My Cat Gave Birth To Dead Kittens: What Should I Do

Discovering that your cat has given birth to a dead kitten is both a heartbreaking and concerning experience. The emotional toll aside, there are critical health considerations for both the mother cat and any surviving kittens. Acting swiftly and appropriately can make all the difference in how the feline family copes with this unfortunate event.

What Should I Do If My Cat Gave Birth To Dead Kittens?

First and foremost, the deceased kittens should be carefully removed from the litter to prevent the spread of any potential illnesses and to reduce stress on the mother cat. Use gloves to handle the kitten and place it in a sealed bag. Consult your veterinarian as soon as possible for advice on the next steps, including whether a post-mortem exam is needed to determine the cause of death or finding out whether the surviving kittens are equally affected.

After handling the immediate issue of the deceased kitten, the focus should then be on the ongoing care for the mother and any remaining kittens. Observing them closely for signs of health issues or behavioral changes is crucial. Veterinary consultation may be necessary not only to identify the cause of the kitten’s death but also to ensure the well-being of the rest of the feline family. Keeping a vigilant eye and taking proactive steps can significantly impact the health outcomes of the surviving cats.

Why Did My Cat Give Birth To A Dead Kitten?

In feline pregnancies, the occurrence of stillborn kittens is a subject that rarely occurs. Studies indicate that approximately 7% of cats give birth to stillborns. Various factors can contribute to this unfortunate phenomenon.

1. Congenital Abnormalities

Congenital abnormalities refer to conditions or defects that are present from birth. These can range from structural defects like a malformed heart to genetic disorders that interfere with the kitten’s development. Despite the advances in veterinary medicine, some of these conditions may not be detectable until after birth, making them difficult to anticipate or treat. If a mother cat gives birth to multiple stillborn kittens, this could be indicative of genetic issues affecting the entire litter. Genetic testing of the parents and post-mortem examinations can provide insights into whether this is a recurrent risk in future litters.

2. Complications During Labor

Dystocia, or difficult labor, is a critical factor that can directly contribute to a cat giving birth to a dead kitten. When a cat experiences dystocia, it means that the labor is abnormally painful, prolonged, or obstructed in some way. This situation is inherently risky for the kitten, as it can lead to decreased oxygen supply, causing distress or even death before or shortly after birth. In severe cases, a kitten could become stuck in the birth canal, making it impossible to be born naturally and potentially resulting in stillbirth.

The complications associated with dystocia can originate from several factors, including the kitten being too large, malpositioning, or even physical abnormalities in the mother’s reproductive tract. Because dystocia creates a physically stressful situation for both the mother and the kittens, prompt veterinary intervention is essential. Without immediate attention, the chances of stillbirth increase significantly.

3. Infection Or Disease

Infectious diseases such as Feline Leukemia Virus (FeLV) or Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV) can have a serious impact on the health of both the mother and her unborn kittens. These infections can compromise the immune system, making it difficult for the mother to fight off secondary infections that could affect the fetus. When the mother’s immune system is weakened, she may not be able to provide a healthy environment for fetal development, increasing the likelihood of stillbirth or early death post-birth. Timely vaccination and routine veterinary check-ups can help manage these risks.

4. Premature Birth

Premature birth is one potential reason a kitten might be born deceased. Cats typically have a gestation period of about 63 to 65 days, but this can vary slightly based on the individual cat. Kittens that are born too early may not have fully developed organs, and their immune systems may not be strong enough to support them through the birthing process and beyond.

In cases of premature birth, the kitten might not be equipped to breathe or nurse effectively, which can result in its death either shortly before or after birth. It’s essential to consult with a veterinarian to determine whether premature birth was a contributing factor, as this could have implications for the remaining kittens and the mother cat’s health.

5. Hormone

Hormone levels in the mother cat can also play a significant role in the health of her kittens. An imbalance in hormones like progesterone or thyroid hormones can adversely affect the pregnancy, potentially leading to complications like miscarriage or stillbirth. Hormonal imbalances can be triggered by various factors, such as stress, illness, or nutritional deficiencies, and may require medical intervention for proper treatment. If you find that your cat has given birth to a dead kitten, a veterinary exam and potential hormonal testing could provide insight into whether hormonal imbalance was a factor in the death.

6. Nutritional Deficiencies

The mother cat’s nutrition during pregnancy has a direct impact on the health of the developing kittens. Deficiencies in essential nutrients like calcium, taurine, or certain vitamins can hinder proper fetal development, leading to weak or stillborn kittens. Such deficiencies can affect the development of vital organs, compromise the skeletal structure, and influence overall kitten viability. Regular vet check-ups and a balanced diet during pregnancy can help identify and correct these deficiencies, thus reducing the risk of stillbirth.

