Realizing that your mother cat is pregnant with a dead cat can also be distressing to the mother cat as much as it could lead to potentially fatal infections but this can equally result in a stillbirth. In other cases, the puppy becomes mummified or even resorbed if it is still in its early stages.
The common reasons for the death of a feline fetus range from congenital defects, trauma, infections, illness, stress, eclampsia, diabetes mellitus, hypothyroidism, pregnancy toxemia, and intake of certain drugs or toxins.
So, what should you do when you suspect a dead kitten in your cat’s womb or birth canal?
Immediate veterinary intervention is paramount not only because the kitten is stuck in the mother cat’s womb or birth canal but to find out the cause of the kitten’s death and to ensure the safety of the live kittens. In a case where there is an infection of the kitten that can affect the whole litter, early treatment can help prevent further progession into septicemia and death. If she is due, you can lubricate her genital area to facilitate labor but a veterinary visit is still non-negotiable.
The signs to look out for include prolonged labor, distended abdomen, fever, purulent vaginal discharge, or any behavior indicating distress. The mother might strain and push for long periods without delivering a kitten, or a part of the deceased kitten might be visible without any forward movement.
Sometimes, a kitten may die due to congenital abnormalities, trauma, infections, or other unforeseen complications during the pregnancy. Signs that may indicate a potential problem include the mother cat experiencing prolonged labor without delivering a kitten, purulent vaginal discharge, or if she seems in clear distress.
Soon after death, the deceased kitten can easily become a breeding ground for bacteria, potentially leading to pyometra (an infected uterus), which is characterized by bloody, purulent vaginal discharge and abdominal swelling, as the bacterial activity can lead to the release of various gases. If these bacteria enter the bloodstream, it may result in septicemia, a life-threatening condition.
Some cats, pregnant with deceased kittens end up having a stillbirth before or on their estimated date of delivery. In the early stages of fetal development, the death of the kitten will result in fetal resorption.
If there is no infection and the fetus is retained in the uterus, fetal mummification could occur especially in the later stages of pregnancy. Basically, the fetal fluids are absorbed, leaving behind a dried, shrunken, and “mummified” fetus. Unlike in the case of pyometra, mummification results in a preserved state due to the lack of moisture and bacterial activity within the uterus.
In cases where there are multiple kittens, a deceased kitten can act as an obstruction in the birth canal, making it challenging for subsequent kittens to be born. This obstruction can be harmful to both the mother and the unborn kittens.
The mother cat’s body will instinctively try to expel the deceased kitten. This can lead to prolonged labor, exhaustion, and increased physical strain.
When a kitten dies inside the womb, the situation is potentially life-threatening for the mother cat very quickly. It’s crucial to seek veterinary assistance immediately.
Don’t try to force the dead kitten out of your cat or be your cat’s vet. The only home remedy will be to lubricate her genital area with KY jelly. Attempting to pull your dead kitten from the mother cat’s womb or birth canal at home is highly risky and strongly discouraged. Without the proper knowledge might cause injuries like tears in the reproductive tract. Such injuries can open the door for infections to get into the bloodstream, further endangering the mother’s health.
Additionally, any inappropriate interference might jeopardize the health or lives of any remaining unborn kittens.
Before considering any action, it’s essential to understand the signs that a kitten is indeed stuck. The mother cat may strain and push for an extended period without producing a kitten. She might vocalize more than usual or show clear signs of distress, discomfort, or exhaustion. Sometimes, a portion of the kitten might be visible but with no progress in its movement outwards for a considerable duration.
The best recourse in such situations is to promptly seek veterinary assistance. Veterinarians are equipped with the knowledge, experience, and tools necessary to handle these delicate scenarios.
This could range from stimulating the uterine contraction by administering oxytocin or other uterotonic agents or conducting a Cesarean section (C-section) if the kitten’s position, size, or other factors make natural delivery too risky.
A C-section is a surgical procedure where kittens are removed directly from the mother’s uterus, bypassing the birthing canal. This method is especially useful when there’s a blockage or another complication that might put the mother or her other kittens at risk.
The removal of a deceased kitten from a cat’s womb or birth canal is critical for the health of the mother and her live kittens. If a dead kitten remains inside the mother for too long, it can lead to infections or other complications. Vets have several strategies they employ to address this situation:
Uterotonic agents are drugs that induce or increase the contraction of the uterus. They can be useful when there is a need to expel a deceased kitten from the womb or birth canal.
Oxytocin: This is a natural hormone produced in the pituitary gland. Veterinarians often use it in synthetic form to stimulate contractions. However, it should be administered with caution. Overuse or misuse can lead to excessive contractions, which might harm the mother or any remaining kittens that are still viable.
Prostaglandins: These are another group of drugs that can stimulate uterine contractions. They can be more potent than oxytocin and are sometimes used when oxytocin is ineffective. However, they can have more pronounced side effects, and the cat should be monitored closely when these are administered.
A C-section is a surgical procedure used to deliver kittens directly from the uterus, bypassing the birth canal. It’s typically considered when other methods are ineffective or if the mother cat is in distress.
