There’s hardly a cuter sight than watching a herd of adorable newborn kittens. Many cat owners want to have that happiness of experiencing their cat have kittens. That’s a different thing that these kittens are left astray many times. This is what has led to cat shelters overflowing and vets dishing out guidelines to spay cats. But that’s a topic for another day.
Of course, you can experience the happiness of your cat giving birth to a litter and then you can find good homes for the kittens. This is perhaps a more responsible decision than abortion as the latter seems harsh. But you would want to know the number of kittens they will have. Many want to arrange for their adoption prior to birth.
Today we will discuss how many kittens can your cat have? First things first, cats are one of the most prolific breeders. Overflow of kittens can be a nightmare to handle. Cats can give birth to 1 to 12 kittens in a single litter depending upon a number of factors. This includes environmental conditions, breed, cat’s health, etc.
Over the years, the world has come across various rare instances. In 1970, a Burmese cat gave birth to 19 kittens. That’s not to say all cats can give birth to that many kittens. Most cats give birth to 3 to 5 kittens in a single go or litter.
What is a litter?
When a female cat is about to give birth to kittens, it’s called a litter. Cats give birth to multiple kittens in a single litter. These kittens can be either of one father or from multiple fathers. This is because if a female mates multiple male cats under a week, she may give birth to kittens from different fathers.
When do cats start giving birth?
Similar to humans and other mammals, cats need to attain puberty to become sexually capable of mating and giving birth. Now the exact age of a cat’s puberty depends upon both environmental and genetic factors. Your cat’s hormonal shift is similar to what you would have experienced in your teenage.
The cuteness perhaps takes a backseat and the cat becomes more aggressive than before. She will start being desperate for attention and affection. She may even become stubborn and cry over little things. It can be anywhere between 4 to 10 months. Your cat may start marking her territory by scratching and peeing at specific places. Raging hormones are the reason behind all this.
Once your cat has attained her puberty, she can go in heat typically in the warmer months of the year from January to August. Depending upon the climate and weather in her surroundings, some cats can come in heat at any time of the year. Cats are efficient producers and can attain estrus cycles frequently. Your cat may undergo her heat period every two to three weeks.
Each estrus or heat cycle lasts about a week and ten days in some cases. This means in favorable climes, cats remain in heat and can mate almost all times in a year. Of course, that’s for unspayed cats. That’s why most vets recommend spaying cats for birth control as well as peace of mind.
How many kittens can a cat have in a year?
Once the cat becomes pregnant, she will have a 2-month gestation period. She starts attaining the estrus cycle from a very young age and every estrus cycle lasts about a week. If your cat mates during this period, there are high chances of her becoming pregnant. After giving birth, the cat would once again start receiving her estrus cycles after a week.
In this way, your cat can give birth to 5 litters a year. Assuming the cat gives birth to an average of 5 kittens a litter, she can give birth to 25 kittens in a single year! If your cat goes outside your home during her heat period, you may observe noticeable signs of pregnancy.
She would have darkened and swollen nipples that would contain milk for her expected kittens. Then she would also have a notably swollen abdomen and increased appetite. These signs are easy to identify physically. Most cats give birth themselves. She would start finding a warm and comfortable spot as she nears her nesting period.
A secluded spot like a laundry basket, under the bed, table or corners of closets are preferred spots for cats to give birth. If you observe your cat show signs of pregnancy, take her to the vet for a customary checkup. It’s important to avoid any complications. Some cats also experience pseudopregnancy where although they have symptoms, they aren’t actually pregnant. X Rays and ultrasounds are important to know that.
How many kittens can a cat have in a litter?
While sizes of kittens vary, cats give birth to three to five kittens in a litter. First-time mothers would typically give birth to fewer kittens which are perhaps smaller in size. A lot of external factors define how many kittens your cat is going to have. You can determine the number based on your surroundings as we will discuss later.
Smaller sized breeds would naturally have fewer kittens in their litter. Large-sized breeds like Persian and Siamese produce larger litters. Your cat’s health condition determines how healthy her litter will be. Health issues can cause the cat to have smaller litters. Well vaccinated and healthy cats products larger, fitter litters.