For a comprehensive understanding of what could have caused the stillbirth, a post-mortem examination by a veterinarian is highly advisable. This would not only provide closure but could also inform how to better care for the remaining kittens and the mother cat.

What To Do If Your Mother Cat Gives Birth To Dead Kittens

1. Give Your Cat Some Time

If your mother cat gives birth to a dead kitten, the initial moments are crucial both for her emotional well-being and for ensuring the health of any remaining kittens. Initially, it may be best to give the mother some time alone with the deceased kitten. In nature, a mother cat will often try to reanimate a non-responsive kitten by licking and nuzzling it. This period also allows the mother to recognize that the kitten has passed, which can be important for her emotional processing.

However, after it becomes clear that the kitten cannot be revived, the mother cat will typically shift her attention to caring for the remaining kittens. This natural behavior serves to focus her maternal instincts on those that have the best chance of survival.

2. Immediate Isolation And Clean-up

The next thing to do is to carefully remove the dead kitten from the birthing area, avoiding any sudden or stressful movements that could upset the mother cat. Use gloves to ensure you’re not transferring any possible infections. Dispose of the dead kitten in a sanitary manner, following veterinary guidance or local regulations.

After removal, clean the birthing area as best as possible without causing much disturbance, to prevent potential spread of bacteria or viruses. It’s crucial to maintain a sterile environment for the health of the remaining kittens and the mother cat.

3. Consult A Veterinarian

Once the immediate situation is handled, consult your veterinarian for guidance on the next steps. They may recommend bringing in the mother cat and any surviving kittens for an examination to rule out any underlying health issues or complications that could affect the rest of the litter.

During this examination, the veterinarian can also check to see if there are any other babies still left in the womb, which could be critical for the mother cat’s health. The veterinarian may also suggest a necropsy on the dead kitten to determine the cause of death. This information can be essential for understanding what went wrong and for preventing similar issues in the future. Follow your veterinarian’s advice carefully, including any medications or treatments suggested.

4. Monitor The Mother Cat And Remaining Kittens

Keep a close eye on the mother cat and any remaining kittens for signs of distress, illness, or complications. Look for symptoms such as lethargy, not nursing, or disinterest in the kittens from the mother. The remaining kittens should be closely watched to ensure they are feeding well and gaining weight. Emotional stress can also affect the mother cat, which in turn can impact her ability to care for the remaining kittens. Consistent monitoring will help you detect any issues early on, enabling you to seek timely medical intervention if necessary.

5. Nutritional Support

The process of giving birth and nursing kittens is physically demanding, and even more so when there’s a loss involved. Ensure that the mother cat has access to nutrient-rich, easily digestible food to support her through lactation and recovery. Supplementing her diet with kitten formula may be advised in some cases to help meet the increased nutritional demands. Always consult your veterinarian for specific dietary recommendations tailored to your cat’s needs.

Signs Of Dead Kitten Inside Mother Cat

1. Mother Cat’s Distress

Signs of distress or restlessness in the mother cat, such as persistent crying, pacing, or continuous licking of the genital area without the arrival of a new kitten, can indicate complications. Distress behaviors are a sign that the mother cat is uncomfortable, possibly due to a deceased kitten inside her. If you notice these behaviors, it’s crucial to seek veterinary care promptly to evaluate the mother cat’s condition and provide appropriate medical intervention.

2. Foul-Smelling Discharge

A malodorous vaginal discharge is often a red flag indicating a potential infection or the presence of necrotic tissue. This symptom is particularly concerning as it can be life-threatening to both the mother and any remaining kittens. If you notice a foul-smelling discharge, immediate veterinary attention is needed to diagnose the issue and begin appropriate treatment, which could include antibiotics or even emergency surgery.

3. Decreased Or Absent Fetal Movement

During the latter stages of pregnancy, it’s usually possible to observe some degree of fetal movement within the mother cat’s abdomen. If such movement suddenly ceases, this could be a sign of fetal distress or death. Lack of movement is especially concerning if it occurs in tandem with any other signs of complications. In this situation, veterinary consultation is imperative to assess the health of the mother cat and the remaining kittens, which may involve ultrasound or other diagnostic tests.

4. Lethargy And Loss Of Appetite

If the mother cat becomes lethargic or loses her appetite near her due date, these could be signs that not all is well with the pregnancy. While some lethargy and appetite changes can be normal in late pregnancy, a marked shift should be considered a red flag. Consult your veterinarian for an evaluation if these symptoms are observed, as they could indicate the presence of a deceased kitten and may necessitate medical or surgical intervention.

