Took me forever to find this,
I wrote this (Date Published: 10/4/2004 12:49:00 PM) for the Veterinary Information Network, Inc. This is a Veterinary Info guide from accredited Vets for continuing education on new findings and up to date case studies currently accepted into practice.
I will call it "Feline labor 101" for this message only.
Many people are surprised to find that the feline reproductive system is seasonal. Cats are designed to give birth only during warm months (spring through early fall).
The female cat begins cycling when she has reached 80% of her adult size and when the days are appropriately long. This could be as young as 5 months of age. After age 7 or 8, cycles become irregular and there are more complications with birth so it is important to finish a female cat's breeding career before this time.
Indoor cats are sheltered from the light cycles of the sun and may not cycle as frequently as their outdoor counterparts. On the other hand, breeders who keep their cats completely indoors can manipulate the light cycle of the cattery so as to allow for year round cycling if desired.
Proestrus: This is the time in the cycle when the female begins attracting males but it not yet receptive to their advances. Estrogen is building up and she is preparing for ovulation. The female is extra affectionate at this time, rubbing her head and sticking her rump in the air. She may also urine mark in the house and vocalize loudly and frequently. This period may be as short as 12 hours and as long as 2 days.
Estrus: The female cat's behavior continues: rubbing, crying etc. but the difference here is that the male is accepted when he approaches. This behavior persists approximately 7 days (on the average) and during that time the female's behavior is often objectionable to the owner. Contrary to previous belief, the act of mating does not shorten the estrus period (though it does substantially lengthen the time before the next estrus period). The female cat is ready to ovulate at this time but will not do so unless a male cat breeds her.
Interestrous Period: This is the period between times of behavioral estrus. If the cat is not bred or is bred and fails to ovulate, this time is 8 to 10 days on the average. This means that the yowling, rubbing, urine marking, and other estrous behaviors continue for about a week, then discontinue for about a week, then begin again, back and forth all spring and summer and into the fall until the cat is either bred, spayed, or perceives the coming of winter. This behavior of the mature female cat is often all the motivation it takes for an owner to get her spayed even if she is completely confined indoors and has no chance of unwanted pregnancy.
Diestrus: If the female is bred and ovulates, she goes into this different reproductive stage. Her ovaries prepare for possible pregnancy and she will stay out of heat for at least 35 to 37 days even if she is not pregnant. If she is pregnant, she will carry her kittens for 64 to 66 days before delivering the litter. If for some reason, spaying is desired but must be delayed and yet the estrous behavior is driving the owner crazy, she may be fooled into thinking she has been bred through manipulation with a rectal thermometer. If you are interested in this procedure, contact your veterinarian as it is not as simple as it may sound but is often effective in providing peace at home.
The action packed ending with a splash of medical wording for educational intrests!
Several hours (and perhaps a whole day) of restlessness, grooming, nesting, pacing, panting, vomiting, and crying indicates that labor has begun. Like dogs, there is often a drop in body temperature ( to less than 99F) indicating contractions will commence in the next 12 to 36 hours, but this is not as reliable a finding as in dogs. The female cat secludes herself in her selected nest area and begins to purr.
The above first stage of labor progresses to the second stage of labor with the initiation of hard contractions and the birth of a kitten. The third stage of labor refers to the passing of the placenta. The entire litter is born usually within 6 hours with kittens every 30 to 60 minutes. If she is stressed or distracted she is able to stop her labor and restart the next day. The new mother usually eats the placenta and membranes of the kitten's sac. There is no special benefit to this behavior so if one wishes, one may remove these tissues from the nest and prevent her from eating them. Do not attempt to move her and the kittens to a “better” nest spot after labor has started. This may stress her into curtailing her labor or worse may scare her into neglecting the litter.
Strong contractions for more than 60 minutes without production of a kitten indicates she needs help and should see the vet right away.
Most of the time labor is normal and goes off without a hitch. Kittens may begin solid food around age 4 weeks of age and may be adopted to new homes at age 6 weeks.
Vaginal discharge is normal for up to 3 weeks post-partum. This discharge is typically black or reddish and consists mostly of old blood. If the discharge seems particularly bloody, have the vet assess her blood loss. If the discharge looks like pus, she may have a uterine infection. Bring her to the vet; she may need to be spayed right away.
Complications Surrounding Labor and Pregnancy
Vaginal Bleeding: Vaginal bleeding during pregnancy is not normal and suggests that she is aborting the litter. If this is occurring late in pregnancy (the 8th week) she may be delivering the litter prematurely and a cesarean section is likely necessary. In either case, have the vet check her to assess the blood loss and decide what to do.
Dystocia: If she has been having strong contractions for greater than 60 minutes, she needs assistance in passing the kitten. Bring her and any kittens delivered to the vet's office right away.
Retained Placenta/Metritis: If the mother cat retains the placenta, she can develop an infection, fever, appetite loss, and neglect the kittens. If this occurs, she will need to see the vet right away, possibly be hospitalized and will probably need to be spayed to remove the infection.
Anyone notice that this was published for educational direction to other vets just shy of 3 years ago. Mainly the reason it took me so long to locate it. Funny how I described the weaning age way back then as the standerd protocol. Teaching thousands of fellow Veterinarians for improved medicine and greater quality health care. Because I care.
This publication was approved to meet the following as accepted medical and or standard procedure by: American Board of Veterinary Practitioners,American Association of Feline Practitioners,American College Veterinary Internal Medicine, and Veterinary Information Network board of Specialists.