Your adorable little kitten is growing up fast, and you may wonder what age a cat can get pregnant. And this is a great question! Many cat owners have been shocked to find a litter of kittens on the way while their kitten is still a young cat itself.
You might be even more surprised to find out your cat can get pregnant as early as four months old.
Cats are very fertile and can fall pregnant easily. In fact, cats can fall pregnant when they are still in kittenhood themselves, putting a lot of strain on their small and growing bodies.
In this article, I discuss more about cats and pregnancy, so you are fully informed. Is pregnancy the right choice for your cat? When do cats first go into heat? And should you get your kitten spayed? Let’s find out!
Do I Want My Cat to Have Babies?
Cats can get pregnant from four months of age. Therefore, the first major consideration you need to make is if you want your cat to bear kittens.
You should ask yourself this question as soon as you buy or adopt your little fur ball so you can take the necessary precautions if you decide you don’t want your cat to breed. If you don’t want a house full of kitties, you need to have your cat spayed (or keep her away from male cats).
On the other hand, if you want your cat to be a mother cat, then you need to ask yourself the following questions as a responsible pet owner:
- Will I keep any of the kittens?
- How many should I keep?
- Should I keep males or females?
- How will I home the remaining kittens?
- Can I afford this?
- Do I have time to take care of that many animals?
- What are my reasons for letting my cat have kittens?
Kittens are weaned from their mother at around 8 weeks, and kittens can leave their mom at about 12 weeks of age. Therefore, you will be responsible for caring for the litter until then. Bear this in mind before letting your cat fall pregnant – it is three months of hard work and responsibility!
What Advantages Are There to Letting a Cat Have Kittens?
You might want to let your cat have kittens for many reasons. Below are some of the potential advantages that might persuade you that having a litter on the way is a great idea:
- Desire for More Pets: If you want to have more cats for your own pets, then it totally makes sense to let your cat have kittens. You won’t need to find a breeder or pay for more kittens. Plus, you get to watch your latest arrivals grow up from birth, which is extremely exciting.
- Educational Purposes: If you have your own children, seeing a cat have kittens and understanding all the different stages can be educational and interesting for them. It is a fantastic hands-on way to teach kids about reproduction, pregnancy, and responsibility.
- Friends & Family: If you know your friends will be lining up to adopt some of your cute little felines, that could also be a good enough reason to let your cat experience motherhood. Sadly many kittens struggle to find homes, so it is a good idea to have owners ready before you let your cat fall pregnant.
- Potential Health Benefits: Many people believe it is healthy to let a cat have at least one litter of kittens before spaying, and it is unhealthy if you neuter a cat too early. But actually, there’s no proof still, this could be enough reason if this is something you believe in.
- Avoiding Personality Changes: Some pet owners claim changes in female cat behavior after spaying, so are anti-neutering to avoid these personality changes. However, this hasn’t been proven. Your cat will be the same adorable happy paws you know and love.
What to Expect When Your Cat is in Heat?
Cats can get pregnant from four months of age. However, all cats sexually mature at slightly different ages, like how people hit puberty at slightly different times. Therefore, the best way to know whether your cat is sexually mature is to look for signs of heat.
Cats go into heat when they are ready to get pregnant, also known as queening. After their first ever heat cycle, queens continue to go into heat every 2-3 weeks throughout the breeding season (February to August).
The main purpose of heat is to attract a mate. As such, you will spot several notable signs. They will wail, meow loudly, roam around, and generally be restless. Cats in heat also urinate more to spread their scent and may become slightly aggressive. You might see their bottom and tail raised high indicating it’s ready to mate. This lasts a few days.
Unneutered male cats (also known as tom cats) go into heat, too. However, males don’t go through heat cycles; they are constantly active and ready to mate after reaching sexual maturity. They’re always on the lookout for an active female nearby.
The female’s actions will attract male tom cats and they can detect her show from miles away. Most cats are not fussy about potential partners. They will mate with any Tom, Dick, or Harry that comes along.