- The cat is usually placed under general anesthesia.
- A surgical incision is made through the abdominal wall and then through the uterus.
- The deceased kitten(s) is removed, along with any other live kittens if present and necessary.
- The uterus and abdominal wall are then sutured closed.
- A C-section is major surgery, and as with any surgical procedure, there are associated risks. These can include bleeding, infection, and complications from anesthesia.
- Post-operative care is essential. The cat will need pain management, close monitoring, and possibly antibiotics.
- The ability of the cat to nurse her kittens (if there are any surviving ones) after a C-section is a consideration. In some cases, the kittens may need to be hand-fed or fostered by another nursing cat.
Caring for a premature kitten, especially one affected by the death of a littermate, requires specialized care and attention. The loss of a fetus can cause premature birth for the remaining kittens, so understanding how to provide proper care is crucial. Here are five steps to assist in ensuring the health and well-being of a premature kitten:
Since premature kittens lack the necessary fat to regulate their body temperature, it’s crucial to provide a warm environment. Use an incubator or a heating pad (covered with a soft cloth) set on low. Check the temperature regularly, ensuring it remains around 95°F (35°C) during the first week of life, gradually reducing to 85°F (29°C) by the third week.
Designate a quiet and safe space away from household traffic, other pets, and potential hazards. This will prevent undue stress and reduce the risk of infections.
Feed the kitten a high-quality kitten milk replacer, not cow’s milk. Ensure that it’s specifically formulated for kittens. Preemie kittens might require more frequent feedings than full-term kittens.
Use a syringe or a special kitten bottle to feed them. Ensure that they are fed while lying on their stomachs, mimicking the natural nursing position. Avoid feeding them on their backs as this can lead to aspiration.
Keep the kitten hydrated. If it appears dehydrated, consult a veterinarian about subcutaneous fluid administration.
Mother cats naturally stimulate their kittens to urinate and defecate by licking their genital areas. In her absence, you’ll need to mimic this behavior. After each feeding, use a soft, warm, damp cloth to gently rub the kitten’s genital area until it urinates and/or defecates. This step is crucial to help them maintain proper digestive and urinary health. You can also stimulate burping by patting your finger on her belly.
Weigh the kitten daily using a gram scale. Steady weight gain is a positive sign, while weight loss can indicate a potential problem.
Regularly check for signs of distress, like continuous crying, difficulties in breathing, or an inability to feed. Watch out for signs of infections or diseases.
Schedule regular check-ups with a veterinarian familiar with neonatal kitten care. They can monitor the kitten’s growth, administer necessary vaccinations, and address any health concerns.
Spend quality time holding and caressing the kitten. Physical contact and warmth can provide comfort and promote bonding. As the kitten grows and becomes more active, introduce soft toys and engage in gentle play. This not only strengthens your bond but also aids in their developmental process. Gradually introduce the kitten to other household pets under supervision, ensuring safety and positive interactions.
Stillbirth in cats, which refers to the death of a fetus in a mother cat’s womb, can be a distressing experience for both the cat and her caretakers. There are multiple potential causes for stillbirths, and sometimes the exact reason may remain unknown despite diagnostic investigations. Here are some causes:
- Bacterial Infection: Some bacteria can cross the placental barrier and infect the fetus, leading to stillbirth. Examples include Escherichia coli, Streptococcus, and Staphylococcus.
- Viral infections: Certain viral infections, like Feline Infectious Peritonitis (FIP), Feline Leukemia Virus (FeLV), and Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV), can potentially lead to fetal demise.
- Parasitic infections: Parasites, such as Toxoplasma gondii, can cause problems during pregnancy if the mother cat is infected for the first time.
2. Trauma: Physical trauma, especially to the abdominal area, can harm the developing kittens and lead to stillbirth.
3. Congenital Abnormalities: Sometimes, kittens have developmental abnormalities that prevent them from surviving to or past birth.
4. Nutritional deficiencies: The queen (pregnant or nursing cat) requires proper nutrition. Deficiencies, especially of certain essential nutrients like taurine, can adversely affect fetal development.
5. Hormonal Imbalances: Disorders like hypothyroidism or other endocrine abnormalities can potentially interfere with normal fetal development.
6. Age of the Queen: Very young or old cats might have a higher risk of complications during pregnancy, leading to possible stillbirths.
7. Stress: Severe stress can potentially lead to pregnancy complications, including stillbirth.
8. Toxins and Medications: Exposure to certain toxins, drugs, or medications can have teratogenic (causing malformations) effects on the developing fetus, leading to stillbirth.
9. Difficult Labor (Dystocia): If a kitten becomes lodged in the birth canal or there are other complications during labor, it may result in stillbirth.
10. Environmental factors: Extreme temperatures or poor living conditions can increase the risk of complications.
11. Chronic Maternal Health Issues: Chronic conditions in the mother, like diabetes or kidney disease, might contribute to stillbirths
If a dead kitten is retained inside the mother cat, it can be life-threatening to the mother due to possible infections or complications. If you suspect a kitten is retained, it’s crucial to get the mother cat checked by a veterinarian immediately.
