HEALTH & CARE

How Many Kittens Can a Cat Have: What to Expect When Your Queen is Expecting

cat with newborn kitten
Stella Noble
Written by Stella Noble

So your cat is showing all the usual signs of pregnancy—she is calmer and more affectionate towards you, her belly is rounding up, and her nipples are pinking up. It is best to take her to the veterinarian, so s/he can for certain determine if your cat is expecting. When you’ve confirmed the exciting news, you are probably wondering if there is any way to find out how many kittens can a cat have.

We know how excited and wonderful it is for owners to find out that their cat is going to give birth to a litter of cute fur balls. We want to help you prepare for this amazing experience. Getting the information on how many kittens to expect on time will give you a chance to find suitable homes for all kittens if you don’t have the means to keep them.

In this article, you will learn what to expect from cat pregnancy and how to care for a pregnant cat. We will also tell you what factors can have an impact on the number of kittens your cat is going to birth and how to find out the exact number. We will also tell you the signs that your cat is going into labor and how to be prepared for it.

When Do Cats Reach Sexual Maturity and What Does It Entail?

cat going into heat

Typically, a cat will reach puberty when she is 5 to 10 months old, but factors such as breed and a warmer climate can make a kitten sexually mature when she is only 3 ½ or 4 months old. Being sexually mature means your kitten can go into heat and have kittens of her own.

Female cats usually go into heat during the warmer months of the year from January to August, but if you live in a place with warmer climate or if your cat is an indoors-only cat, she can be in heat all year around.

See Also: How to Get a Cat Out of Heat

Every heat cycle lasts for approximately one week, and a cat can go into heat repeatedly every two or three weeks until she mates and becomes pregnant. The gestation period typically lasts from 57 to 69 days, with an average of 65 days. These numbers can vary, and your cat will have her kittens when she is ready to, but you can use the expected due date to make sure that everything is well prepared for your cat’s delivery.

One more interesting fact is that cats can go into heat right after giving birth, while they are still nursing, and once again become pregnant. So you may be wondering how many kittens can a cat have in a year if she isn’t spayed. With cats on average having three litters per year, you will soon have a full house of kittens and nowhere to put them.

Now that you know how much cats can be fertile and invested in creating offspring, you may be wondering how many kittens can a cat have in a litter.

What Can Influence the Size of the Litter?

many kittens in a box

There are several factors that can have an impact on the number of kittens your cat is going to have. First-time moms usually have smaller litters ranging from 1-3 kittens, but the cat’s health, age, and breed can also play a part in the number of kittens that will be born.

Factor #1: Breeding

Cats are reflex or induced ovulators, which means that the more often they breed, the more eggs they produce. According to veterinarians, how much a cat is bred can have an impact on the size of her litter. Also, don’t be surprised if the kittens born in the same litter are nothing alike. A queen can carry kittens that are sired by different fathers.

Factor #2: Age

old cat dreaming

Although cats don’t experience menopause and they can have kittens their whole life, their age plays a part in the number of the kittens you can expect. For example, a first-time-mom that is still young will usually have 1-3 kittens per litter. This number will increase once the cat is between two and eight years old. Some litters born to cats within this age group can contain ten kittens.

Factor #3: Health

If a mother cat is unhealthy, that can have an impact on the kittens, and she can abort all or some of them. Also, a viral infection caused by the feline panleukopenia virus or feline infectious peritonitis can diminish the size of a litter or result in stillborn kittens, so make sure your cat is vaccinated against them.

See Also: Cat Vaccination Schedule

Factor #4: Nutrition

fat cat walking

If a pregnant cat is malnourished or starving, that can have an impact on the size of the litter. It can also result in stillborn kittens, or kittens that are very weak and need the care and attention of people in order to survive. It is important for a mother cat to eat high-calorie kitten food while she is pregnant in order to maintain hers and the health of her babies.

See Also: How to Care For Newborn Kittens

Factor #5: Genetic History

The genetic code of both parents also plays a role in determining the size of the litter. Some purebred cats like the Burmese always have on average five kittens per litter. The Abyssinian on average has 3.5 kittens per litter. Breeds with larger heads like the Persian have smaller litters. Siamese cats are known for having a large number of kittens per litter.

How to Determine How Many Kittens Your Cat Will Have

vet examing cat

Finding out how many kittens your cat will have will help you make plans for their future, and it will also give you a better understanding of your cat’s due date. It is also beneficial because smaller litters can contain larger kittens and cause difficulties during birth. If you take your cat to the veterinarian, she will do one of these three procedures that will tell you the exact number of the kittens.

Method #1: Palpation

This is the least expensive but also the least accurate way of finding out how many kittens your cat will have. The veterinarian will do this exam after your cat is 35 days pregnant and s/he will use their hands to palpate your cat’s stomach gently.

While doing this, s/he will be able to count the number of kittens. But this method is not so accurate since there is always the chance that the veterinarian will miss a kitten or two.

Method #2: Ultrasound

ultrasound for a cat

This technique can be used to determine pregnancy and also to give a general count of the number of kittens your cat is going to have. When it comes to cats, ultrasound isn’t as effective as with human pregnancies, but it is nice to see the kittens’ little hearts beating. This method can be used once your cat is three weeks pregnant.

Method #3: X-Ray

The most effective way to find out how many kittens can a cat have at once is to put her through an X-ray examination. This procedure can be done when a cat is more than 45 days pregnant, and up to the 54th day of the pregnancy when the kittens will develop their skeletal system.

