Female cats can become pregnant from four months of age. Once sexually mature, they can become pregnant easily. Because of this, neutering is a sensible option for your cat. Find out how you can support a pregnant cat and care for newborn kittens in our guide.
At Cats Protection, we recommend neutering as the only effective way to reduce the number of unwanted cats. There are already thousands of unwanted cats and kittens in animal charities throughout the UK.
Cats are prolific breeders and their offspring need to be quickly neutered or the cat population will quickly get out of control. In fact, one female cat can be responsible for a staggering 20,000 descendants in just five years.
See also - Neutering
Female cats, also known as queens, can be sexually mature from just four months of age. Unneutered queens are very attractive to unneutered toms, who may travel miles after detecting her scent. Unneutered queens are not selective and will accept advances from any males, including relatives.
There are no health or welfare benefits associated with allowing a cat to have kittens before neutering. And caring for a pregnant cat and her kittens is time-consuming and costly.
See also: Cat reproduction
Pregnancy lasts for 63-65 days - around nine weeks.
The pregnant queen will need to eat more than usual and will need plenty of fresh water, as well as a quiet, clean and warm place to give birth, ideally away from the family and other pets.
See also: Caring for your pregnant cat
Many cats give birth without needing any help, but it is a good idea to watch from a distance and understand the birth process so you know what to expect. Have clean towels, a warm water bottle, a feeding bottle or syringe and some specialist substitute cat milk replacement (not cow or goat milk) ready in advance, just in case.
Ask your vet for advice when your cat is pregnant, just in case your cat needs any additional support or treatments.
Your cat will have between one and nine kittens in a litter - most commonly four to six. First-time queens usually have smaller litter sizes. Time between delivery of kittens is usually 10 to 60 minutes. The birth is usually complete within six hours after the start of the second stage, but can last up to 12 hours.
See also: Birth and kittening
Kittens need to be kept warm and fed every two to three hours - both jobs that the queen usually does very well. If the queen is unable to suckle or care for her kittens, for any reason, you may need to step in to help. Talk to your vet if you think the kittens are being neglected or rejected by the queen.
You should also talk to your vet to find out which treatments the kittens need. Soon after birth they may require flea and worming treatments, and you will also need to schedule their vaccinations and neutering to protect them from unwanted pregnancies and disease.
See also: Kitten care
If the queen is unable to care for the kittens then you may need to hand rear them. This involves providing everything that the kittens need around the clock. Hand reared kittens need regular feeding, constant warmth and help going to the toilet before and after each feed.
See also - Hand rearing