Kitten season is here! If your un-spayed female cat looks like it’s expecting, given her enlarged tummy, then you’re probably wondering: How many kittens do cats have? And you know what? We’ve got that covered here.
Besides knowing the possible number of kittens settling in that big tummy of your pregnant kitty to the various factors that influence your cat’s litter size, you’ll also find here the different things you can do to help your preggo cat when she's ready to give birth and more.
Kitten Season: What Is It?
Once the temperature rises and daytime takes longer than usual, pet parents can expect unspayed cats that reach reproductive maturity (whether female or male cats) to start acting out and roam the streets to find a mate. Again, this is completely normal.
This usually happens from March to October. But if you live in tropical countries where summer seems to never end, you can expect kitten season to last all year round. The same can be said for domestic cats that live indoors because of their exposure to artificial lights.
How Many Kittens Do Cats Have?
Is your cat showing all the telltale signs of being pregnant? Then you’re probably itching to find out how many kittens your cat is having. After all, every pet parent would want to be prepared when the day of delivery comes.
If we were to give you a reasonable guesstimate, your pregnant furry friend will probably have four kittens since this is the average litter size for unspayed female cats. However, if it’s your cat’s first litter, then your cat will most likely have a smaller litter – think around two to three kittens.
Remember, though, that this doesn’t apply to all cats. Litter size can vary from having just one or two kittens to having ten or even more depending on different factors, which we will discuss in detail below.
5 Factors That Can Determine A Cat’s Litter Size
As mentioned, pregnant cats can have smaller litters while other cats can produce larger litters? Why is that?
Five (5) things can influence or affect the number of baby kittens your female cat will have. Here they are:
Younger cats, on average, have larger litters than older cats. As a female cat matures, the number of kittens per litter that they produce reduces, and health risks increase.
The size of a mother cat can also influence her litter size. Smaller cats tend to produce smaller litters while larger cats tend to produce more kittens.
Since the size of a female cat is often linked to your cat’s genetics and breed, you can expect larger cat breeds like Maine Coons, Ragamuffins, and Ragdoll cats to have more kittens.
Certain breeds like the medium-sized Siamese cats can also give birth to many kittens (around five kittens or more). Persian cats and similar breeds tend to produce smaller litters or fewer kittens – think one to three kittens. Figuring out the litter of kittens for mixed breeds, though, can be tricky.
Number Of Breeding Encounters
Yes, the number of sexual or mating encounters also counts. After all, cats are induced ovulators. This means that eggs are released every time a cat mates.
So if an unspayed female cat gets a chance to party all night outdoors and hang out with a lot of tomcats in your neighborhood, your cat can produce more kittens. This brings us to the question – can kittens have more than one father? The short answer is YES.
A litter of kittens can have different fathers. This explains why in one litter you’ll find kittens with different coat colors and patterns. Some may even have long coats while others would have shorter coats.
Health Condition & Emotional Status
Besides your cat’s age, size, breed, and number of mating encounters, the cat’s health and emotional status can also affect your cat’s pregnancy, as well as the number of kittens she will have.
Healthier, well-nourished pregnant cats are likely to produce large litters with healthy kittens. On the one hand, cats that are stressed, malnourished, and those with underlying health conditions will have fewer kittens. The chance of giving birth to healthy, live-born kittens is reduced, and having stillborn kittens increases.
Female cats with feline distemper – a viral infection also known as panleukopenia are prone to having miscarriages or fetal resorption. The same applies to cats with feline infectious peritonitis.
If your cat was infected early in her pregnancy, surviving kittens are more likely to have cognitive problems and disabilities. Getting infected before pregnancy can also decrease your cat’s ability to get pregnant.
Importance Of Knowing The Size Of Your Cat’s Litter
Although most cats don’t require assistance when giving birth, there are instances when a cat encounters problems during the birthing process. In this case, knowing the number of kittens your cat is having becomes handy.
Let’s say your cat only has one or two kittens. The kitten can be too big to pass through the birth canal. If this happens, your cat may require veterinary care.
There are also instances wherein not all the kittens are safely delivered by the mother cat and one can get stuck inside the womb. This type of situation requires your vet’s assistance immediately since this can be life threatening for your cat.
Lastly, if your cat’s nipples can’t accommodate all the newborn kittens, orphan type care may be needed for the others. As such, it’s better to know the number of babies your cat is having beforehand.
How To Know How Many Kittens My Pregnant Cat Has
Now that you know how many baby felines most cats usually have and the different factors that can determine the number of kittens your cat will have, you’re probably curious as to how you can exactly know how many kittens your pregnant cat will have.
While finding out the accurate number of kittens residing in your queen's bulging tummy can be tricky, there are three things that you can do to try to check.
That’s right. The number of kittens per litter can be determined based on your cat’s pregnancy history. The first litter doesn’t count since cats usually have fewer the first time.
If your cat had four the second time, then your cat will probably have the same number of kittens for her third and subsequent litters.
Ever tried running your hand over your cat’s tummy to see how many kittens she’s having? Well, this works too, and it’s called abdominal palpation. However, it’s best to let your vet do this.
For your vet to check how many kittens your cat is carrying, he or she will gently yet forcefully press your cat’s stomach to see how many are there. But just like the first method, this will only give the vet and you a rough idea of the number of kitties inside your cat’s womb.
Among the three, this procedure will most likely give you the most accurate number. According to PetMD, x-rays are recommended for cats that are 55 days pregnant and not before that. But as always, errors are bound to happen. One or two kittens might be tucked away somewhere the X-ray can’t reach.
Now some of you are probably thinking why we did not include the use of an ultrasound. Unfortunately, an ultrasound can only confirm pregnancy. Finding out the number of baby furballs your cat is carrying is something that an x-ray can only do.
More Fun Facts About Cats & Their Litter Size
Besides the litter of kittens having different fathers, there are a few more interesting facts worth knowing. This includes the following:
How Many Litters Can A Cat Have In Her Entire Life?
Interestingly, a cat can experience a heat cycle as early as 4 months. Unlike humans who undergo menopause, a cat knows no such thing and can still go looking for hot tomcats even through old age.
Since cats can live up to 15 years and have (at most) three litters a year, a healthy cat can have 180 kittens – that is if your cat only has 4 kittens per litter.
Given the number, you’ll be doing yourself, your cat, and your community a big favor by getting your cat spayed or neutered. Besides reducing the number of homeless cats for adoption, you can also save money, and lengthen your cat’s life.
What Is The Largest Litter Of Kittens Recorded?
The Guinness World of Records confirms that the largest litter consists of 19 kittens. Born on August 7, 1970 in Kingham, Oxfordshire UK, this amazingly large litter was a product of a Burmese/Siamese cat. The litter included 4 stillborn cats. Interestingly, the remaining surviving kittens were 14 male cats and one female.
What To Do To Help Your Cat During Pregnancy
When your cat starts to pant, pace around, meow and whimper, and her body temperature starts to drop slightly, then you know it’s time. So what can you do for your cat during this time? See below:
- Get her birthing box ready
- Prepare yourself to assist your cat in case she needs help
- Keep your vet’s number handy
To sum it up, cats, on average, can have 4 kittens. But depending on their age, health condition, breed, size, and mating activity, a cat can have less or more (around 1-10 kittens).
Now, we all know that these tiny creatures are irresistibly cute. However, the fact remains that we can’t have too many.
If you’re a responsible and loving cat owner who’s happy with having just one or two cats, consider spaying or neutering your cat as early as possible. Otherwise, you can expect your cat to have at least three litters every year from the time your cat reaches reproductive maturity.
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