At What Age Can Cats Have Kittens?
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Cats are reputed for their ability to produce quickly and at a young age. When it comes to having a cat, knowing your cat’s sexual cycle is key in understanding your animal better, and taking the necessary measures to avoid unwanted litters.
Keep reading here at AnimalWised for more about cat mating, cat sterilization and at what age can cats have kittens. In addition, we’ll be discussing your cat’s pregnancy timeline, as well as how many kittens cats can have.
At what age can kittens get pregnant?
In order to know at what age can cats have kittens, we need to analyze a cat’s heat period. Cats are seasonal polyestrous, which means that, in the months with the highest incidence of sunlight, they can experience heat almost permanently. Male cats do not have a set heat period, instead, once they reach sexual maturity, they are able to fertilize any female cat which they can detect is in heat.
Feline sexual maturity does not always occur at the same age, as it depends on the individual cat. The main factor which influences cat heat is sunlight. The average age of heats in cats, however, is 6 months for female cats (which can oscillate) or 9 months in male cats.
Cats can only begin to have kittens once they’ve experienced their first heat.
For more, read everything to know about a cat in heat.
Heat in cats
As we’ve already mentioned, your cat’s first heat will mark the time with which it can begin to have kittens. Heat in cats symptoms and signs include:
- Sharp and persistent meowing
- Behavior changes
- Pelvic elevation
- Tail lifting to expose the vulva
- Escape attempts
- Fights with other cats.
For more details, we suggest taking a look at our article where we discuss how do cats act when they are in heat?
When do cats mate?
As we’ve already mentioned, cats can begin to mate from their first heat. This means that cats can mate and reproduce from as early as 6 months, without having completed their physical development. Due to the fact that cats can have kittens from their first heat, it is important to establish precautions from when they are young.
Additionally, these such measure should be prolonged, covering the time up to which a cat is fertile. Therefore, it is not only important to avoid unwanted pregnancies, but to choose the best contraceptive method for your cat, adapted to its individual health status. Furthermore, male cats can mate from the moment they mature sexually, even if they still look like kittens.
For more about cat mating, we recommend reading our article about male cat anatomy and a male cat barbed penis.
Cat pregnancy timeline
From the moment a cat is in heat, cat gestation lasts approximately 2 months. Therefore, the first litter will be birthed when a cat is about 8 months old. Although cat fertility decreases with age, it is not uncommon for an older cat of 10 years to give birth.
Cat pregnancy signs
A cat gestation period can go unnoticed until it is very advanced, since, during the first weeks, there are no major visible modifications or signs of a pregnant cat. The first changes or signs a cat is pregnant include an increased size of abdomen and breasts. Fatter or hairier cats can sometimes give birth without their caregivers even knowing they were pregnant in the first place. When a cat is pregnant, you may also note changes in appetite.
If you believe that your cat is pregnant, we recommend consulting your veterinarian to establish an appropriate follow-up and care. When a cat is about to give birth, you will be able to feel the kittens moving when touching your cat’s abdomen. Shortly before giving birth, a cat in labor will appear restless, hide or stop eating.
For more about cat labor, we recommend reading our article where we discuss how long does it take for a cat to give birth.
How many kittens can a cat have?
So, how often can a cat have kittens? Cats are seasonal polyestrics, which implies that cats experience heat during months with more sunlight. With adequate sunlight, a cat can give birth to roughly to or three litters a years, 4-5 kittens per litter.
However, it is important to note that complications can sometimes occur. For more, read about the 4 most common cat birth difficulties.
Do cats stay in heat after mating?
Depending on the breed, size and lifestyle that has led, a cat can be fertile until 10-12 years. Some cats can even fall pregnant up to 17 years. Therefore, we can say that a cat can give birth until its reproductive cycle ends completely. Again, we must be aware of the effects that continued pregnancies can produce in cats. Continuous pregnancy in cats can lead to certain health problems, as well as reduce a cat’s life expectancy.
Read here about false pregnancy in cats.
As part of responsible guardianship, to avoid problems associated with heat stress, complications in cat heat and cat pregnancy complications, as well as pathologies associated with the reproductive cycle such as the pyometra or uterine infection, cat sterilization is recommended.
Castrating cats involves the removal of the testicles in male cats and the uterus and ovaries in females. It’s important to note that giving pills to cats to avoid heat has been linked to the appearance of breast tumors and is therefore not recommended in the long term. Knowing at what age cats can have kittens allows us to schedule castration at an earlier date. This intervention can be done before the first heat, at 5-6 months.
For more about cat neutering, we recommend reading:
If you want to read similar articles to At What Age Can Cats Have Kittens?, we recommend you visit our Gestation category.
- Morris, Desmond. (1994). Observe a su gato. Barcelona. Plaza & Janés Editores.