When it comes to reproduction, cats are quite prolific breeders. One female kitty has the ability to produce an average of about 12 kittens each year if not spayed. To avoid a houseful of kitties, spay or neuter your furry companions to prevent unwanted litters.
Puberty and Kittens
Once a kitten reaches puberty, typically between 5 months and 9 months of age, he or she will be able to reproduce. Some kitties mature as young as 3 1/2 months of age, usually after they reach 4.4 pounds in weight, according to the Santa Barbara Humane Society. Outdoor kitties or those around mature, intact felines tend to mature more quickly than those that aren't. A sexually mature kitten can have kittens herself, as early as her first heat cycle. Pregnancy in kitties lasts approximately 65 days, after which that nursing mom can immediately go into heat, even while nursing, and become pregnant again. As for male kitties, they can impregnate countless numbers of females in heat.
Cats in Heat
Female kitties go into heat during the warmer months of the year, typically between January and August, according to the VCA Animal Hospitals. In warmer climates, your furry companion may go into heat year-round. Each heat or estrus cycle lasts about a week and repeats constantly every two to three weeks, according to the Catster website. If allowed to mate freely, an un-spayed female kitty typically becomes pregnant up to three times per year, according to the LA Animal Shelter. Each pregnancy produces several kitties at a time, with each litter size ranging between two and eight kittens, the Animal Shelter Assistance Program asserts. This means that just one female kitty can produce between six and 24 kittens in a single year.
A Lifetime of Babies
Unlike people, our furry companions are capable of giving birth to kittens throughout their senior years, according to the Coronado Cats in Phoenix Arizona. While their reproductive ability might decrease, they don't go through menopause like a human female does. This means kitties can give birth to kittens during their entire life. Theoretically, your feline companion can give birth to three litters of kittens per year, with an average of four kittens per litter, in an average lifetime of 15 years for an indoor kitty. This could result in up to 180 kittens in her lifetime. Assuming that her litters remain intact, and breed themselves, hundreds of thousands of kittens could result, contributing to the pet overpopulation problem. Even though all of these kittens won't likely survive, even a fraction of this number is way too many.
What to Do
The only way to prevent your female kitty from giving birth to babies or your male from impregnating countless females is to have your little one spayed or neutered. You might think that keeping your furry friend indoors, away from other cats, might prevent pregnancy or stop a tomcat from roaming. Unfortunately, amorous felines can be escape artists -- and all it takes is a few minutes outdoors for a fertile kitty to become pregnant. You'll also have to deal with the mating behaviors of an intact feline, including urine marking, yowling and aggression problems. Spaying or neutering your little one prior to puberty prevents any of these issues as well as some health problems later in life. Plus, you won't have to worry about finding homes for unwanted litters.
- American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals: The Facts About Spay/Neuter
- The Feral Cat Times: Dispel the Myth: 420,000 Cats?!
- LA Animal Shelter: How Many Litters of Kittens Can a Female Cat Have in a Lifetime if Not Spayed?
- People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals: Spay and Neuter
- Feral Cat Coalition: A Report on Trap/Alter/Release Programs
- Animal Shelter Assistance Program: Why Spay or Neuter Your Cat
- Santa Barbara Humane Society: Vet's Corner
- VCA Animal Hospitals: Estrus Cycles in Cats
- Catster: Cats in Heat
- PetPlace.com: The Heat Cycle of Cats
- Martin Poole/Digital Vision/Getty Images