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Do cats cut the umbilical cord?

Your cat is nearing giving birth. You are very excited, and perhaps a bit nervous as well. Of course, you want to know everything you can about the birthing process. It’s important to be as prepared as possible, in case something goes wrong. You’ll need to know when there’s a problem, as well as what you should do about it.  This includes knowing how cats handle the umbilical cord. 

Do cats cut the umbilical cord?

In a manner of speaking, yes. Cats don’t cut the umbilical cord the same way we do, with a knife or scissors. Instead, they use their teeth. This method works incredibly well. The mother’s sharp teeth put pressure on the cord while cutting to minimize bleeding. 

Of course, things don’t always go as planned. There are instances where the mother doesn’t cut the cord. This can become a problem if the cord isn’t cut. 

Can you cut a cat’s umbilical cord?

It’s best if the mother cuts the cord herself. However, some cats refuse to cut the cord. This can be a personal preference for your cat, or she may simply be busy with the birthing process. 

When to Cut the Cord? 

You should wait at least an hour after birth to give the mother time to cut the cord. If she doesn’t do so, you can entice her by moving the afterbirth near her head. If she doesn’t show any interest in it, you’ll need to do the honors yourself. 

When cutting the cord, there are a few rules you should follow. First, never pull on the cord to force the placenta to be delivered. This can injure your mother cat. Never cut the cord before the placenta has been delivered. This can cause blood loss for your kitten, and it increases the risk of infection. 

Lastly, wait until the placenta has stopped pumping and has begun to cool. Immediately after delivery, the placenta is still supplying the kitten with blood and nutrients. Once this task has completed, it will stop pumping and start to cool. At this point, it becomes dead tissue. 

Delayed Cord Cutting

We know that human babies benefit from delayed cord cutting. The placenta provides blood and nutrients to the baby. Studies have shown that babies whose cords were cut 3 minutes after birth had higher social and fine motor skills than those whose cords were cut immediately after birth. 

Because more blood is transferred to the baby, their blood volume can increase by up to 1/3. The iron from the blood increases the babies iron storage. Iron is essential for healthy brain development. It also aids the baby’s lungs as they prepare to take in oxygen. 

Does this benefit transfer to kittens? It’s likely that the mother will allow at least a few minutes after the birth before cutting the cord. It’s impossible to say for sure what the benefits are for kittens, but it doesn’t hurt to wait a few minutes before cutting the cord. 

Some human mothers opt for a lotus birth. This means the cord isn’t cut. Instead, it’s allowed to die and fall off naturally. Does leaving the cord attached for a longer period of time also have benefits? 

Lotus births are a matter of scientific controversy. Once the placenta, or afterbirth, has been birthed, it is essentially dead tissue. It is prone to infection. If the placenta becomes infected, this will transfer to the baby. 

It’s unreasonable to expect a pet parent to attempt to keep a placenta clean and sanitary for days after birth. It may also interfere with the mother caring for the kittens. However, lotus birth does suggest that there’s no hurry to cut the cord. 

It’s fine to give your mother cat a few hours to do the job herself, before you decide to step in. Of course, there’s no rule that states you have to wait either. If the mother hasn’t cut the cord within 30 minutes, most experts say it’s ok for you to do it for her. 

Birth Sac

When a kitten is born, the first thing the mother should do is tear the birth sac. This is a thin membrane that protects the kitten in the womb. Once the kitten is born, the sac must be removed so the kitten can breathe. 

Just like the umbilical cord, the mother should perform this process. However, some cats will not do so. In this case, you’ll need to step in. 

Do not use a sharp object to cut the membrane. It’s thin, and it should tear easily. Sharp objects pose a risk of inadvertently harming the kitten. 

Once you’ve torn the sac away from the kitten’s face, wipe her face with a clean towel. Be sure to remove any sac material from their mouth and nose. Once this is complete, rub against the grain of their fur. This simulates their mother’s licking, which causes them to breathe. 

How do you cut a cat’s umbilical cord?

Cutting the cord is relatively easy, as long as you know how to do so. You may find cutting the cord scary, especially if you’ve never experienced a cord cutting before. Remember that it’s a natural part of the birth process. 

Preparing to Cut the Cord

Preparing to cut the cord is an essential first step. Unless the cord is posing a danger, like being wrapped around the kitten, you can take your time. 

