How Is the Number of Kittens in a Litter Determined?

Average-size litters range from two to five kittens.
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If your cat is heavy with kittens you might want to know exactly what you're in for. Determining the number of kittens a pregnant cat will have isn't as simple as looking at her swollen belly. You'll need the doctor's help.


Cats don't have to endure nine months of pregnancy and perhaps that's the tradeoff for typically having multiple babies each time. Your cat can be expected to be pregnant for around nine weeks and at about the halfway point her vet should be able to feel and count the kittens during a routine examination. He'll gently press on your kitty's tummy, noting the number of kitten embryos as he does.

X-Rays and Ultrasounds

Taking a look inside is an effective way of telling how large of a litter a cat will have. Humans have ultrasounds, so you might think that kind of a test would be useful with cats. It turns out, though, that this isn't the case. Ultrasounds can be used to confirm that your cat is pregnant and might even be used to estimate the size of the litter, but for a more accurate kitten head count, X-rays are better. Kittens' tiny bones are formed by about the 54th day of the pregnancy, so an X-ray will show a clear picture of your cat's impending brood. Just over seven weeks is a little late in the game, but the X-rays won't harm the kittens and at least you'll know how many teeny tiny booties to knit.

Typical Litter Sizes

If you don't want to know exactly how many kittens your cat is carrying, it's OK to wait until the big day. You can always guesstimate based on the average number of kittens cats usually have. A standard litter size can be anywhere from one kitten to five, but as with most things cat-related, there are always exceptions to the rule. Some cats have up to 10 kittens and litter sizes have been reported to be as high as 19.

Feeding All Those Mouths

No matter how many kittens your cat is carrying, a healthy diet for Mommy Cat is vital for her and her babies. Talk to your vet to make sure her food provides adequate nutrition for her and her little family. He may advise that you increase the amount of food you feed your cat as well as the number of times a day you feed her. As the kittens grow they'll take up more and more space in her midsection, making it difficult to eat very much at one sitting. But she'll still need the nutrition and more food than if she were just eating for one, so she'll welcome more frequent meals, especially as her due date draws near.

Always check with your veterinarian before changing your pet’s diet, medication, or physical activity routines. This information is not a substitute for a vet’s opinion.

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