Considerations for Letting Your Cat Get Pregnant
Although cats can technically get pregnant at four months, it is not advised to let young kittens fall pregnant. They are still growing into adult cats, and their bodies are not well-developed enough to have a safe pregnancy. Some pregnancies are a success, but they can put a lot of strain on the mother.
Therefore, the ideal time for a cat to breed is 18 – 24 months of age. By this age, your cat will have fully grown into an adult cat and is strong enough to carry a litter of kittens.
Unfortunately, preventing a queen from falling pregnant before this age can be challenging. As I’ve mentioned, females go to any lengths to find a male! Even when your cat is of breeding age, you shouldn’t let her mate with any old cat in their neighborhood. These males might carry diseases that can put your cat and her litter of kittens at risk.
Therefore, you need to help your cat get pregnant in the right setting. Here are some considerations to help facilitate a healthy pregnancy:
- Find a Reputable Breeder: You should talk to a cat breeder if you want to find a stud for your queen. Breeders must have had necessary health tests on their cat to ensure they’re fit for breeding. This prevents any health complications from arising.
- Talk to Your Vet: They will be able to advise you on the best process that will include a health checkup for your cat to make sure she is ready to This avoids unnecessary strain on your cat and unwanted and unexpected health complications.
- Quarantine Your Cat During Heat: The best way to prevent unwanted pregnancy is to keep your cat inside during her heat cycles. This isn’t easy if you have an outdoor cat or live on a farm. You need to record her heat patterns and know the signs she is heading into heat.
- Install a Catio: Catios are a new trend that has value for cats in heat. A catio is an outdoor cat enclosure that has space for your cat to play in a safe and enriched environment. You can add toys, scratching pads, plants, and ramps. It can be as fancy or as basic as you like.
When is It Best to Get My Female Cat Spayed?
If you decide your cat won’t have kittens, then you can book an appointment with your vet for spaying when your cat is two to four months of age. However, it is never too late to neuter a cat! If you have let your cat have one litter of kittens and then decide against more, spaying is still a viable option.
Spaying sounds scary, but it is the most common veterinary operation and carries minimal risk. During the surgery, the vet will remove your cat’s uterus and ovaries. It will be anesthetized so won’t feel any pain.
After the operation, some discomfort can be expected, and your cat will naturally not be so happy with you. However, all will be forgiven and forgotten after a few days as recovery passes. You might want to keep a cat confined after spay operations to help speed up recovery time.
Getting your cat spayed avoids unwanted pregnancies. But this is not the only advantage! Below are some other reasons you might consider getting your furry friend neutered:
- Improves Bad Behaviors: After being spayed, your lovely cat won’t be going into heat and chasing tom cats all around the neighborhood. The loud wailing during heat won’t echo throughout the neighborhood, and spaying is a great way to stop a cat from spraying indoors. It will be more peaceful all around, and many destructive behaviors disappear.
- Health Benefits: Another advantage is spaying reduces the likelihood of your cat suffering from hormone-related diseases. In fact, studies show that getting your cat spayed before their first heat cycle reduces the risk of being diagnosed with a disease such as cancer later in life.
- Reduction in Unwanted Cats: Cats can get pregnant from as young as four months. But can cats get pregnant while nursing? Yes, they can! If not kept under control, a huge number of kittens are born every year. Spaying helps to reduce the number of felines in desperate need of a loving home.
The major drawback of spaying is money, which averages around $100 depending on where you live.
However, some local authorities have programs to help fund or offset costs to encourage pet owners to neuter or spay their pets. This is done in an attempt to reduce the number of unwanted animals dumped or taken to shelters. Also, it supports kind people who rescue stray animals that have been abused or abandoned.
How to Tell if Your Cat is Pregnant?
If cat mating was successful, your cat will fall pregnant. The first and most notable sign is your cat won’t go into its usual heat cycle. However, many other signs indicate early pregnancy.
Here are some clues to look for:
- A larger belly that is round and growing by the day
- Enlarged and darker pink nipples
- Nesting (preparing a cozy nest to give birth in)
- Morning sickness (which can happen at any time of day)
- Fatigue or tiredness
- Moodiness or easily irritated
- Excessive affection or reclusiveness
- Cat shedding so much more than usual
A visit to your local veterinarian will confirm if your cat is pregnant for sure.
