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There’s always something special about watching a cat grow kittens in her belly and bring new creatures into the world. If you believe your cat is pregnant, it’s best to take them to the vet to ensure their health and wellness throughout the process. Your vet will perform a cat pregnancy test to be positive that your cat is pregnant and provide you with instructions on how to care for your pet over the next nine weeks.
When caring for a pregnant cat, you may wonder how many kittens to expect in the coming weeks. The average number of kittens in a litter is three to five. However, some cats can have litters of ten kittens. Many factors impact how large a litter of kittens will be. This article will discuss everything you need to know about a litter of kittens.
- What Impacts Litter Size?
- What Is The Largest Litter Of Kittens?
- How Many Litters Can Cats Have Per Year?
- Caring For A Litter Of Kittens
- Managing Stray & Feral Cat Populations
- Kitten Litter: Frequently Asked Questions
- Final Notes
What Impacts Litter Size?
As we’ve mentioned, the average number of kittens in a litter for a particular cat will depend on a few factors. Whether the cat lives indoors or outdoors may also impact their fertility and litter size. For example, outdoor cats cycle twice per year, coming into heat seasonally. Meanwhile, indoor cats aren’t exposed to the same seasons, so it’s hard to predict when a cat will go into heat. Cats can have a small litter or a large litter, depending on:
- Mother’s age and health: Young kittens typically have smaller litters than older cats because they’re young. Additionally, the mother’s health can affect litter size. Cats that are healthy and well-fed are more likely to have larger litters. Meanwhile, cats that are underfed can have stillborns or fewer healthy kittens at birth.
- Breed: Some breeds are more prone to larger litters than others.
- Health problems: Certain health problems can affect litter size and health. For example, Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV) and Panleukopenia (FPV) can cause stillborns and reduce the number of healthy cats at birth.
- Breeding frequency: A litter of kittens can be born of more than one father. Ultimately, cats can have a litter with different fathers, so the number of times they mate can affect the size of the litter since the more they mate, the more chances they have of becoming pregnant.
Of course, the only true way to know how many kittens will be in your cat’s litter is to take them to the vet. Veterinarians can find out how many kittens a cat is carrying in a few different ways, including ultrasounds and x-rays. A veterinarian can also help you learn how to properly care for your pregnant cat to ensure smooth and healthy delivery, providing you with instructions for what to do during and after the birth.
Depending on the number of kittens, birth can be difficult for cats, so pet parents must prepare. Believe it or not, the fewer kittens, the more difficult the births. Meanwhile, cats that deliver large litters without having enough milk will need their kittens supplemented with feedings by bottles or feeding tubes. Therefore, it’s always best to get as much information as possible from your vet to be prepared for when they’re ready to deliver.
What Is The Largest Litter Of Kittens?
The largest litter of kittens to ever be recorded was born in August of 1970. A Burmese/Siamese cat in the UK gave birth to 19 kittens. Unfortunately, four were stillborn.1 Of course, this number is far above the average, but large kitten litters are possible, so it’s important to talk to a vet as soon as you think your cat is pregnant to ensure they have a safe delivery.
How Many Litters Can Cats Have Per Year?
While the average amount of kittens in a litter will vary by litter, and you can’t expect your cat to have the same number of kittens in a litter every time they’re pregnant, cats can get pregnant multiple times per year. Female cats can become pregnant at just five months old and have two to three litters every year.2 Meanwhile, the average cat has around 1-8 kittens per year, so a cat can give birth to up to 24 kittens or more every twelve months. That’s two kittens per month. Healthy cats can deliver a few hundred kittens throughout their lives.2
Caring For A Litter Of Kittens
No matter how many kittens your cat has, they’re going to need some help caring for them. Here are a few tips to help you care for a litter of kittens:
- Give kittens and mom a clean, dry, and warm space like a nesting box.3
- Monitor the health of the mother and her kittens over the next few weeks. Kittens that the mother neglects may become ill.
