Why Has My Cat Only Had One Kitten?

Josie F. Turner
By Josie F. Turner, Journalist specialized in Animal Welfare. Updated: February 18, 2020
Why Has My Cat Only Had One Kitten?

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It can be worrying if the cat you have bred gives birth to a single one kitten litter. After all, cats are known as usually producing multiple kittens at a time. Does this concern you?

In this AnimalWised article we will go over the different reasons as to why has your cat only had one kitten. The truth is that this is more common than you might think. Read on and discover the reasons for this occurrence, as well as some factors that may prevent this from happening.

You may also be interested in: Why do Cats Move Their Kittens?
  1. Can a cat only have one kitten?
  2. Take your cat and kittens to the veterinarian
  3. Alternatives to breeding

Can a cat only have one kitten?

As is the case with other mammals, there are many factors that can influence pregnancy: age, status of physical health, quantity of sperm, sperm motility, and the success rate of mating are some examples. However, the amount of kittens in a litter is also down to genetics. Outcomes of fertilization cannot be easily estimated. While it is rare, it is possible for a cat to give birth to only one kitten.

Another possible reason is that one or more kittens were also fertilized, but did not develop properly. If a fetus does not develop within a certain amount of time, the mother cat will absorb them into their body. If they do not come to term, but do develop further, they will likely be stillborn. Mother cats will often eat their stillborn young. If you did not witness the birth of the litter, it is possible the mother cat ate the stillborn kitten, making it appear there was only one cat in the litter.

Whatever the reason for having a single kitten, do not worry, it doesn't in itself imply there is a health risk. Although not as common as a multi-kitten litter it is possible. You should be aware that pregnancy is a very delicate state for any animal. It is very important that you set a minimum age before getting your female cat to procreate. Moreover, you must do your best to ensure her well-being, putting her at ease and always feeding her well.

Take your cat and kittens to the veterinarian

Obviously, there is nobody better to advise you on this than your veterinarian. They can dismiss any symptoms of illness in your cat, run any tests if necessary, and give you some tips on feline pregnancy. However, if there are no symptoms and mother and kitten appear to be healthy, it may no be necessary. Regardless, if your cat has just given birth, paying attention to the health and well-being of mother and kittens should be closely monitored.

While a cat may have other kittens which have been absorbed, it is possible the other kittens are otherwise healthy but unable to be born. Complications during a cat's labor may mean the kittens have become stuck or there are other birth difficulties. This is a serious situation which threatens the life of both the unborn kittens and the mother cat. It will be considered a veterinary medical emergency and they should be taken to a specialist immediately.

You will be able to tell if there are any birth difficulties due to the behavior and symptomatology of the mother cat. The time between the births of each kitten is usually between 15 minutes and 1 hour. If the cat has not given birth to another kitten after an hour and begins to show symptoms of distress, you will need to take them to a veterinarian.

It is also possible for the mother to experience something called interrupted labor in cats. This is when the cat stops straining and starts to lick, suckle and care for any kittens which have been born. While it won't happen in the majority of cases, it is frequent enough to be considered relatively common. The interrupted labor may last up to 36 hours, although after this time it is unlikely another kitten will be born. If the mother cat had one kitten and stopped, but is fine after 24 hours or more, it is likely only one kitten is in the litter.

Why Has My Cat Only Had One Kitten? - Take your cat and kittens to the veterinarian

Alternatives to breeding

You probably know that there are shelters for cats in your city or country. If you are passionate about having kittens or are looking to expand the family, why not go to one of these places?

You should know that breeding a cat is neither easy nor advisable. While your cat may suffer from discomfort during pregnancy, there are millions of small kittens wanting someone to care for them as you would for yours.

It's beautiful for your cat to give birth and bring new life into the world. You will see there is a little piece of the parentage in the newborn kitten. However, there are so many cats in the world stuck in shelter systems who do not have a home. By breeding your cat, you are unintentionally putting more strain on this system and negatively affecting the welfare of all cats.

Additionally, sterilizing your cat will benefit the cat themselves by improving their health. We share the ‘adopt don't shop’ policy when possible.

If you want to read similar articles to Why Has My Cat Only Had One Kitten?, we recommend you visit our Gestation category.

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What did you think of this article?
my cat had one kitten 22nd december she loving and feeding kitten.but bully feels like she may have more kittens inside .should i be worried
Tracy Gibson
My cat had one kitten four days ago. I witnessed the whole thing. I tried to avoid her mating with my male cat prior to getting them fixed. Things apparently happened quick enough for one. It’s lucky it has no siblings to fight with over food.
Administrador AnimalWised
Hi Tracy,

Thanks for sharing! Make sure you take them to the veterinarian to have the kitten examined, start their vaccinations and to see how mother is doing after her pregnancy. Good to luck to you all!
My almost 3 year old cat had 1 tiny kitten about 24 hours ago. I did not witness the birth. Just my cat and a kitten behind my knees in bed! First time mommy. She still looks very pregnant! The 1 that she had is very tiny but appears developed ,suckles and noises! Karm the Mom is eating,drinking,affectionate and purring and appears to want to b with me. It’s Sunday and the nearest vet that will see people is an hour and a half away in icy weather. That said my cat is my family. Am I ok if I Waite untill tomorrow?
Administrador AnimalWised
Hi, in cases like this, we need to look at the mother cat very carefully. If there are more cats in the litter, but they are not being born due to complications, the mother will start to show symptoms. Timing is vital at this point, we may need to take them to an emergency vet. It's generally best to be safe than sorry, but if the mother is no longer showing signs of labor, it is possible there is only one cat in the litter.
ASH Green
Wow :)
This is an incredible collection of ideas!
Waiting for more helpful pieces.
I think it's this only paragraph, I was quite confused too

"What are the causes of a single kitten litter?
As is the case with other mammals, there are many factors that can influence pregnancy: Age, good status of physical health, quality of sperm, food, and the success rate of mating are some examples. Whatever the reason for having a single kitten, do not worry, it's nothing serious and happens on many occasions."
Administrador AnimalWised

Thanks for highlighting this, the text has been edited for clarification.
Lily Ann
This didn’t help me at all please give out more info
Administrador AnimalWised
Hi Lilly Ann,

What is it you need to know and we'll try to help you!
My cat gave birth on Sunday. To my surprise, there was only one?! She’s acting normally but I’ve never heard of that happening. She was actually at the vet a month prior and they said she wasn’t pregnant. I’m happy I read the article because I was really worried. Thank you
Administrador AnimalWised
Hi Val!

We’re glad to hear the article helped you, if you have anymore questions please don’t hesitate to ask here at AnimalWised
Cory Hill
Cat started laubour last night still only one kitten 24 hours later?
Administrador AnimalWised
Hi Cory,

It is possible your cat has only one kitten in their litter. If your cat is still in labor, then they may have a obstruction or some other complication. If it is 24 hours later and they are still healthy and behaving normally (or as you would expect after giving birth), it is probable they only have one kitten to birth.

However, we cannot diagnose a problem nor can we confirm the health of your cat. If you are unsure, then you will need to check with a veterinarian. We hope all is well!
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Why Has My Cat Only Had One Kitten?