According to PsychologyToday, Cats outnumber dogs in some American and many European households almost two to one.
We ultimately recognize that there are similar numbers of dog people and cat people around the world. The statistics do not indicate more people like felines than other pets.
People who own cats are more likely to have multiples of them compared to dog owners. Part of this is because they perceive them as lower maintenance pets, and cats require less space than most dogs.
According to VetInfo, Are cats more popular than dogs just because more of them are born every year?
Cats do not necessarily produce more offspring than dogs in a litter, but the number of four to five kittens is more consistent for each birth.
Moreover, cats can have more litters in a year than dogs, which creates a sense of availability.
We explore how many kittens are usually in litter and share information pertinent to healthy feline reproduction and offspring.
What is the heat cycle of female cats?
If you are considering breeding cats, you need to recognize the signs that your feline is in estrus and about when to expect it.
Planned breeding should occur on the male’s territory. The more prepared you are, the happier you and your cats will be.
How often do cats go into heat?
Cats start cycling in spring like many mammals. This ensures kittens arrive at a time of the year when they have the best chances for survival. Cats, unlike dogs, stay in heat until late fall unless you breed them or spay them.
Where the climate is mild, cats can breed year-round. In such conditions, they have the ability to produce three or four litters in 12 months.
Cats are induced ovulators. This simply means they do not ovulate until stimulated by mating.
Therefore, if they do not mate or do not become pregnant, they cycle in and out of season every two weeks. Each time, they show symptoms of estrus for five to seven days.
A female cat’s obnoxious behavior during her heat cycle can be sufficient incentive to spay her before she ever goes in season.
Related: How Often Does A Cat Go Into Heat?
How can you tell if your cat is in the heat?
Cats in estrus are much different than dogs if you have any experience in that department. The major contrast you will notice is cats have minimal to any visible vaginal discharge or vulvar swelling.
There are several other signs to be on the lookout for.
- Females exhibit increased affection and they tend not to discriminate. Objects of their attention can be you or anything else, even inanimate or interspecies.
- Your cat will usually become much more vocal. Not only will she seem to meow incessantly, but she will also likely yowl uncharacteristically.
- Cats in heat often show sensitivity over their backs. They frequently roll on the ground and assume other stereotypical mating positions with forequarters low and rear high.
- Some female cats spray to advertise their status to males.
- Your cat may lick herself excessively.
- Male cats suddenly show a keen interest in your cat and may travel from afar to get near her.
What do you need to know about feline pregnancy and possible problems?
How can you tell if your cat is pregnant?
Cats often exhibit no outward signs of pregnancy until a few weeks have passed. If you have bred your cat, look for both subtle and more obvious changes.
- Her nipples may become red and swollen 15 to 18 days after you last bred her.
- Female cats can have intermittent vomiting a few weeks into gestation. Monitor her closely if she is throwing up because vomiting can be an unprecise and ominous sign of many illnesses.
- Abdominal swelling will not be prominent until mid-term pregnancy and later.
- You cat can gain a total of two to over four pounds through her entire pregnancy. Breed and base size will affect how much weight each individual gains.
- Your cat could have an increased appetite, but again, this usually occurs late in the pregnancy.
- Nesting behavior occurs about a week before labor.
- Your cat may stop eating about two days before labor, but this is not carved in stone.
How do you diagnose pregnancy in your cat?
If you suspect your cat may be pregnant, a visit to your veterinarian is the best place for confirmation.
Depending on the stage, a medical professional can perform an exam and particular tests to determine if you can soon expect a litter of kittens.
- On physical examination, your veterinarian can usually feel fetuses in the uterus between 20 and 30 days with abdominal palpation.
- Ultrasound will pick up a feline pregnancy at about three weeks and is great for determining the viability of the fetuses.
- Radiographs (commonly called X-rays) are best for estimating how many kittens are in the litter. According to WebMD, obtaining an entirely accurate count is impossible Radiographs are not useful until the skeletons at least partially calcify, which does not occur until 40 to 45 days.
What is a false pregnancy?