- Begin weaning around three to four weeks. The process of weaning should be done slowly with regular feeding times. 4
- Use a low litter box. Kittens will learn how to use the litter box from their mother, but they should have their own lower-sided box for ease of use.
- Get them vaccinated: Kittens should be vaccinated six to eight weeks after birth.4
- Neuter them: If you don’t plan on breeding the cats, have them neutered when they’re four months old to prevent a new litter.
Managing Stray & Feral Cat Populations
As we discussed earlier, a cat can have hundreds of kittens throughout their lives. There simply aren’t enough homes for all these cats, leaving many of them out on the streets. Getting a cat spayed or neutered can help manage the population and prevent cats from ending up in shelters or homeless. If your cat hasn’t been neutered or sprayed, keep them indoors at all times to prevent pregnancy, and take them to the vet as soon as possible for sterilization just in case they ever get out.
Adopting cats is another way to manage the stray and feral cat population. According to pet adoption statistics, 50%-75% of the pet population in shelters consists of cats. While shelters do all they can for these animals, all cats deserve a proper home with a pet parent who loves them and will provide for them. Adopting a pet is just one way to manage the stray population and ensure the health and wellness of cats. Shelters also take care of vaccinations and neutering and spaying for you, so there’s no reason not to find your next cat at the shelter.
Kitten Litter: Frequently Asked Questions
What is a litter of kittens called?
A litter of cats is also known as a kindle. Kindle is used to describe a general group of kittens. Meanwhile, kittens that belong to the same mother are called a litter.
Why is it called a cat litter?
A group of kittens born to the same mother is called a litter because it references the number of kittens, although litter is also used to describe the offspring of many different animals, including pigs. Litter literally refers to “littering” as a description of how cats give birth. “Litter” comes from the french word “litiere,” which translates to “bed.” Since cats give birth to all their babies in one spot or bed at one time, they’re called a litter.
Can a litter of kittens have more than one father?
Yes! A litter of kittens can have more than one father. If you’ve ever wondered why some kittens look different from their brothers and sisters, it might be because they have different fathers. A queen, or female cat, can be impregnated by more than one male cat during the same ovulation cycle.
Many factors affect how many kittens your cat will deliver. However, the only accurate way to find out is by visiting your vet, who can perform an x-ray to detect the number of kittens you can expect. While it’s always best to have a vet available for your cat’s delivery, talking to a vet can help you prepare for the process and take care of your pregnant cat before, during, and after giving birth. Of course, be prepared for anything. Some kittens might not make it, while others can be rejected by the mother and get sick shortly thereafter.
Since your cat requires special care during this period, you should have a vet available to answer all of your questions and address your concerns. Since there’s so much to do over the next few weeks and months, you need someone who can help you take care of your cat and her litter. That’s where Dutch comes in. Dutch’s telemedicine for pets is available 24/7, allowing you access to qualified vets to help you take care of your pregnant cat. Our vets can even help after the delivery to ensure the kittens are healthy and happy. With Dutch at your side, you can keep your cat healthy for a healthy delivery and help them prepare to become a new mom. Our vets are standing by to answer your questions and help you through the process. Talk to a vet online today.
“Largest Litter of Domestic Cats.” Guinness World Records, https://www.guinnessworldrecords.com/world-records/largest-litter-domestic-cat/.
Jodi. “The Sad Truth about Kitten Season.” Roice-Hurst Humane Society, 18 June 2019, https://rhhumanesociety.org/2018/03/04/the-sad-truth-about-kitten-season/#:~:text=Female%20cats%20can%20become%20pregnant%20at%20five%20months.&text=An%20average%20cat%20has%201,2%2D3%20litters%20per%20year.&text=During%20her%20reproductive%20life%20a,have%20more%20than%20100%20kittens.
“Caring for Young Kittens and Their Moms.” Animal Humane Society, https://www.animalhumanesociety.org/health/caring-young-kittens-and-their-moms.
Care, International Cat. International Cat Care, 6 Mar. 2019, https://icatcare.org/advice/bringing-up-a-litter-of-kittens-health-considerations/.