False Pregnancy in Cats

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False Pregnancy in Cats

Do you have an adult unspayed female cat that you’re concerned may be experiencing a false pregnancy? While somewhat common in dogs, false pregnancies (also called pseudopregnancy or pseudocyesis) are rarely seen in cats. Read more about the causes, signs, and treatment options in this article.

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What causes cats to develop signs of false pregnancy?

False pregnancy happens when a mature female cat, also called a queen, goes into a heat cycle and ovulates (produces an egg), but does not become pregnant. The queen will produce more of the pregnancy hormone called progesterone, which makes her body think she’s pregnant.

Signs of False Pregnancy in Cats

The signs of a false pregnancy are similar to a queen that is actually pregnant. This often makes it quite difficult to diagnose a false pregnancy. Symptoms you might notice include:

  • Enlarged mammary glands and nipples
  • Increased appetite and/or weight gain
  • Behavioral changes such as finding new places to sleep/nest, and changes in attitude such as becoming less affectionate and less active

Read more about cats and pregnancy here!

Diagnosing False Pregnancy in Cats

As mentioned above, it is difficult to diagnose a false pregnancy in queens. However, your vet can determine if your cat is pregnant using ultrasound from day 28 of pregnancy or by x-ray after day 45 of pregnancy.

Treatment Options for False Pregnancy in Cats

Treatment for queens experiencing false pregnancy is usually not needed. The signs will typically resolve without any treatment and the queen will come into heat or be ready to mate again 6-8 weeks after the last heat cycle. For breeding queens that experience a false pregnancy, sterilization or spaying is strongly recommended.

Increased circulation of progesterone in unspayed queens can lead to a serious life-threatening condition called pyometra. Pyometra is an infection of the uterus. The uterus fills with bacteria and fluid which can lead to death if left untreated.

Treatment of pyometra involves hospitalization for supportive care including antibiotics, pain management, intravenous (IV) fluid therapy and sterilization surgery to remove the infected uterus.

Preventing False Pregnancy in Cats

Ideally, schedule your female cat to be sterilized between 4-5 months of age, or as soon as possible once you adopt her. Learn more about spaying your female cat, reasons why and what to expect by clicking here!

When to Contact a Veterinarian

If you have an unspayed female cat over 4 months of age and you’ve noticed any of the signs listed in this article or you have questions about your female cat, schedule a consult with one of our vets here at FirstVet for advice.

Read more:

6 Complications to Look Out For After Your Cat Gives Birth

How to Feed and Care for Newborn Kittens

Need to speak with a veterinarian regarding your cat’s pregnancy or another condition?

Click here to schedule a video consult to speak to one of our vets. You can also download the FirstVet app from the Apple App Store and Google Play Stores.

Published: 1/25/2021
Last updated: 9/12/2021
Dr. Denise Michanowicz, Veterinarian

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