Depending on how far along your kitty is, your vet can confirm the pregnancy by feeling her stomach or doing an X-ray or ultrasound. An estimate on how many kittens are coming will be possible but isn’t 100% accurate.
The cat gestation period usually lasts 63 – 65 days (but can go to 72 days).
A weight gain of up to 2 kg can be expected. This is an exciting time for everyone in the house. It won’t be long before you have many baby meows filling your home!
How to Care for a Pregnant Cat?
A cat carrying kittens needs some special care. Here are some ways to pamper your pregnant pet:
- Prepare more frequent meals for her
- Invest in food for pregnant cats that are high in vitamins and nutrients
- Make sure she’s getting enough water
- Avoid giving medication, including vaccinations, during pregnancy
- Give plenty of love and cuddles
- Keep her away from any potential dangers, such as animals in the neighborhood
- Watch for any signs of distress or discomfort
- Prepare a large and comfortable bed for her to give birth
How Many Kittens Does a Cat Usually Have?
The average litter size is four kittens, but it can range from one to a dozen. This depends on the age and health of your cat. Breed and genetics also have an impact. For example, pedigree breeds like Siamese and Burmese are more prone to giving birth to large litters. It is rare for a cat to only have one kitten.
An interesting fact is that cats can mate with several cats during one heat cycle and may be pregnant with kittens from different fathers. Nature will drive them to mate up to 20 times a day when they are on heat, and if given a chance, it will be with several different cats!
Signs of Labor and What to Expect?
If you have been counting the days until the exciting event, you will have some idea when the birth should happen. However, there are many pre-labor signs in cats that also indicate your kitty is about to pop!
A growing belly will be the most evident; if you look closely, you might even see the kitties moving around. With vaginal discharge and swollen nipples that may leak milk, you will know the labor is soon.
Your cat may start showing signs of nesting. The mother cat may or may not want to use the cat birthing bed you have prepared. Don’t worry if she’s not interested in the nest you made. You might notice her exploring the house, searching for the perfect birthing spot.
More signs to look for:
- Your cat might stop eating or seem picky
- Your cat might be thirsty
- Feeling unwell or seems sick
- Becomes reclusive and distant
- More frequent washing and grooming
- Your cat wants to urinate but isn’t able to
Generally, cats can give birth successfully without assistance and prefer to be left alone. In the wild, they will find a safe, warm place away from danger, so their instincts kick in, and they prefer to deal with the labor process without intervention.
But you can keep an eye on your new mama cat as sometimes they need a little help or, in rare cases, veterinarian care. If you are ever in doubt, first call your vet for some over-the-phone advice, and they will guide you from there if you need to pay a visit.
The same applies if you notice your cat acting strangely after delivering the litter of kittens. Most cats won’t have any issues – their instincts to look after their young kick in. However, cat depression after a new kitten is possible. When this happens, you might notice your cat keeps walking away from her kittens. Call your vet and ask for advice, as you might need to hand-rear the litter of kittens on your own.
What Age Do Cats Stop Having Kittens?
Cats don’t go into menopause, so they can keep producing litters for a long time, right into old age. If not spayed, they will go into heat for their whole lives, and the kittens will keep coming. Cats can carry about three litters per year, so it is no wonder there are so many wild cats in some places.
Unwanted or unexpected pregnancies and stray cats mating cause the kitten population to grow quickly out of control. With this issue showing no signs of being solved in many countries around the world, it is worth considering if your cat really needs to have kittens.
Wouldn’t it be nice to adopt even if you want another cat or kitten? You could offer a forever home to a kitten that might otherwise grow up in a shelter or be euthanized. This is an essential factor to consider when deciding whether or not to let your cat fall pregnant.
MY FINAL THOUGHTS
Your cat can get pregnant from as early as four months old. As such, you must decide if you want her to have kittens and plan accordingly from there.
There are advantages and disadvantages to pregnancy and spaying. Either way, I’m sure you will raise a healthy and happy cat that will be purring and smooching her hours away with or without a litter of kittens.