5. Panting

Panting is generally not a typical behavior seen in cats and can be especially concerning when observed in a pregnant cat. Panting could be a sign that the cat is in distress, possibly due to the presence of a deceased kitten or other complications. If you notice panting along with other signs of distress or extended labor, immediate veterinary attention is needed to assess the condition of the mother and unborn kittens.

6. Behavioral Changes Or Aggression

A normally placid or affectionate cat becoming suddenly aggressive or withdrawn could be another red flag. Changes in behavior could signify that the cat is experiencing pain or stress, potentially linked to a complication such as a deceased kitten. If behavioral changes are observed, especially when combined with other signs like restlessness or panting, consult your veterinarian for an immediate evaluation.

7. Vomiting

While occasional vomiting could be unrelated to the pregnancy, frequent or projectile vomiting is highly concerning. Vomiting could indicate a systemic issue, possibly arising from complications in the pregnancy such as a deceased kitten or infection. Immediate veterinary attention is necessary in the case of vomiting to diagnose the issue accurately and to administer appropriate treatment.

Dead Kitten Stuck Inside Cat’s Womb Or Birth Canal: What You Should Do

What Can You Do To Reduce The Risk Of Stillbirth In Cats?

Reducing the risk of stillbirth in cats involves a multi-faceted approach that encompasses pre-conception care, pregnancy monitoring, and proper birth preparation. Here are some measures that can be taken:

1. Regular Veterinary Check-ups

One of the most effective ways to reduce the risk of stillbirth is to ensure that the mother cat receives regular veterinary care before and during her pregnancy. Vets can assess the overall health of the cat, perform necessary vaccinations, and check for any pre-existing conditions that could complicate the pregnancy. Regular check-ups during pregnancy can also help monitor the growth and health of the kittens through ultrasound or other diagnostic tests, providing an opportunity to identify and address any concerns early on.

2. Nutritional Management

Proper nutrition is crucial for a healthy pregnancy. A balanced diet rich in essential nutrients like protein, fatty acids, and vitamins is necessary for both the mother cat and her developing kittens. Consult your veterinarian for a dietary plan tailored specifically for your pregnant cat. Nutritional deficiencies can lead to developmental issues in the kittens, increasing the risk of stillbirth.

3. Avoid Stress And Physical Strain

A stress-free environment is essential for a pregnant cat. Physical stressors such as excessive exercise, jumping, or rough play should be avoided. Emotional stress, like sudden changes in the living situation or the presence of unfamiliar people or animals, can also have negative effects. Stress can trigger premature labor or other complications that could result in stillbirth.

4. Prenatal Screening

Advanced prenatal screening like ultrasounds can provide valuable information about the health of the kittens. These screenings can detect congenital anomalies or other conditions that may lead to stillbirth. Early detection can sometimes allow for medical intervention that could improve the kittens’ chances of survival.

4. Proper Hydration

Dehydration can cause significant stress on the mother cat’s body, potentially triggering complications. Ensure that the pregnant cat has constant access to clean, fresh water to keep her well-hydrated throughout her pregnancy.

5. Close Monitoring During Labor

When the cat goes into labor, close but non-intrusive monitoring can help identify any complications quickly. Signs of distress or prolonged labor are red flags that require immediate veterinary attention. Quick intervention can be the key to preventing stillbirths in complicated deliveries.

How To Save Dying Newborn Kitten

1. Warm The Kitten: If you find a dying newborn kitten, the first thing you should focus on is providing warmth. Newborn kittens can’t regulate their body temperature, so you can wrap the kitten in a blanket or use a heating pad set on its lowest setting or a warm water bottle. Wrap this heating source in a towel and place the kitten on top. Constant monitoring is crucial to ensure the temperature is neither too hot nor too cold, as you aim to replicate the warmth the kitten would receive from its mother.

2 Hydration: Once you’ve tackled the issue of warmth, address hydration. Kittens can become dehydrated very quickly, which could be fatal. You can use a syringe to administer a few drops of warm Pedialyte into the kitten’s mouth. Pedialyte is an electrolyte solution meant to quickly rehydrate, but this is just a temporary measure until you can get the kitten to a vet. Cow’s milk should be avoided as it can cause stomach issues in kittens.

3. Aid breathing: Breathing is another critical aspect. Sometimes there can be physical blockages in the kitten’s airways that prevent it from breathing properly. Carefully opening the kitten’s mouth and inspecting for any visible obstructions can be a lifesaving measure. If you see something, gently remove it, but take care not to harm the kitten in the process.

In some instances, kittens might need a physical stimulus to start breathing or to maintain a consistent heart rate. Gently rubbing the kitten with a soft cloth from its head to its tail can mimic the mother’s natural grooming and might stimulate the kitten’s vital systems.