Symptoms of false pregnancy or pseudopregnancy may show up in your cat a month after her heat cycle is over.
This adds to the difficulty you may find determining if your cat is pregnant. According to PetMD, A cat with false pregnancy shows signs of a normal pregnancy but is actually suffering from hormonal imbalances.
- Your cat may experience changes in behavior, such as increased affection and clinginess. She could also become restless or anxious.
- You may notice abdominal distension.
- Your cat’s nipples may become red and swollen, just as if she was pregnant. They may even produce milk. Watch for any abnormal color or consistency of the mammary fluid.
- Subtle and nonspecific signs that are also associated with a normal pregnancy are lethargy, decreased appetite, and vomiting.
Your veterinarian can easily distinguish between a normal and false pregnancy.
How long is gestation for cats?
Cats carry their young for 58 to 70 days, with most gestation periods lasting 63 to 65 days. Excluding breeding at the beginning and kittening at the end, you can bread feline pregnancy into three separate stages.
The second stage is the fastest growth phase for the kittens. The fourth stage is when your cat engages in nesting and other behaviors that prepare for the arrival of her kittens.
We can classify cats as either dependent or independent when it comes to giving birth. Dependent personalities will involve you, the owner, in all phases of the pregnancy all the way through labor.
Independent cats will actively seek seclusion, especially when kittening is imminent.
How do you know if your cat is having difficult labor (dystocia)?
Difficult labor is more likely to occur in cats selectively bred with extreme conformations such as Persian cats.
According to International Cat Care, up to 10 percent of these cats may experience dystocia. Otherwise, cats have little trouble with labor. If you have an exotic cat breed, plan to be present around the due date.
If you notice prolonged straining or any distress in the queen, seek immediate veterinarian attention.
Primary inertia, or failure of the uterus to contract adequately, is the most common cause of difficult labor in cats.
It results from stress (eg. hysteria in Oriental breeds), old age, poor health, or obesity.
Cats can delay labor each kitten or group of kittens up to 36 hours and still have a normal birthing event.
How many kittens are usually in a litter?
The number of kittens your cat will likely have in a litter will vary slightly according to age and breed. A normal litter consists of two to five kittens. If your cat is having her first litter of kittens, she likely will only have two or three.
If a cat happens to breed with multiple males during the time she is in heat, it increases the potential number of kittens in any litters.
A cat’s reproductive peak is when she is at her optimal body condition with ideal fat composition. By now she has a few experiences with kittening and usually is about three to five years old. These cats will have four or five kittens per litter.
A vast concentration of kittens is born to feral cats. Depending on environmental stresses, population concentrations, and food availability, these cats may only have two to four kittens per litter.
Your veterinarian may recommend nutritional support, like prenatal vitamins, to support your cat’s pregnancy.
Oriental breeds such as the Burmese and Siamese tend to have larger litters. Sometimes they can even have six to eight kittens and more in a litter.
Persians and some closely related breeds have smaller litters, often giving birth to only one to three kittens.
Rare litters are comprised of 10 to 12 kittens. Stout-framed cats such as Maine Coons and Rag Dolls can have huge litters like these.
It was a Burmese-Siamese cross, however, who had a record 15 surviving kittens in 1970 (with four stillborn).
The other factor that ultimately affects a litter’s size besides the number the queen gives birth to is the survival rate.
Nutritional status again plays a large role, especially for feral cats. Feral cats can rarely raise more than three or four kittens to adulthood without human intervention.
Cats with hereditary factors, like Manx cats who have a fatal tailless gene, will see 25% of their kittens die early, even with the best care.
If your cat has a large litter, it is crucial that you make sure the mother is willing and able to feed all of them.
Observe nursing to see that all kittens latch on and suckle. You may even need to use a baby scale to ensure the kittens are gaining weight. Supplement if necessary with a veterinarian-approved feline milk substitute.
The enclosed YouTube video illustrates a typical litter size for a healthy young Ragdoll. You can see the health of the kittens reflected in the relaxed and happy demeanor of their mother.