Here are some signs that might indicate a dead kitten is stuck inside the mother:
Prolonged Labor: If more than a few hours pass between the delivery of kittens, it might indicate a retained kitten. Normal intervals between deliveries are generally 10 minutes to an hour.
Foul-smelling Vaginal Discharge: A strong, unpleasant odor could indicate a dead kitten or an infection inside.
Distended Abdomen: The mother’s belly might look or feel swollen or harder than usual.
Fever: An elevated body temperature could indicate an infection due to a retained kitten.
Lethargy: The mother might seem unusually tired, not moving much, or not showing interest in her surroundings.
Loss of Appetite: If she isn’t eating or drinking, it might be a sign of distress or illness.
Depression or Agitation: Behavioral changes like persistent pacing, restlessness, or even aggression can indicate discomfort or pain.
Persistent Straining: If she’s constantly trying to push or looks like she’s in labor for an extended period without producing a kitten, there might be a problem.
Bloody Discharge: While some blood is normal after giving birth, excessive or prolonged bloody discharge can be a sign of a complication.
Pain: If the mother cat is visibly in pain, crying out, or uncomfortable, it might be due to a retained kitten or another complication.
Refusal to Nurse or Care for Other Kittens: If the mother is preoccupied with pain or discomfort, she may neglect the other kittens.
When a kitten dies inside a cat and isn’t promptly expelled or absorbed, the time frame in which a mother cat can survive without medical intervention varies depending on whether there is an infection of the uterus, or critically, the overall health of the mother.
A healthier mother cat might have a more robust immune response and greater resilience, potentially delaying the onset of severe symptoms.
If the deceased kitten inside the mother is neither expelled nor reabsorbed, the decomposition of a fetus becomes a concern except the fetus mummifies leaving only bones and uterine fluid. Still surgical procedure may be required to get rid of the mummified fetus.
The decomposition of a dead fetus can escalate quickly in cats. Bacteria from the decomposing fetus can multiply swiftly, leading to infections within days. Signs that a deceased fetus is decomposing inside the mother include a foul-smelling vaginal discharge, lethargy, fever, and abdominal pain.
If not addressed, this can escalate to septicemia, a life-threatening blood infection. Symptoms of septicemia are even more severe and include rapid breathing, pale gums, and in advanced cases, collapse.
If you suspect a mother cat (queen) has a deceased kitten inside her, it’s crucial to act immediately as this can be a life-threatening situation for the mother. A retained fetus can lead to severe complications, including infection and septicemia. Take the cat to the vet immediately. This is not a situation to delay or attempt to handle at home.
Losing kittens can be traumatic for a mother cat. She might look for them, call out for them, or even show signs of depression or anxiety. Providing comfort and support is vital during this challenging time. Here are some ways to help a grieving mother cat:
1. Stay Close: Spend more time with the mother cat, offering your presence and comfort. Your companionship can help her feel more secure during her grieving process.
2. Provide Comfort Items: If the mother cat had a special blanket or toy she shared with her kittens, leave it with her. Familiar scents can be comforting.
3. Distractions: Engage her in play or give her new toys. While she might not be interested immediately, gentle coaxing can eventually divert her attention and reduce her distress.
4. Maintain Routine: Keeping a consistent routine for feeding, playing, and cuddling can help provide a sense of normalcy.
5. Quiet Environment: Ensure her environment is peaceful and quiet. Avoid loud noises or significant changes in her surroundings.
6. Monitor Eating Habits: Grief can lead to loss of appetite. Make sure she’s eating and drinking. If she refuses to eat for more than a day or so, contact a veterinarian.
7. Consult Your Vet: If the mother cat’s grief seems prolonged or particularly intense, consult with a veterinarian. They might have additional advice or solutions, and it’s essential to rule out any physical complications after giving birth.
8. Consider a Companion: If the mother cat is used to the company of other cats, and you believe she might benefit from a companion, consider introducing another cat into the household. Do this slowly and cautiously to ensure a smooth introduction.
9. Avoid Immediate Removal: If your mother cat has had a stillbirth, don’t remove the deceased kitten immediately. Allow the mother some time with them so she can understand and process their passing. This can help prevent prolonged searching or calling behaviors.
10. Talk To Her Gently: It might sound simple, but talking to your cat in a soothing voice can provide comfort. They might not understand the words, but they can pick up on your tone and emotions.
When complications arise, such as a kitten being stuck, it’s not just an emotional strain; it’s a situation that demands you to act fast. The health and safety of the mother cat should be paramount. The presence of a deceased kitten inside the birth canal or womb can lead to severe complications for her if not addressed promptly.
A trip to your veterinarian is required promptly even after the cat has given birth to the deceased kitten. This is still necessary because infection is common with this condition and your vet can run some tests to rule out any infection. The same applies If your cat is experiencing any signs of pregnancy or birth complications.
Self-diagnosing or attempting home remedies can inadvertently exacerbate the situation. A veterinarian has the tools, knowledge, and expertise to safely handle the situation and ensure the best possible outcome for the mother cat.