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If your pet is pregnant, it’s important to understand what to expect in order for your pet to have a safe and healthy pregnancy. You’ll also want to know how your pet will behave while adjusting to motherhood- especially if it’s for the first time. It’s a big transition for both you and your pet that you both need to be fully prepared for.

Whether you have a dog or a cat- or both- being prepared prior to them experiencing pregnancy and motherhood is important for their well-being. But just how different are these experiences for dogs and cats? What are the differences between a dog’s pregnancy and a cat’s pregnancy? That’s what you will be learning about in this blog.

What is a dog’s pregnancy like?

The length of a dog’s pregnancy ranges between 62 to 64 days- about two months. That being said, that length of time varies in different dog breeds. The size of a litter is also an important factor when looking at a dog’s pregnancy.

While each dog will experience different pregnancy symptoms, they aren’t hard to miss. Such symptoms include appetite increase, change in nipple size, exhibiting nesting behaviour, increase in irritability, swollen belly and tiring more easily. All of these symptoms should be monitored by your veterinarian closely to ensure that your dog has a safe and healthy pregnancy. A fetal heartbeat can be detected by your veterinarian at the end of the first month of pregnancy.

A pregnant dog’s behaviour will change the closer they get to whelping. Oftentimes, they will stop eating several days prior to giving birth. They also increase their nesting behaviour and urinate more frequently. They will also pant more and have a decrease in rectal temperature, reaching as low as 99 degrees Fahrenheit or more. Your dog may even moan and strain while experiencing contractions. These contractions will become stronger and more frequent the longer whelping continues. If medically necessary, a Cesarean section may need to be performed on the dog.

A general rule of thumb is that the number of hours of whelping equals the number of puppies in the litter. (e.g. A litter of five puppies equals five hours of whelping.) The first puppy of the litter is typically born within the first hour of whelping. Puppies are born encased in placental membranes that are either licked off by the mother or removed by the owner. You may also have to cut the umbilical cord if the dog doesn’t severe it them self. It’s also important to keep the newborn puppies warm, as well as placing them along their mother’s belly in order for them to nurse.

What is a cat’s pregnancy like?

The length of a cat’s pregnancy ranges from 63 to 67 days- roughly two months. That length of time can vary due to breed and litter size, just like with dogs. Even two cats with the same breed and litter size can be pregnant for different lengths of time.

A pregnant cat- also known as a queen- typically doesn’t display pregnancy symptoms until about 15 to 18 days after it occurs. Such symptoms include appetite increase, displaying more affection than usual, “pinking-up” nipples (when the nipples have become red and enlarged), swollen belly, and vomiting. Your veterinarian can perform an ultrasound to determine if your cat is pregnant. A fetal heartbeat can be detected once your queen is about 15 days pregnant.

As your cat’s pregnancy nears its end, it’s crucial to watch for any signs of labour. This includes your queen becoming more vocal, fidgety behaviour, lack of appetite, looking for somewhere to settle in, lower body temperature and washing itself more often. Strong contractions and vaginal discharge should be followed by delivery shortly after.

While every delivery is different from one queen to the next, an average delivery takes about six hours from start to finish. Kittens are typically born every 30 to 60 minutes, with litters often containing between four to six kittens total. When a kitten is born, it will be encased inside its placental membrane. Either you or your cat will have to remove it shortly after the kitten’s birth. You will also need to ensure that you or your cat remove the umbilical cord from each kitten too. Your cat needs to pass the placenta once all the kittens have been born. Finally, after labour has ended, the kittens can begin nursing from the queen for the first time.

What is motherhood like for dogs?

Given that puppies are born without the ability to hear, see or walk, they must rely on their mother’s undivided attention completely. The first few weeks after puppies are born are extremely important for their development. In fact, the neonatal period (which lasts about 10 days) is when the mother needs to ensure that all of her puppies’ needs are met- from feeding and beyond.

About three to four weeks after birth, the puppies will be less likely to nurse from their mother and move onto solid food. This decrease in nursing will cause the mother to lactate less. This is one of the first steps in the mother giving her puppies some independence.

Helping their puppies gain more and more independence is one of the key parts of motherhood for dogs. As the puppies continue to grow, the mother will begin to leave the whelping box more often, as well as for longer periods of time. By the time puppies are four weeks old, they will have learned crucial behaviours from their mother in regards to socialization. It’s a gradual process that takes time for both mother and puppy. As the puppy’s independence grows, the mother will change. Their role shifts from nurturing to one of support that encourages self-sufficiency once her puppies are four weeks old.

When puppies reach eight weeks old, they’re ready to leave the litter for a new home. This big change can impact the mother quite a bit. She may become depressed and lost due to her litter now being gone. As for the puppy, they may cry and whine from being away from their mother. But this change is necessary for both mother and puppy in order for them to grow and thrive.

What is motherhood like for cats?

Just like puppies, kittens are also born without the ability to hear or see. It’s their instincts that allow them to nurse from the queen for the first time by following the smell of her milk. If a kitten is struggling to nurse, the queen will bring them over to her to get them nursing. The queen will also spend the first few days after giving birth to licking her kittens frequently to encourage the kittens to eliminate waste.

It’s also important to note that mother cats experience maternal aggression after giving birth. She may even hiss at you if you approach her kittens. It’s normal for a queen to develop such a protective instinct over her kittens due to hormones. That’s why it’s important to create a stress-free environment for the queen to nurture her kittens properly and without issue.

Weaning begins when kittens are about four weeks old. The queen will decrease their milk supply as the weaning process takes place. It’s a long process that can last until the kittens reach 12 weeks old. Rushed weaning can result in kittens suckling on inanimate objects as they grow up.

When the kittens are three weeks old, they will begin to explore their environment with the encouragement of their mother. This is done by the queen having them walk around, as well as learn how to use a litter box. If one of her kittens has strayed too far from the queen, she will make a strange sound to get them to come back. By the time the kittens are six weeks old, they should be able to climb, jump and play. Growing kittens will learn a lot of their environment from watching their mother and fellow kittens in action.

As a general rule, kittens will become better socialized the longer they spend time with their mother. But kittens can leave the litter for a new home as early as six weeks old. However, it may be wiser to wait until the kitten reaches eight to 10 weeks old because they’re more likely to be better behaved. The queen will likely become upset when her kittens are gone, going so far as to search for them by meowing for a response. This lasts only for a couple of days before the queen calms down for the absence of her kittens.