The number of kittens does not depend on the size of the cat. It all depends on the breed, the environment, health of the cat and other external factors. A female cat can bear a varying number of kittens each time she is expecting.
It is always a fantastic thing to witness one creature giving life to another. When it comes to our pets, we still have memorable thoughts when it is their time to add more kittens to the family tree. Most cats will always have between three to five kittens. However, some cats are capable of giving ten or more kittens per litter. These differences mean there is something that influences that number of litters; we will look at them one at a time.
Factors That Determine Litter Size
Pet owners and experienced cat experts agree that the age of the cat among other things such as the health of the mother, genetics, etc. will influence the size of the litter. For instance, a first time queen will pop queens of a litter of three or four kittens.
The breed also plays a significant role in defining the number of kittens in a litter. Some experts will even agree that specific breeds like the Siamese-type cat have larger breeds, the Manx cat will lose a quarter of its litters in every birth, and the Persian type cat has a smaller number of offspring.
Cats are known seasonal breeders meaning they come into heat at specific times of the year. The outdoor cats come to heat when the days are longer (summer) and stop cycling when days get shorter (spring). Artificial lights influence indoor cats’ cycle, which means they may be experiencing their cycles all year round.
When a cat has induced ovulation where breeding stimulates ovulation by releasing eggs from the ovaries, may also suggest that the more a cat breeds the more kitten it will produce.
Certain infections can also influence the size of the litter and their vitality. Some infections such as feline infectious peritonitis (FIP) can reduce the size of litter and consequently reduce the chances of the litters to survive.
An expectant cat with a feline panleukopnia virus (FPV) otherwise known as feline distemper may end up giving birth to stillborn kittens. The FPV may also lead to abortion if the infection came in early in pregnancy. Such ailments infect the kittens’ brain development and may cause cerebellar hypoplasia and develop mobility issues for the surviving kittens.
The nutritional status of the mother changes the expected outcome and the health of her kittens. A starving or a malnourished cat increases the chances of having stillborn as opposed to viable litters.
How to Determine the Number of Kittens in a Litter?
A heavy cat with kittens may prompt you to know the exact number of kittens you should expect. To determine the litter population means taking a visit to the veterinarian’s clinic. Here are some of the methods your vet will use:
Cats have a shorter gestation period, which lasts about nine weeks probably that could be the reason they bear so many kittens. After about four or five weeks take her to the vet who should be able to feel the number of kittens by gently pressing the kitten’s tummy by noting the number of embryos formed.
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X-ray and Ultrasounds
These two medical technologies give a clear insight inside the cat's belly, and you should be able to see and count the number of kittens. By the 50th day of the cat's pregnancy, the small embryo's bones have already formed, and an X-ray can pick up the tiny images to give the actual number of the impending litter. X-rays will not harm your kittens, and it gives a more accurate number of kittens.
Ultrasound is useful for confirming that the cat is pregnant and depending on the stage of pregnancy, you can use it to determine the number of kittens in the mother’s belly.
Using Previous Numbers
You can choose to wait until the last day and count for yourself. However, you can create an estimation of the number of kittens based on the mother’s previous kitten count. Nevertheless, do not get surprised if the number of litters increases from the standard to something close to 10 kittens. Some even go higher than 10.
How Many Kittens Can a Cat Have in Its Lifetime?
Unlike the human female species, cats do not undergo menopause, and this means that a cat will deliver its kittens as long as it is breathing. It is safe to say that a cat can deliver kittens throughout the entire lifetime.
Most domestic cats live for about 12 to 15 years. Going by this figure and the average kittens per litter, the outcome should be something within the ranges of 180 kittens in its lifetime (assume 4 kittens in every litter with an expectation of getting 3 sets of litter in a year, take the number, and multiply by 15 years)
However, cats will reach maturity at the end of their first year and when they may not be able to bear kittens in their last two years. However, the fact remains that you cannot keep up with the brood every few months.
In the wilderness, cats mate with numerous random males each time they are on heat, and if they survive the ravages of the wild and be in good health, they will be lucky to see more than 180 kittens in their lifetime.
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What to do With the Increasing Numbers?
The only way to tame a cat is to make sure the female is neutered or spayed to avoid handling a large number of kittens in a given year. Spaying and neutering should be done before puberty to give you a piece of mind when you do not have the time to find homes for unwanted litters.
Keeping your female cat indoors will not stop it from getting another brood anytime soon; all a cat needs is a few minutes on the outdoors and boom another litter.