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Learn more about how cats mate, reproduce, and why neutering is important.

When can cats have kittens?

Female cats, known as queens, can become sexually mature from just four months of age. Once reaching this stage, they have regular heat cycles.

Generally, unneutered female cats will call regularly about every two weeks from January until the autumn. A female cat who is not neutered will usually be in heat every two to three weeks throughout the season unless she successfully mates and becomes pregnant. Cats can enter heat up to 20 times a year with a typical cycle lasting seven days at a time (but this can be longer or shorter depending on the cat).

Male cats, known as tom cats, reach sexual maturity at around seven to nine months. If they are not neutered, they will actively seek out a mate. This means roaming much further from home if they’re an outdoor cat and displaying some unwanted behaviours (such as spraying and they’re more likely to fight over territory with neighbouring cats).

Don’t forget, cats aren’t selective and will mate with any other cat if the opportunity presents itself, including relatives. The best way to prevent unwanted pregnancies is to make sure you get your cat neutered. Find out more about neutering.

How do I know if my female cat is in heat?

A queen will have regular heat cycles once she reaches sexual maturity every few weeks during breeding season (April to September). During these cycles, you might notice her:

  • become restless
  • calling and wailing
  • squirming
  • rubbing and presenting her rear in attempts to attract a mate

During these heat cycles, she’ll be very attractive to unneutered tom cats. Males can detect her scent from several miles away and will make great efforts to reach her.

How will I know if my cat has mated with another cat?

If you have a female cat, there’s no sure way of knowing if she has mated with another cat until she starts showing signs of pregnancy. You should look out for:

  • sudden stop in calling and signs she’s in heat
  • weight gain
  • increased appetite
  • vomiting
  • swollen nipples

If you notice any of these changes you should take your cat to the vet as they will be able to confirm if your cat is pregnant.

If you have a male cat, there will be no way of knowing if he’s been mating with females. If they’re nearby you might hear the female scream.

How do I stop unneutered males from coming near my female cat?

If your female cat isn’t neutered, she’ll actively look for an unneutered male when she’s in heat and any local tom cats will actively look for her. Female cats, even if they are already pregnant will still accept the advances of tom cats. By mating with multiple toms, a female cat can give birth to kittens from different fathers in the same litter, so even if she’s already pregnant she may still look for a mate.

The best way to keep tom cats away is to get your cat neutered. This will prevent any unwanted pregnancies and tom cats won’t take much interest in her. There are also many other health benefits to getting your cat neutered, whether they are male or female. Read more in our neutering guide.

Should I let my cat have one litter before neutering?

There is no health benefit to allowing your cat to have a litter of kittens before getting her neutered. In fact, due to the young age that females can reach sexual maturity, it can be harmful to let her get pregnant while she is so young.

Cats aren’t fully grown until around 10-12 months old, but reach sexual maturity from four months. Getting pregnant before she’s fully grown can put a lot of strain on your cat’s body as she’s still growing and might struggle to support a healthy pregnancy.

How long are cats pregnant for?

Usually pregnancy lasts for about nine weeks. You can find out more about pregnancy in cats in our guide.

After giving birth, they could get pregnant again in as soon as two weeks, while their current litter are still reliant on them for food and protection. It’s important to make sure your cat can’t get pregnant if she has just had a litter of kittens because not only will this be strenuous for her but it also means even more kittens needing a home.

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