Cats are extremely prolific breeders, and one female can produce about twelve kittens every year if she isn’t spayed. If you want to avoid a house that’s full of kittens that you might have to put up for adoption, you should consider spaying your female cat. It has plenty of advantages, but as any operation, it also comes with risks.
In this post, we’ll look at some interesting facts about cat reproduction, when cats go in heat, what factors can influence the litter size, and a bit of information about cat birth, too.
What Influences Litter Size?
The age and health of the cat and her genetic history all can influence the size of the litter. A first-time queen or one that’s too young doesn’t usually produce a litter of more than three kittens.
The breed can also have an impact on the number of kittens in a litter. It appears that Siamese cats can have more sizable litters, whereas Persians have smaller litters. The number of kittens that a cat can give birth to is also influenced by her lifestyle and living conditions. For example, outdoor cats are seasonal breeders, which means that they go into heat at specific times of the year.
On the other hand, indoor cats can cycle year-round because they are exposed to artificial lighting. Outdoor cats stop going into heat when the days get shorter, and they are less influenced by the light of day.
There are also some types of infections that can affect the litter size, but also the health of the kittens. Cats that have FIP or FPV are known to have decreased fertility or give birth to stillborn kittens. Some can even suffer abortions early in their pregnancy. If the kittens survive, they might have mobility issues or cerebellar hypoplasia.
Needless to say, if the cat is malnourished during her pregnancy, this can lead to her giving birth to stillborn kittens.
Can You Tell How Many Kittens a Cat Is Going To Give Birth To?
It goes without saying that the best way of finding out how many kittens are going to be in your cat’s litter is by taking her to the vet. Not only is this a good idea for your purpose, but also to keep track of your cat’s health status as she is pregnant.
Ultrasounds can be used to confirm the pregnancy and litter size, but the vet can also use a stethoscope to listen to the kittens’ hearts. However, this is obviously possible later on in the pregnancy.
Palpating the uterus can sometimes reveal the number of embryos, but this is not a safe method of determining the exact litter size.
If you’re wondering what the largest litter ever recorded was, it happened in the United Kingdom back in 1970, with a mix of Burmese and Siamese giving birth to as many as 19 kittens, four of which were stillborn.
When Cats Reach Puberty
Kittens reach puberty between the ages of 5 months and 9 months. This is when both male and female cats can start reproducing, and this is the reason why most cats are spayed at around 5 to 6 months of age.
There are exceptions to the rule, of course, since some kittens can reach puberty when they are as young as 3 and half months, for example. Outdoor kittens tend to mature faster than indoor ones, and any cat can get pregnant and have kittens on her first cycle.
Pregnancy lasts for around 65 days, but what is interesting is that cats can go into heat soon after giving birth. They could be pregnant while nursing if they are allowed to breed.
How Many Kittens Can a Cat Give Birth to in Her Lifetime?
Cats don’t go through menopause like women do, which basically means that they can get pregnant until the end of their lives. In theory, your feline friend can have up to three pregnancies per year, and with an average of four kittens in every litter, that would mean at least 12 kittens every year.
If your feline companion lives indoors, she has a really good chance of living for as many as 15 years. This means that if she remains unspayed and there is a male anywhere around, she can give birth to almost 200 kittens throughout her life.
But we all should consider the fact that these kittens will grow, reach puberty, go into heat, and get pregnant themselves. That’s how a cat that isn’t spayed in due time can eventually lead to thousands of kittens being born.
Can You Prevent Your Cat From Getting Pregnant?
As you might expect, the safest way of making sure that your feline friend doesn’t become pregnant is to spay her. Cats that are pregnant can be spayed, too, but it’s not recommended, and there can be complications during the operation that have to be taken into account, too. If your cat has already become pregnant, just wait until she gives birth, and after she finishes nursing the kittens, you can get her spayed.
As for all the other methods, the truth is that cats that are in heat, whether male or female, can be escape artists. So, if your cat lives both indoors and outdoors, there’s no way you can prevent a pregnancy. If you have an indoor cat, the lack of a male will automatically prevent pregnancy, but if you have a pair, it’s almost impossible. At least get one of them spayed or neutered if you don’t want to ‘fix’ both of them.
Using medication to disrupt the heat cycle can be done, too, but have a talk with your veterinarian before buying any. Not all of them are perfectly dosed, and as you can imagine, they aren’t made for all types of cats, so the amount of hormones in them can be too much.
Many cats that are given such medications often end up with ovarian cysts. These drugs should be used only as a last resort and only before spaying your cat.