Your cat’s behavior and appetite may change if she has a dead kitten inside her.
Watch for these symptoms:
- Loss of appetite or refusing to eat. The dead fetus can cause nausea, making your cat not want to eat. Offer smelly, high-value treats to tempt her.
- Lethargy or depression. Your cat may seem uncharacteristically tired or reclusive. Gently engage your cat in play or brushing to provide comfort.
- Vomiting or diarrhea. The decaying fetus can disrupt your cat’s digestive system. Call your vet if symptoms don’t improve in 24 hours or your cat shows signs of dehydration like dry gums.
- Swollen or hard abdomen. The womb may expand to accommodate the dead kitten, causing a swollen belly. See your vet immediately if your cat’s abdomen seems painful or misshapen.
- Vaginal discharge. A foul-smelling discharge from the vagina can indicate the fetus has died. Bloody or pus-like discharge also requires emergency vet care.
- Lack of pregnancy signs. If your cat was showing signs of pregnancy that now disappear, it may indicate the kittens have died. Monitor your cat closely and call the vet with any concerns.
Causes of Pregnancy Complications Leading to Dead Kittens
If your cat was pregnant but hasn’t given birth around the expected due date, the kittens inside could have died. This is known as fetal death in utero. It’s a traumatic experience for the cat and dangerous if untreated.
There are a few reasons why kittens may die before birth:
- Infection: Bacterial infections can spread to the kittens, especially if the cat has a fever during late pregnancy. This is a medical emergency and requires immediate vet care.
- Hormonal imbalance: If the cat has abnormal hormone levels during pregnancy, it can lead to complications that kill the kittens. Your vet may be able to treat this with supplements or medication if caught early enough.
- Genetic defects: Some kittens are born with genetic abnormalities or birth defects that are incompatible with life. Unfortunately, nothing can be done in these cases.
- Malnutrition or environmental stress: Lack of proper nutrition, extreme stress, or exposure to toxins during pregnancy may contribute to fetal death. Providing a healthy diet, limiting stress, and avoiding hazards can help prevent this.
When to Seek Emergency Veterinary Care
If your cat shows any of the following symptoms, seek emergency vet care immediately as she may have a dead fetus inside her:
1. Difficulty Breathing
If your cat is struggling to breathe, wheezing or gasping for air, this is an emergency. A dead fetus can release toxins into her system that lead to sepsis, a life-threatening infection. Get her to the vet right away for diagnosis and treatment.
2. Lack of Appetite
If your cat hasn’t eaten in over 12 hours, especially if she’s normally eager for food, she could be gravely ill. Lethargy and loss of appetite are common signs that a dead fetus has caused a severe infection in your cat’s uterus. Rush her to the vet for emergency care before her condition deteriorates further.
3. Vaginal Discharge
Excessive amounts of bloody vaginal discharge is another warning sign requiring urgent vet attention. The dead tissue from a fetus can poison your cat’s system and lead to a uterine infection, marked by foul-smelling discharge. Your vet will need to perform emergency surgery to remove the dead fetus and any infected tissue before the infection becomes fatal.
A high fever over 103 F signals that your cat likely has an infection from a dead fetus that requires immediate treatment. Along with a fever, watch for lethargy, loss of appetite, and abnormal discharge or bleeding. Don’t give your cat any medication before taking her to the vet, as it can mask symptoms and delay proper diagnosis and treatment.
- listlessness or lethargy
- vomiting or diarrhea
- straining to urinate or defecate
If your cat shows any symptoms that something is amiss, it’s always best to err on the side of caution. When in doubt, call your vet right away for advice or get your kitty examined as soon as possible.
Surgical Removal of Deceased Kittens: What to Expect
If surgery is required to remove deceased kittens from your cat, here’s what you can expect.
Before the procedure, your vet will do blood work and imaging tests like x-rays or ultrasounds to check your cat’s health and determine the location and number of kittens. An IV catheter will be placed for fluids and medication. Your cat will be given pain medication and sedatives to keep her comfortable during the process.
The surgery, known as a c-section or cesarean section, will be performed under general anesthesia so your cat is unconscious and pain-free. An incision will be made into the uterus to remove the kittens. The vet will then close the incision with dissolvable stitches. The entire surgery typically takes 30-60 minutes depending on complications.
After surgery, your cat will be hospitalized for a couple of days to recover. She will receive IV fluids, pain medication, and antibiotics to prevent infection. The vet will monitor her closely to ensure there are no post-op issues before sending her home.
Caring for Your Cat After a Difficult Pregnancy
Your cat has been through a traumatic experience losing her kittens, so she will need extra love and care. It’s important to keep a close eye on her over the next few weeks to monitor her health and provide emotional support.
Give your cat time to rest. Allow your cat to limit activity and rest as much as she needs. Losing a litter requires a lot of physical and emotional energy. Provide a quiet, warm place away from noise and chaos where she can relax undisturbed.
Check her incision site daily. Gently inspect the area where the C-section was performed for signs of infection like swelling, redness, or discharge. Call your vet right away if you notice any issues. They can advise you on proper cleaning and care.
Feed your cat a healthy diet. A good diet will help your cat recover and keep her strength up. Offer multiple small meals of high-quality, high-protein wet and dry food. You can also give supplements like fish oil to promote healing.
Take your cat for a follow-up vet visit. Have your vet examine your cat within a week of losing the kittens. They will check that she is healing properly and does not show signs of infection or other complications. This is also a chance to ask any questions you may have about her recovery.
With time and care, your cat should start to feel like herself again. Continue to shower her with love and affection even after she has recovered. The loss of a litter can be deeply painful, so your ongoing comfort and bond will help her move on from this difficult time.