4. Conduct CPR: If the kitten is not breathing, and you’ve exhausted all other options, you might need to consider emergency CPR. This is a risky and last resort step. For this, you would gently wrap your hand around the kitten’s chest just behind the front legs and apply a gentle compression, then give a small puff of air into the kitten’s mouth to stimulate breathing.

5. Feed The kitten: For kittens that are stable enough to swallow, providing some form of nutrition can be beneficial. Kitten milk replacement formula can be administered via a syringe. However, the kitten must be warm before you attempt to feed it, as a cold kitten can’t digest food properly.

6. Transport Kitten to The Vet: Lastly, the most crucial step in saving a dying newborn kitten is to get it to a veterinarian as quickly as possible. During transport, make sure to keep the kitten wrapped in a warm towel or blanket to maintain its body temperature.

Should I Remove A Dead Kitten From The Litter?

In the unfortunate circumstance of discovering a deceased kitten among a litter, prompt removal is typically recommended for the well-being of both the mother cat and her surviving offspring. Leaving a dead kitten can present health hazards, as it may become a breeding ground for bacteria and parasites that could harm the rest of the family. Additionally, while mother cats in the wild sometimes consume deceased kittens, this natural behavior can be distressing to witness and could introduce potential health risks to the mother. Therefore, you may want to weigh the emotional and health-related benefits and risks before deciding on a course of action. Be cautious when intervening, as the mother cat might react aggressively or protectively if she perceives you as a threat to her remaining kittens. Using gloves and ideally approaching when she’s temporarily away from the nest can make the process smoother.

Once you’ve identified the dead kitten, use gloves to handle the body carefully. If possible, consult a veterinarian as soon as possible to determine the cause of death. This can provide valuable information about potential genetic issues, illnesses, or other factors that could affect the remaining kittens or require special attention. Secure the deceased kitten in a sealed plastic bag for proper disposal or autopsy as advised by your vet. Always wash your hands thoroughly after handling the dead kitten, even if you are wearing gloves, to minimize the risk of transmitting any potential infections.

After removing the dead kitten, closely monitor the mother and the remaining kittens to ensure that they are healthy and coping well. Keep the nesting area clean and sanitized to further reduce any risks. If you notice any signs of illness or distress in the remaining kittens or the mother, consult your veterinarian immediately for professional advice and intervention.

Do Cats Remember Their Dead Kittens?

The subject of animal memory, grief, and emotions is still an area of ongoing research, and definitive conclusions are hard to come by. However, many experts believe that cats do have the capacity to feel a range of emotions, and this likely includes some form of mourning or awareness of a loss. Some cat owners and veterinarians report behaviors in mother cats that suggest they do remember and miss their kittens when they are no longer present. These behaviors can range from searching the nesting area, vocalizing more than usual, or appearing generally anxious or depressed. While it’s difficult to quantify these behaviors as a form of “memory” in the way humans understand it, they do suggest that a mother cat may be aware that her litter has changed and may experience some form of emotional response.

However, the length and intensity of this “memory” or awareness are not well understood. In the wild, survival pressures often require animals to move on quickly from any form of loss, and domestic cats still retain many of these natural instincts. A mother cat who loses a kitten may show signs of stress or search for the missing kitten initially, but these behaviors usually diminish over time.

Adding another layer of complexity to this topic is the fact that not all cats react the same way to the loss of a kitten. Some mother cats seem to move on quickly and focus their attention on the remaining kittens, while others appear more affected by the loss. It’s essential to remember that cats have individual personalities and their ways of processing their experiences.

Final Thoughts: My Cat Gave Birth To Dead Kittens

If your cat has given birth to a dead kitten, it’s crucial to act promptly to safeguard the health and well-being of the mother and any remaining kittens. Firstly, remove the deceased kitten carefully from the litter, taking care to minimize stress to the mother who might be protective or even aggressive. Using gloves, place the dead kitten in a sealed bag and consult a veterinarian for advice on the next steps, including whether a necropsy is needed to determine the cause of death.

After the immediate concerns are addressed, closely monitor the mother cat and any surviving kittens for signs of illness or distress. Keep the nesting area clean and sanitized, and seek veterinary care if you notice unusual behavior or symptoms. A vet can guide you through health assessments, potential treatments, and preventive measures to maximize the chances of survival for the remaining kittens.

Ultimately, dealing with the birth of a dead kitten is an emotionally difficult experience, but quick and appropriate action is vital. From carefully removing the deceased kitten to consulting a certified veterinarian for diagnosis and ongoing care, every step you take contributes to the health and well-being of the surviving feline family. While the situation is unfortunate, remember that your proactive measures can make a significant difference in the outcomes for your cat and any surviving kittens.

dog pregnant by sibling

Searching for a Mate for Your Pet?

List your pets on our website and find other owners or breeders in your area.