A cesarean section is major surgery to remove kittens from the uterus of the mother cat. Most cats recover quickly from this procedure; however, if your cat was in labor for several hours before surgery was performed, her recovery will be slower and she will need extra attention and help with her litter.

What should be done for the queen after she gives birth?

The immediate post-operative period and care of the mother

The mother has been given an anesthetic that is eliminated from her body rather quickly. Most cats are raising their heads about the time they arrive at home. Complete recovery from anesthetic may take 2-6 hours, depending on her physical condition at the time of surgery and her age.

During the recovery period, she must be restrained in such a way that she does not fall and hurt herself or roll over and crush the kittens. The kittens should not be left alone with her until she is completely awake and coordinated.

The mother should be interested in eating within a few hours after she is completely awake. Allow her to eat and drink all that she wants, being careful that she does not overload her stomach; this can result in vomiting. Her food intake at this time should be about 1.5 times her food intake before she became pregnant. By the time of the third or fourth week of nursing, her food intake may be 2 to 2.5 times normal. She should be fed a high-quality kitten food during the period of nursing in order to supplement her calcium intake.

The mother's temperature may rise 1-2oF (0.5o - 1oC) above normal for the first 1-3 days, then it should return to the normal range. The normal range is 100o-102oF (37.8o-38.9oC). A CAT SHOULD NEVER BE GIVEN ACETAMINOPHEN. If the mother's temperature goes above 104oF (40oC), she and her litter should be examined by a veterinarian for the presence of serious complications.

Postpartum management of the mother

A bloody vaginal discharge is normal for up to a week or so following delivery of the kittens. It may be quite heavy for the first 1-3 days, then should begin to diminish. If it continues for longer than one week, the queen should be checked for the presence of infection. Also, if the discharge changes color or develops an odor, she should be examined by a veterinarian.

If she was spayed at the time of the surgery, there should be no vaginal discharge.

The stitches may or may not need to be removed, depending on the type of suture material used. As a general rule, if the stitches are visible, they will have to be removed. Removal should occur at 10-14 days after surgery.

What should be done for the kittens?

The newborn kittens

The kittens should be ready to nurse as soon as you arrive at home. Although the mother will not be awake enough to handle the nursing alone, it is still possible for you to assist the process by making her lie still so the kittens can nurse.

Kittens should sleep or be nursing 90% of the time. If they are crying or whining, something is likely to be wrong. Uterine infections, inadequate milk, and poor-quality or infected milk are the most likely causes. The entire litter can die within 24 hours if one of these occurs. If you are not comfortable with the way the litter is doing, the kittens and the mother should be examined by a veterinarian.

If the mother does not have any milk at first, you may supplement the kittens for the first day or two. There are several good commercial feline milk replacers available. Nursing bottles are available, made in the appropriate size for tiny mouths. The following formula may be used for a day or two if the other products are not available:

  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 tablespoon corn oil +
  • 1 pinch of salt +
  • 3 egg yolks (no whites).
  • Blend together until uniform. It should be fed at the rate of l oz (30 cc or 30 ml) per 1/4 lb (1/8 kg) of kitten weight PER 24 HOURS.
    • That amount should be divided into 3-5 feedings.
    • The average newborn kitten weighs 1/4 lb (1/8 kg) at birth.

Another alternative is canned goat's milk which is available in most grocery stores. It should be fed at the above amounts.

Although we prefer that kittens begin nursing immediately, a healthy newborn can survive nicely for up to 12 hours without nursing. However, if the newborn is weak, dehydrated, or chilled, nourishment must be given very soon.

Environmental temperature control

A newborn kitten is not able to regulate its body temperature very well. As long as the kittens stay near their mother, the room temperature is not too critical. However, if they are not with their mother, the room temperature should be between 85o and 90oF (29.4o and 32.2oC). If the litter is kept outside, chilling or overheating is much more likely to occur. The newborns should be kept inside the house, or the garage if possible.

What should be done for the older kitten?

Weaning the kittens

Weaning should begin when the kittens are about 3.5 weeks old. The first step is to place a 50:50 mixture of water and cow's milk in a flat saucer. The kittens' noses should be dipped in this mixture 2-3 times per day until they begin to lap. Once lapping begins, a kitten-type canned food should be crumbled in the water:milk mixture. As they begin to eat the solid food, the water:milk mixture should be reduced until they are eating only the solid food. Once they are eating solid food (about 5-6 weeks of age), they may be placed in their new home.

Early health care for the kittens

Kittens can be treated for worms when they are three and six weeks of age. It is important that accurate weights are obtained for the kittens so that the proper dose of medication can be used.

First vaccinations typically begin at 6-8 weeks of age. If your kittens were not able to nurse during the first three days of life, they will not have received proper immunity from their mother. In this situation, vaccinations should begin about two weeks of age.

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