If your furry friend got outside one time while she was in heat, you are probably looking forward to a delivery of little bundles of joy any day now. But how many bundles of joy will your cat have, and how long will you have to wait? Cats vary in litter size, so it won’t be easy to know.
Cats usually have between three and five kittens per litter, with some not making it. A cat’s first litter might be smaller, but if a cat is in good health, she will have more than a feral cat in poor health. Your vet can help you determine how many kittens your cat will have.
You can help your cat prepare for the birth of her kittens by being prepared. Let’s dig in to learn how you can help.
The Number of Kittens Depends on Several Factors
The number of kittens that mama cats have depends on whether it is her first litter, if she is in good health and how many litters she has had in the past. Feral cats don’t always have the same number of kittens that survive due to her health and access to fresh food and water.
Most cats have between three and five kittens in their first litter, but some turn out to be stillborn and could make her labor difficult.
If This Is a Cat’s First Litter
A first-time queen cat will have a smaller litter of two or three kittens, especially if she is younger than 12 months old. At 12 months, a cat is physically mature enough to produce a standard litter of viable kittens without risk to her health or the health of her kittens.
A cat younger than 12 months old is not yet physically mature, and having kittens before she is grown could cause stress on her physically and mentally. They will also have more risk of losing one kitten, either before or after it is born.
Cats younger than a year are prime candidates for being spayed as they will recover more quickly from the procedure. If you want to have your female cat bear kittens, try to keep it indoors until after she reaches a year old for her health and her kittens’ health.
If the Cat Is In Good Health
Indoor cats are usually well cared for and in good health, so their litters are usually on the larger side of average. Outdoor cats, however, if they are still cared for and are in good health, they will still have around four or five healthy kittens. But a cat that is in poor health might have one or two kittens, or if she has more than that, they might not survive.
Outdoor cats that are not cared for very well might have fewer kittens, of which not all will survive.
How Many Litters a Cat Has Had
Older cats that have not been spayed and have had several litters typically have smaller litters as they get older. As with humans, there comes the point in a female cat’s life that she should not have more kittens, as it affects her health and the kittens’ health. The stress of multiple litters eventually wears on a female cat and decreases her litter size to about one to three kittens.
If a Cat Is Feral
A feral cat might not be healthy enough to have a full litter, as they are usually malnourished or have feline illnesses that can impact their fertility rates. Feline distemper or contagious peritonitis can impact a pregnant cat’s ability to thrive and provide enough nutrition to her unborn babies.
If a feral mother cat is intercepted with care in time, she might survive, and her kittens will survive as well.
How to Discover the Number of Kittens In a Litter
Aside from a vet visit, how can you tell how many kittens your cat will have? Gestation for cats usually lasts between 63 and 66 days. If your cat is far enough along, you might be able to gently press on her uterus to feel how many amniotic sacs there are, which should give you a rough idea of how many kittens there are.
Your vet can also perform an ultrasound to see how many there will be, which is more accurate than just feeling her uterus. However, an X-ray is much more accurate than both of these methods.
But why would you want to know how many kittens your cat is carrying before she gives birth? There are times when a mother cat might be too worn out to keep delivering more kittens, or one kitten might get stuck in the birth canal. Any kittens that remain stuck could potentially kill your cat, so if she is having problems, you will need to roll up your sleeves and get in there to help the remaining kittens to come out, whether they are stillborn or not.
Why a Mother Cat Might Not Deliver All Of Her Kittens
A mother cat might be too exhausted or sick to deliver all of her litter, meaning that you need to intervene to help her deliver the rest. You might want to wait for a while, though, as your cat might be resting and caring for the kittens already born. She will rest, eat, drink, and nurse her kittens. The rest of the kittens should be born within 24 to 36 hours normally.
However, if she is too sick to continue, or there are some problems, she might not want to deliver the last of her kittens. Or, she might be too young or immature to continue. But leaving a kitten inside the uterine sack can cause your cat to develop a dangerous uterine infection and perhaps peritonitis.
Generally, though, she will deliver all of her kittens in a timely and normal manner. But you might want to have your vet’s number on standby just in case something goes wrong. If your cat is healthy and she’s had a healthy pregnancy, chances are she will have a normal birth, and the kittens will be healthy.
Large litters, however, might cause your cat to stop giving birth, so you will definitely need to have supplies on hand to help her with the rest of the birth process.
What Is the Record Number of Kittens in One Litter?
The average litter size is between three to five kittens. But some breeds, like the Burmese, are known to have larger litters up to ten. But in 1970, a four-year-old Burmese cat gave birth to 19 kittens, of which 15 survived. Later, in 1976, a domestic short-hair cat gave birth to 15 kittens, of which 11 survived. In that same year, a Siamese cat gave birth to 15 kittens.
Most domestic short-hair cats don’t have the large breeds like Siamese or Burmese cats do, so the domestic short-hair cat having that many kittens was an exceptional feat.
Given the short gestation times, cats can technically have up to four or five litters per year, which is a lot of kittens. Wise breeders know that the more litters a cat has, the more she becomes stressed, causing health problems later on.
One thing you can do to help your cat control the number of litters she has in her lifetime is to either have her spayed or keep her indoors while she is in heat. Spaying your cat keeps her healthier and controls the number of cats that potentially won’t have good homes.
As a responsible cat parent, it’s your choice what to do for your cat.