Pregnant and Nursing Road Accident Victims
Although cats can breed nearly all year round, kitten season tends to run from April to late autumn. During this time, a cat tragically hit by a car could potentially either be pregnant, or be a nursing queen with kittens.
Any cat that has been hit by a car should always be sent to a veterinarian, even deceased cats so as vets can check for a microchip and notify the owners. Please follow our usual guide on what to do if you either hit or find a cat in the road, and follow our roadside first aid safety guide to ensure you pick up and transport an injured cat correctly so as not to cause further injury. This tool will help you swiftly locate your nearest veterinary surgery.
If you suspect a cat could potentially be pregnant, they will need to see a veterinarian immediately - regardless of them being alive or not. Should the mother cat sadly be deceased, there is potentially a small window of opportunity for the vets to save the kittens inside her. This was the case of these 6 kittens when their mother was hit and killed by a car carrying them inside her.
If the cat is alive but appears uninjured, she will still need to see a veterinarian immediately. One very brave and special cat, who now resides in the UK and leads a very happy and healthy life, was once left roadside for a week as she lay helpless with her unborn babies inside her. Although Grace was alive, her kittens had sadly died inside her causing her body to fill with deadly toxins. You can read her sad but brave story on our previous blog here.
Although every effort should be taken to give any cat the very best chance should the worst sadly happen to them, with a pregnant or nursing queen there's potentially more than 1 life that depends on you doing the right thing. Helping or retrieving any deceased animal from the road is a distressing experience, and is hard to face for many. However, you could not only help someone get the closure they need if the cat is owned, but you are also now the only hope for some helpless defenceless kittens.
How to tell if the cat is pregnant
If cats are merely overweight, they will
likely be heavier all over, including her neck
and legs, and not just in her abdomen. Look
for the characteristic "burro" shape, which
female cats tend to assume later in pregnancy.
From the side, pregnant cats frequently look
somewhat swaybacked, with a slightly round bulging abdomen.
In the advanced stages of pregnancy, you might also be able to feel the kittens kicking by gently touching her stomach. Do not press with force as inexperienced persons may press down on the tummy too hard and pose a risk of miscarriage. Also check her nipples as around 15-18 days into the pregnancy, a queen's nipples will “pink up,” or become red and enlarged, and she may express a milky fluid.
Enlarged nipples are also signs of being in heat, so bear in mind that growing nipples are not exclusively indicative of pregnancy or a nursing cat.
How to tell if the cat is a nursing queen
Check her tummy and for enlarged nipples. If the mammary glands appear more prominent, then she could be a nursing queen. A vet will be able to confirm any suspicions that she could have left behind a litter by checking to see whether she is producing milk. The vet will also be able to scan for a microchip, which could prove vital in locating an owner which may also lead to location of any kittens.
Should it be confirmed the cat is a nursing queen, there will be kittens around the area the mother was hit/found. If a microchip is found, the owners can be notified so they can seek help for the orphaned kittens. Should no microchip be found, there is a high chance the cat is feral or stray, and you are the only hope the kittens have now as they wait for mum to return, which she sadly won't.
How to find the kittens
Go back to the area where the nursing queen was found and have a look around the area for any signs of the kittens. Check under bushes and shrubs, and listen out for their cries. A mothers instinct is to hide her kittens to keep them from other cats and predators of all kinds. Even domesticated cats do this because it is such a deep instinct that they cannot shake. With this in mind, check quiet hidden locations that are potentially difficult to reach, such as under things, behind things, and in dark secluded places.
Knock on surrounding houses to ask if they know anything about the cat/kittens. You may wish to put up posters locally, and pop leaflets through surrounding doors, as well as posting on social media to let people know there may be a litter of feral orphans somewhere, reminding them to check their gardens and any outbuildings.
Once the kittens have been found, contact your local rescue who will be experienced in hand rearing orphaned kittens and understand how to give them the best chance. You can find your local rescue centre here.
Should you be unsuccessful in finding the kittens, speak to your local rescue about the situation. They may be able to help survey the area or leave out traps in potential areas.