How Many Kittens Can a Cat Have?

Witnessing the birth of a litter of kittens is one of the most joyous occasions a pet parent can experience. 

Cats have an average of four to eight kittens per litter.

However, it is perfectly normal to encounter larger and smaller litters with numbers ranging anywhere from one to 10.  

First-time queens do tend to have a smaller litter size of up to three kittens, but it is not uncommon for them to have more. 

A cat’s gestation period generally lasts around two months, which technically means she is able to birth as many as five litters over the course of a year. That’s a lot of kittens!

And birthing can start relatively early into a cat’s life. Certain breeds may get pregnant when they are as young as four months old, unless they have been spayed to prevent this from happening.

Do certain factors determine how many kittens a cat has?

There are a number of factors that could influence the amount of kittens a cat may have. 

One of the main considerations that should always be taken into account is health.  

Infections such as feline infectious peritonitis and feline panleukopenia virus can lead to a lower number of kittens being born. An underweight cat, unable to consume enough cat food to support her and her developing kittens, may also give birth to a reduced litter. This is why it is vital to keep feeding a cat a full and nutrient-packed diet all the way through their pregnancy. 

Certain cat breeds do tend to have smaller or larger litters when compared to others. For instance, Siamese cats are known to have larger litters on average compared to Persian cats. The genetic history of a cat can also be a significant determining factor. 

Age can certainly play a big role in the potential size of a litter, too. In all likelihood, a cat’s fertility  will decline as they grow older, meaning there’s less chance of multiple litters per year. 

That being said, cats, unlike humans, do not experience menopause, and so theoretically can continue having kittens well into their later years. 

However, they do tend to bear smaller litters as they age, and the stress of pregnancy may also have serious physical implications for a cat of advancing years. Due to this, spaying is generally recommended at a younger age in order to avoid potential complications down the line.

Could your cat be pregnant?

Cat pregnancies are an exciting time for all the household, but just how do you know if your feline is expecting?

While arriving home to be surprised by an adorable litter of kittens certainly isn’t the worst thing in the world, knowing your cat is pregnant means you can care for them accordingly during that period. It also gives you ample time to prepare for your new arrivals. 

There are a few signs to keep an eye out for, the first and most obvious being a change in shape. 

Your cat’s stomach will start to grow noticeably bigger around the 30-day mark. Pregnant cats can gain around 1 to 2kg, depending on how many kittens they are carrying, so the weight gain can be very noticeable. 

Similarly to us humans, some pregnant cats can experience morning sickness, tiredness and a loss of appetite. This is quite rare though, and could be linked to other health issues. If these symptoms persist, be sure to contact your vet. 

Another sign your cat could be pregnant is the enlargement and reddening of their nipples – referred to as ‘pinking up’ – which may be seen a month into the pregnancy. 

Behavioural changes may also be seen in the last week of pregnancy, with your cats potentially becoming more vocal or searching for a suitable location to give birth.

The best way to find out if your cat is pregnant is to make an appointment with the vet.

An ultrasound can confirm a pregnancy after two to three weeks, but will not show the number of kittens they are carrying. X-rays can determine the number of kittens to expect, but should not be carried out until later in the pregnancy.

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