The first thing you’ll need to cut the cord is sharp scissors. Scissors are much easier to handle and control than a knife. They also provide pressure while cutting, similar to a mother cat’s teeth. 

Next, you’ll need something to sterilize the area and scissors. Iodine works well for this. If you don’t have iodine, you can use alcohol. However, vets recommend iodine, because it is more gentle. Wipe the scissors down to disinfect them, and wipe the umbilical cord where you plan to cut. 

Some people recommend using thread or dental floss to tie the ends of the cord. If you plan to do this, you’ll need to have that ready as well. 

Cutting the Cord

If you want to tie the cord, you can use dental floss or string to do so. Tie it on each side of where you will cut, about an inch apart. You’ll need to leave between one  to two inches of the cord to avoid cutting it too close to the kitten’s body. 

Position the scissors and cut the cord. After the cord is cut, sterilize the cord attached to the kitten with iodine or alcohol. Again, vets recommend using iodine. 

Kitten Rejection 

Most cats will immediately begin caring for the kittens. However, if they don’t cut the umbilical cord, there’s a chance they will reject the kittens. This isn’t because they didn’t cut the cord. Instead, it’s a lack of proper maternal behavior.

Some cats refuse to cut the cord, seeming to find it gross. Others may be exhausted or busy with tending to the kittens or birthing. These cats will happily tend to their kittens. They only need you to cut the cord.

Rarely, a mother cat will reject one or all of her kittens. She may not cut the umbilical cord, or remove the birth sac. Other signs of kitten rejection include not grooming the kittens after birth, and not allowing them to nuse. 

If your mother cat isn’t caring for the kittens, you’ll need to step in and raise them yourself. Speak with your vet about choosing a kitten formula. You’ll need to feed them every few hours for the first few weeks. You’ll also need to wipe their butt with a wet rag to stimulate them to pee and poop. 

How long can a kitten stay attached to the umbilical cord?

As mentioned earlier, there’s no hard and fast rule as to how long the kitten can stay attached to the cord and placenta. 2-3 minutes is the recommendation for human babies, but there’s been no research on the benefits or risks of delayed cord cutting for kittens. 

Most sources say that you can wait up to 1 hour to give the mother the opportunity to cut the cord, and cut it yourself if she hasn’t done so by this time. Waiting a few hours isn’t likely to cause any harm, but there are no proven benefits to waiting this long. 

As with human babies, there is a risk of infection of the kitten remains attached to the placenta. Generally speaking, the longer they are attached, the higher the infection risk. Remember, the placenta becomes dead tissue once it is out of the mother’s body. Dead tissue is a prime breeding ground for bacteria. 

Cord Stump

Once the umbilical cord is cut, there will be a small piece still attached to the kitten’s body. This is known as the cord stump. Just like human babies, this stump will naturally dry and fall off over the next few weeks. 

If the mother cut the cord herself, you don’t need to do anything other than monitor the stump. Some owners worry that the mother left it too long, and want to cut it. Don’t do this. The mother cat knows what she is doing, and doesn’t need unnecessary interference.

During the first 24 hours, the umbilical stump will be wet. At day 1-5, the cord will be dry. At around 4-5 days old, the cord should dry up completely and fall off. Never pull on the cord, because this can cause a hernia. It will fall off when ready. 

 Signs of Trouble

Most kittens thrive after birth, and have no medical issues. However, there are things to look out for, in case your kitten has a medical problem related to their umbilical cord. There are two problems commonly associated with the cord. 

Umbilical Hernia

One issue is an umbilical hernia. When a kitten is in the womb, the umbilical cord passes through an opening in the stomach muscles. After birth, this ring should close. If it doesn’t, an umbilical hernia occurs. 

This causes the abdominal fat, lining, or abdominal organs to protrude outside the abdominal muscles. You’ll see it as a small bulge where the umbilical cord is, or was. The bulge will be more prominent when the kitten is standing or meowing. 

Infection of Cord Stump

If the cord stump is infected, the stump or the area around the stump will become red, swollen, or inflamed. It may also be tender to the touch. 

You may also notice a discharge from the stump. This is typically cloudy and foul smelling. Blood may also be present from the stump. 

A healthy cord stump will be dry 24 hours after birth and beyond. If you notice any moisture or discharge more than 1 day after birth, it’s a cause for concern. 

An umbilical cord infection can quickly cause sepsis, which is life threatening. If you notice any signs of infection, get the kitten ot the vet immediately.