Discovering your cat is going to be a mother can cause differing emotions, ranging from excitement to shock. Those little kittens may be adorable, but they may soon be joined by more siblings if you allow their mama to get too friendly with a tom even while she's still nursing.
It's hard to look at a cute little 6-month-old kitten and imagine her pregnant. But female cats mature quickly and can conceive as young as 4 months old, resulting in a litter of kittens not much younger than herself. A cat can get pregnant whenever she goes into heat, or her receptive, fertile cycle. She will become more vocal and affectionate, and attempt to lure any nearby tom to mate with. If she manages to find a willing tom, she'll release an egg after mating to increase her chances at getting pregnant.
A cat's pregnancy lasts about two months, after which she'll find a nice quiet spot, or use a birthing box you have kindly provided, to do what comes naturally once the time is right. Once her babies are all born, she'll settle into a routine of nursing, cleaning and caring for her kittens. You'd think that getting pregnant again would be the last thing on her mind, but some cats actually return to their heat cycles very quickly after giving birth. Depending on her natural cycle, your cat could theoretically get pregnant with a new litter anywhere from 48 hours to two weeks after giving birth to her last one. Nursing has no effect on her fertility or heat cycles.
As you would imagine, getting pregnant so soon after giving birth is not an ideal situation. Adding the stress and demands of pregnancy on top of the stress and demands of nursing a newborn litter of kittens can negatively impact your cat's health. Not only does she need to provide enough nutrients and support to ensure the proper growth of her developing fetuses, but she also needs to make enough nutritious milk for her growing kittens. That may simply be too strenuous on her body, which may not have fully recovered from the previous pregnancy and birth.
Stop the Cycle
Don't believe the myth that all cats need to have at least one litter before being spayed. This is simply not true and produces additional kittens that you need to take care of or find loving homes for. Yes, they're cute, but in just a few months, they will all be capable of getting pregnant or fathering more kittens. Stop the cycle and reduce the number of homeless cats by getting your cats fixed before the population grows even more. Consult your veterinarian to see when the right time would be, and keep your mama cat and babies indoors, away from any other possible love interests, until they are all spayed or neutered.
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