Last week, my pregnant cat Misty exhibited some strange behaviors that had me convinced she was going into labor. Her appetite decreased, she became very vocal, and she started nesting by shredding paper and trying to hide in closets.
The most telling sign was when I noticed a wet spot where she had been lying. I immediately assumed her water had broken and the kittens would arrive soon.
However, hours passed with no kittens being born. I grew concerned and consulted my veterinarian to find out what was going on.
What Does It Mean When a Cat’s Water Breaks?
In the late stages of pregnancy, the embryonic sac that surrounds each kitten fills with fluid that cushions them inside the mother’s womb. This is called the amniotic sac.
When a cat is close to giving birth, these sacs will rupture to release the amniotic fluid. This is referred to as the cat’s “water breaking.”
When a cat’s water breaks, it signals that labor should begin within 24 hours. Uterine contractions will start, the cervix will begin dilating, and the kittens will move into position, ready to be born, so when a cat’s water breaks, kittens are imminent.
Why Didn’t My Cat Give Birth After Her Water Broke?
There are a few reasons why a cat may not give birth even after exhibiting signs of imminent labor:
Cats can experience false labor in the days leading up to delivery. Hormonal changes cause mild uterine contractions that can rupture the amniotic sacs, releasing fluid that appears as the cat’s water breaks.
However, these are just practice contractions. Until the cat experiences stronger, more painful contractions of active labor, kittens will not be born.
Premature Rupture of the Amniotic Sac
Sometimes the amniotic sac can rupture too early before the kitten is ready to be born. This is called premature rupture of the membranes (PROM).
While it signals that birth is approaching, there is still time needed for the cervix to dilate and the uterus to begin contractions. Labor may not start for several hours or even days.
Dystocia – Labor Complications
In some cases, a cat whose water has broken may be experiencing difficulty giving birth, known as dystocia. Common causes include uterine inertia, malpositioned kittens, uterine infections, or maternal exhaustion.
These complications mean kittens cannot pass through the birth canal, delaying delivery.
Cats can exhibit pregnancy-like behaviors even when not truly pregnant. Hormonal changes trigger symptoms like weight gain, nipple enlargement, nesting, and contractions.
In pseudopregnancy, a cat may appear to go into labor with water breaking, but no kittens will be born.
Consulting a Vet After 24 Hours With No Kittens
My veterinarian advised me that once a cat’s water breaks, I should expect to see kittens born within 24 hours. If no kittens have arrived after this time, it likely indicates a problem requiring medical intervention.
Some key reasons to seek veterinary help include:
- Uterine infection – Bacteria can enter the uterus after the water breaks, putting kittens and mother at risk of illness. Antibiotics and fluids may be administered.
- Dystocia – Blocked labor may be resolved through calcium injections, oxytocin, or c-section.
- Dehydration – Fluids and electrolytes can be given to support the cat through prolonged labor.
- Fading kittens – Kittens remaining too long in the birth canal can experience oxygen deprivation, putting them at risk.
- Uterine inertia – Lack of strong contractions may require medical treatment to stimulate labor.
- Abnormal fetal position – Malpositioned kittens may need reorientation or emergency c-section.
My vet performed an exam to determine why Misty did not progress into active labor after her water broke. Initial tests helped reveal the cause for the delay.
Diagnosing the Cause of Delayed Labor in My Cat
To find out why Misty was not giving birth after her water broke, my vet first took her medical history and performed a physical exam. Here were the main diagnostic steps performed:
Palpation of the Abdomen
Gently feeling the belly revealed how many kittens were present and their position in the uterus. Based on size and position, my vet could rule out any obstruction preventing delivery.
An ultrasound scan of the uterus let my vet visualize the kittens and amniotic fluid levels. It confirmed a healthy pregnancy and showed contractions were not yet occurring.
Tests like a complete blood count (CBC) are checked for signs of infection. Chemistry panels assessed organ function for any metabolic issues.
A sterile speculum exam of the vagina let my vet see inside the cervix to check dilation and look for any discharge signaling infection.
Doppler ultrasound and fetoscopes detected fetal heart rates and movements. My vet could ensure the kittens were not in distress.
X-rays provided images of the uterus and kittens to evaluate size, position, and bone development, indicating maturity.
These diagnostics revealed Misty was experiencing premature rupture of the amniotic sacs. When her water broke, she was not quite ready for labor. My vet provided recommendations for managing her care while awaiting active labor.
Caring For My Cat While Waiting for Labor After Her Water Broke
Based on the test results, my veterinarian advised me on how to best care for Misty while waiting for her to go into labor. Here is what I needed to do at home:
- Limit stress – I set Misty up in a quiet room away from other pets and noise. Stress hormones could delay labor.
- Ensure hydration – She needed ample fresh water to prevent dehydration and electrolyte imbalance.
- Monitor food intake – Eating small, frequent meals provided energy for the impending labor.
- Watch her behavior – I tracked when she began nesting, vocalizing, or seeking isolation. These signaled to get closer to active labor.
- Check temperature – A lower-than-normal temperature can indicate labor will occur within 24 hours.
- Palpate kittens – Gently feeling their position helped me determine if they were moving into a birthing position.
- Disinfect vulva – Using sterile saline solution, keep the area clean to prevent uterine infection.
- Avoid interventions – My vet said not to rupture additional sacs or stimulate labor, as this could cause complications.
I followed these steps closely to ensure Misty’s health until she finally went into active labor that evening and delivered 4 healthy kittens. While the delay had me worried, monitoring her closely and avoiding interventions resulted in a good outcome.
FAQs About Cat Water Breaking But No Kittens
For cat owners who experience their pregnant cat’s water breaking without subsequent labor, there are some common questions that arise:
1. How long can a cat go without giving birth after the water breaks?
Labor should begin within 24 hours after the water breaks. Allow 48 hours maximum before seeking veterinary assistance.
2. Is it safe for the kittens if the cat doesn’t give birth right after her water breaks?
As long as no signs of infection or distress are seen, kittens can survive 48-72 hours in the womb after the water breaks.
3. What color should the discharge be when a cat’s water breaks?
The amniotic fluid should be clear to pale yellow. Any green, brown, or bloody discharge could indicate placental separation or infection needing prompt veterinary care.
4. Can a cat’s water break and she not actually be pregnant?
Yes, a condition called pseudopregnancy can produce labor-like symptoms, including water breaking, but no kittens will be born because no pregnancy existed.
5. How can I stimulate labor if my cat’s water broke, but labor hasn’t started?
Do not attempt to stimulate labor manually. If labor is delayed, oxytocin injections from the vet may be prescribed to induce labor safely.
The Takeaway: Have a Plan Ready Just in Case
While most cats will go into labor shortly after their water breaks, it is possible for delivery to be delayed for up to 48 hours. Have an emergency birthing kit prepared, observe for any concerning symptoms, and do not hesitate to contact your veterinarian for advice and assistance. With proper monitoring, delayed labor can result in healthy kittens with a little extra patience as you await their arrival.