.