This is a very accurate method since you will see all of the kittens’ tiny bodies. The amount of radiation that is used in this procedure is minimal, so you don’t have to worry about the safety of the kittens and the mama cat. Some people think that finding out the exact number of kittens only 10-15 days before the delivery is cutting it way too close, but you will still have plenty of time to prepare.

How to Care For a Pregnant Cat

pregnant cat sleeping

Now that you know how many kittens you should be expecting and preparing for, you’ll want to make sure that the gestation period proceeds as it should with little to no complications. Here’s what you can do to keep the expecting cat comfortable during her pregnancy:

Step #1: Consult the Vet

Firstly, it is important that your veterinarian is involved in your cat’s pregnancy. S/he can make sure that the queen and the kittens are healthy. If you aren’t sure when your cat’s due date is, your veterinarian can also help with that. Hormone tests can tell you when your cat is going to give birth and give you enough time to prepare everything.

If you notice any strange behavior, contact your veterinarian and take your cat to be examined if necessary. If your cat is anxious, stops eating, or has difficulties getting comfortable, take her to the vet immediately. These can be signs that something is wrong. Your vet will answer any question you may have regarding your cat’s pregnancy.

Step #2: Monitor Your Cat’s Diet

healthy food for cat

When you find out that your cat is expecting, you should change her diet to one that will help sustain her and her babies. Most veterinaries advise that pregnant cats eat kitten food since it contains more calories.

See Also: How Many Calories Should a Cat Eat

Also, as your cat’s pregnancy moves along, the kittens will start to take more and more space in her midsection, so she will have trouble eating larger meals. Divide your cat’s meals into a few smaller ones and let her have uninterrupted access to food.

During the whole pregnancy, your cat should have a healthy appetite. If at any point she refuses to eat, you should take her to the veterinarian to be examined. It is rare, but some cats can experience morning sickness at the beginning of the pregnancy, but if that is the case, the cat should start eating normally after just one day.

Step #3: Keep Her Exercised

Although your cat is pregnant, she should still be active. It is important that she stays fit during the pregnancy. However, it is advisable that during this period you keep your cat inside. Don’t let her go outdoors if she is close to giving birth. Keep her exercised by playing with her indoors.

See Also: How to Play With Your Cat

Step #4: Make a Nesting Box

cat in nesting box

As the pregnancy progresses, your cat will spend greater amounts of time sleeping or resting. Make sure that she is comfortable, and make arrangements so that she has several resting places. Around two weeks before the delivery date, you should prepare a nesting box for your cat.

When you are making the nesting box, you can use a cardboard box or a laundry basket and fill it with newspapers, dog training pads, diapers, or old towels. Remember that it is going to get messy inside the box so use only things that you are willing to throw away. Make sure that if you are using a cardboard box, it doesn’t have any sharp edges and that the entrance is elevated so the kittens wouldn’t fall out.

Make sure to place it in a spot that’s easy to get to and away from the heat and the drafts. Don’t allow children or other pets inside. Place your cat’s food and water bowls near the box, and don’t forget her litter tray.

Don’t try to force your cat into the nesting box. When she is ready, she will make herself comfortable. Still, there are chances that your cat will choose some other location for the birth, so make sure that you disable access to wardrobes and carpeted corners of the house.

Step #5: Be Prepared for the Actual Delivery

If your cat stops eating and starts walking restlessly around the house, the big day has come. If you are lucky enough, your cat will give you the chance to witness her delivery.

99% of cat deliveries go without any complication, and in many cases, the owners didn’t even know that their cat was giving birth. For ages, cats have given birth to healthy kittens without human help. When giving birth, cats like to have some privacy. Chances are your cat will do everything alone and just present you with the new kittens when all is said and done.

Nonetheless, you should be prepared for emergencies. Have the vet’s number ready for if there is any need for medical attention. And remember, you shouldn’t be involved in your cat’s delivery if everything is fine. Your cat will know what to do, and your only role is to be her silent support.

Once a cat gets into labor, the kittens are born fast. Sometimes a cat can take breaks to rest during delivery, and those breaks can sometimes last for hours. But if you see that your cat is trying to deliver a kitten for an hour and nothing is happening, you should take her to the vet.

The sign that everything is alright is when all the kittens are quiet and nursing, and the mother cat is tending to them all. The mother cat may go outside the nesting box to eat and drink water and visit the litter tray.

Wrap Up

cat with newborn kittens

Experiencing a cat giving birth to kittens can be a magical thing, but now that you know how fertile cats can be, it is your duty as an owner to spay your cat. Even if your cat is kept indoors only, there are no guarantees that she won’t manage to escape while in heat and end up pregnant.

An unspayed female cat that lives for 15 years will have around 180 kittens during her lifetime. When you consider the fact that there are so many cats that don’t have homes, refusing to desex your cat will only contribute to the problem. The right thing to do is to take care of your cat while she is pregnant, find suitable homes for all of her kittens or keep them if you can, and then spay your cat.

Many owners are advised to wait until their cat is six months old to get her spayed, but a cat can become pregnant when she’s only four months old. Talk to your veterinarian to see when is the right time to spay your female cat. If you really want and have time to take care of another kitten, you can always adopt one or two.

See Also: How to Adopt a Cat

Have you ever witnessed your cat giving birth? How many kittens did she have? Please share the stories about your cat’s delivery in the comment section below. It can be hard to tell which of the newborn kittens are male and which are female until they are a bit older. Check out this article if you’re eager to find out.

About the author
Stella Noble
Stella Noble

Stella Noble lives in Warren, Michigan with her family and three cats. She is a Certified Cat Trainer and a member of the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants.

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