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How Many Kittens Can a Cat Have? What You Need To Know!

Jessica Kim

By Jessica Kim

mother cat and kittens

The number of kittens a cat can have depends on several different factors, such as the cat’s breed type, age, and health condition. On average, you can expect a cat’s litter to have four kittens, but it’s normal to see litter sizes range between three to five kittens. In rarer cases, a cat can give birth to just 1 kitten or 12 kittens. The record for most kittens in a litter is 19.

There are several common questions that many curious cat lovers have about cat litters and pregnancies. We’ll review some of these frequently asked questions so that you’ll know what to expect with cat pregnancies and births.

What Factors Affect a Cat’s Litter Size?

A cat’s breed can be a good predictor of her litter size. For example, you can expect Persian Cats to have smaller litters while larger cat breeds, such as Maine Coons and Ragdolls, tend to have more kittens in their litters. Also, purebred cats tend to have more kittens than mixed-breed cats.

A cat’s age can also influence the size of a litter. First-time mother cats tend to have smaller litters. While cats usually have four to six cats in a litter, first-time mothers tend to give birth to two to three kittens in their first litter. As a cat gains more experience with each breeding season, she tends to give birth to larger litters.

Cats can continue to go through heat cycles until the last couple of years of her life. Therefore, senior cats can get pregnant, but their litter sizes usually get smaller as they get older. Also, just because a cat can get pregnant doesn’t mean she should. Older cats are at risk of experiencing more complications and stillbirths, so it’s best to prevent geriatric pregnancies.

Maine Coon kittens lying on a cat sofa
Image Credit: mariyaermolaeva, Shutterstock

At What Age Can Kittens Get Pregnant?

Cats can reach sexual maturity as young as 4 months old and can get pregnant with their first heat cycle. However, it’s best to avoid having cats become pregnant at such a young age. Kittens usually don’t reach adulthood until at least 12 months old. While their bodies usually stop growing at about 6 months, they’re still developing for the next several months.

So, a kitten pregnant at 4 months old means that you’re having a kitten give birth to more kittens. On top of pregnancies affecting their own development, young moms may not have developed maternal instincts yet, so they won’t know how to care for their kittens.

How Can You Tell if a Cat is Pregnant?

There are some signs that can indicate that a cat’s pregnant. First, there’ll be changes in its heat cycle, and you’ll notice that it doesn’t engage in its usual behaviors, such as excessive yowling and restlessness.

Pregnant cats will also have increased appetites and will undergo weight gain. They’ll have darkened nipples that have swelled in size along with swollen abdomens.

a pregnant tabby cat lying on the stair
Image Credit: Jim Polakis, Shutterstock

How Can You Determine the Size of a Litter?

The surest way to determine if a cat is pregnant is for veterinarians to use an ultrasound or x-ray. Ultrasounds can find kittens earlier in a cat’s gestation period, but they may not provide an accurate reading of the cat’s litter size. X-rays offer clearer images of the kittens’ skeletons, but you have to wait until about 40 days into a cat’s pregnancy to use an x-ray.

Veterinarians can also feel for a litter by gently pressing along a cat’s abdomen to feel for fetuses.

How Many Litters Can a Cat Birth in 1 Year?

A cat can have about five litters per year. The gestation period can last about 2 months, and cats can go into heat while they’re nursing, and they can go through a heat cycle within a couple of weeks after giving birth.

Cats shouldn’t have more than two litters per year. It’s important for her health to have plenty of time to rest and recover between litters.

cat nursing its kittens
Image Credit: Rashid Valitov, Shutterstock

How Many Times Can a Cat Give Birth in a Lifetime?

If a cat continuously gets pregnant throughout her lifetime, she can have over 50 litters and give birth to more than 250 kittens. However, once a cat reaches the age of 6 to 7 years old, it’s best to stop her from getting pregnant.

Cats usually become middle-aged adults at about 7 years old. So, they’ll tend to have smaller litters and have a higher risk of experiencing difficulties during pregnancies.

How Can Kittens in a Single Litter Have Different Fathers?

Although it’s rare, a cat can have a single litter with different male cats. This phenomenon is known as superfecundation. It’s possible because cats can release eggs at different times while she’s in heat. So, she can mate with one male and have the eggs fertilized with this mate. Then, she can release a few more eggs, which can get fertilized by another mate.

When superfecundation occurs, a cat will give birth to a litter with different kinds of kittens. Kittens of the same litter can vary in size, breed, color, and coat length.

Conclusion

Cats can become pregnant through most of their lifespan, and successful spaying is the only sure way of preventing a cat from getting pregnant. Since they can get pregnant at such a young age, it’s important to consider spaying your pet cats if you want to avoid breeding.


Featured Image Credit: Good Shop Background, Shutterstock

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