How to determine the number of kittens in a litter?
If your cat has become too heavy, you might be curious to know how many kittens she will produce. Of course, you can’t determine that on your own. It requires a visit to the vet to determine it. Here are some of the methods your vet can use:
A cat’s gestation period lasts around nine weeks. This is one of the reasons for their prolific breeding. Take her for a checkup after a month. The vet can push against her tummy and feel how many embryos have developed. You might get a fair idea if not the exact number.
X-Ray and Ultrasounds
Having an X-Ray with Ultrasound can accurately tell the number of kittens your cat has in her womb. You would only be able to know this when the nesting period is close as that’s when the embryos are visibly formed. An X-Ray can pick up the tiny embryos and give you a fair number on how many kittens your cat will give birth to.
Using previous numbers
Cats typically give birth to the around same number of kittens in subsequent litters. That is implied only when they are as healthy as before. Vets have also noticed some kind of progression in subsequent litters. Your cat’s kitten count should increase slowly but surely.
How many kittens can cats have in a lifetime?
Menopause in cats is a myth. There’s nothing like menopause in cats and they can undergo their estrus cycle throughout their lifetime. Only neutering or spaying can prevent them from going into heat. They may experience a decrease in the reproductive cycle with age.
Domestic cats live for 12-15 years on an average. If you assume a cat gives three litters in a year and every litter contains 4 kittens, it will deliver a whopping 180 kittens in her lifetime. But in practice, we need to cut off the first year as they take time to reach puberty. You may also reduce the last two years when the cat becomes too weak to mate and give birth.
Of course, no pet owner will let his cat mat frequently. But wild or stray cats may mate numerous times in their lifetime and can give birth to up to 180 kittens. Even if a fraction of these kittens survive, they will be too much to handle. That’s what has led to kitten overpopulation lately.
Factors that influence litter size
Many factors influence the litter size including parents’ genetic history, mother’s age, and health. Smaller sized cats give birth to fewer numbers of, three at max. The breed of the mother cat is also decisive as to how many kittens your cat will give birth to.
Siamese cat breeds can give birth to more kittens. On the other hand, Persian cats often give birth to fewer kittens. Manx cats progressively have smaller litters. As per research, they give birth to one fourth fewer kittens on every litter.
Some cats can only give birth seasonally. Queens attain estrus cycles during certain seasons. They only come in heat and attain the estrus cycle in the spring and summer seasons. But domestic cats may attain estrus cycles the whole season because of the exposure to artificial lights the whole year.
Cats are reflex ovulators. When they breed, they induce ovulation. Essentially they release eggs from their ovaries or induce ovulators. This means if your cat mates with multiple male cats, she would produce more litters. Some feline infections can also adversely affect the size and health of kittens.
Feline infectious peritonitis has an adverse impact on the cat’s fertility. The kittens won’t thrive in such a situation. Feline panleukopenia virus can result in a lower number of kittens produced. While this may be a good thing as you consider overpopulation, you would understand the kittens would be unhealthy.
Determining your Cat’s Litter size
While determining your cat’s litter size, it’s important to know that feline panleukopenia virus (FPV), or feline distemper can result in reduced kittens in the litter. You may have to abort her kittens as the virus can severely affect the brain development of the kittens. Giving birth to such kittens can cause cerebellar hypoplasia in case the queen gets infected during pregnancy.
The vet should employ techniques like palpation. In some cases, the doctors palpate the pregnant cat’s uterus and touch her abdomen or amniotic sacs to get a rough idea of how many kittens your cat will give birth to. Your vet may also use ultrasound or X-Ray techniques for an accurate count. The only difficulty is that you can only use these measures when your cat is about to give birth.
If you want to avoid your cat giving birth, you need to get your cat spayed or neutered. Her disease status, nutritional status, age as well as stress status determines the health of the kittens.
How to cope with so many adorable kittens?
While you can get emotional when you see so many adorable kittens given birth by your kittens, you would have to think practically how you can think care of them. You need people to adopt them and it’s very challenging to find them. It’s better to get your cat neutered or spayed to prevent your cats from becoming pregnant or mating.