Cat Health

by Susan Paretts

When it comes to reproduction, cats are quite prolific breeders. One female kitty has the ability to produce an average of about 12 kittens each year if not spayed. To avoid a houseful of kitties, spay or neuter your furry companions to prevent unwanted litters.

Puberty and Kittens

Once a kitten reaches puberty, typically between 5 months and 9 months of age, he or she will be able to reproduce. Some kitties mature as young as 3 1/2 months of age, usually after they reach 4.4 pounds in weight, according to the Santa Barbara Humane Society. Outdoor kitties or those around mature, intact felines tend to mature more quickly than those that aren't. A sexually mature kitten can have kittens herself, as early as her first heat cycle. Pregnancy in kitties lasts approximately 65 days, after which that nursing mom can immediately go into heat, even while nursing, and become pregnant again. As for male kitties, they can impregnate countless numbers of females in heat.

Cats in Heat

Female kitties go into heat during the warmer months of the year, typically between January and August, according to the VCA Animal Hospitals. In warmer climates, your furry companion may go into heat year-round. Each heat or estrus cycle lasts about a week and repeats constantly every two to three weeks, according to the Catster website. If allowed to mate freely, an un-spayed female kitty typically becomes pregnant up to three times per year, according to the LA Animal Shelter. Each pregnancy produces several kitties at a time, with each litter size ranging between two and eight kittens, the Animal Shelter Assistance Program asserts. This means that just one female kitty can produce between six and 24 kittens in a single year.

A Lifetime of Babies

Unlike people, our furry companions are capable of giving birth to kittens throughout their senior years, according to the Coronado Cats in Phoenix Arizona. While their reproductive ability might decrease, they don't go through menopause like a human female does. This means kitties can give birth to kittens during their entire life. Theoretically, your feline companion can give birth to three litters of kittens per year, with an average of four kittens per litter, in an average lifetime of 15 years for an indoor kitty. This could result in up to 180 kittens in her lifetime. Assuming that her litters remain intact, and breed themselves, hundreds of thousands of kittens could result, contributing to the pet overpopulation problem. Even though all of these kittens won't likely survive, even a fraction of this number is way too many.

What to Do

The only way to prevent your female kitty from giving birth to babies or your male from impregnating countless females is to have your little one spayed or neutered. You might think that keeping your furry friend indoors, away from other cats, might prevent pregnancy or stop a tomcat from roaming. Unfortunately, amorous felines can be escape artists -- and all it takes is a few minutes outdoors for a fertile kitty to become pregnant. You'll also have to deal with the mating behaviors of an intact feline, including urine marking, yowling and aggression problems. Spaying or neutering your little one prior to puberty prevents any of these issues as well as some health problems later in life. Plus, you won't have to worry about finding homes for unwanted litters.



American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals: The Facts About Spay/Neuter
The Feral Cat Times: Dispel the Myth: 420,000 Cats?!
LA Animal Shelter: How Many Litters of Kittens Can a Female Cat Have in a Lifetime if Not Spayed?
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals: Spay and Neuter
Feral Cat Coalition: A Report on Trap/Alter/Release Programs
Animal Shelter Assistance Program: Why Spay or Neuter Your Cat
Santa Barbara Humane Society: Vet's Corner
VCA Animal Hospitals: Estrus Cycles in Cats
Catster: Cats in Heat The Heat Cycle of Cats


VetInfo: What is the Average Cat Lifespan?
Coronado Cats in Phoenix Arizona: FAQ: Cat Reproduction

About the Author

Based in Las Vegas, Susan Paretts has been writing since 1998. She writes about many subjects including pets, finances, crafts, food, home improvement, shopping and going green. Her articles, short stories and reviews have appeared on City National Bank's website and on The Noseprint. Paretts holds a Master of Professional Writing from the University of Southern California.

2018 Bagley cat colony after a just a few years of allowing intact cats to endlessly breed.

Every year, millions of unwanted dogs and cats, including puppies and kittens, are euthanized. The good news is that responsible pet owners can make a difference. By having your dog or cat sterilized, you will do your part to prevent the birth of unwanted puppies and kittens. Spaying and neutering prevent unwanted litters, help protect against some serious health problems, and may reduce many of the behavioral problems associated with the mating instinct.

Removing a female dog or cat’s ovaries eliminates heat cycles and generally reduces the unwanted behaviors that may lead to owner frustration. Removing the testes from male dogs and cats reduces the breeding instinct, making them less inclined to roam and more content to stay at home.

Early spaying of female dogs and cats can help protect them from some serious health problems later in life such as uterine infections and breast cancer. Neutering your male pet can also lessen its risk of developing benign prostatic hyperplasia (enlarged prostate gland) and testicular cancer.

The procedure has no effect on a pet’s intelligence or ability to learn, play, work or hunt. Some pets tend to be better behaved following surgical removal of their ovaries or testes, making them more desirable companions.

What are the risks of spaying and neutering?

Although reproductive hormones cause mating behaviors that may be undesirable for many pet owners, these hormones also affect your pet’s overall health and can be beneficial. Removing your pet’s ovaries or testes removes these hormones and can result in increased risk of health problems such as urinary incontinence and some types of cancer. Talk to your veterinarian about the benefits and risks of the sterilization procedure so you can make an informed decision.

While both spaying and neutering are major surgical procedures, they are also the most common surgeries performed by veterinarians on cats and dogs. Like any surgical procedure, sterilization is associated with some anesthetic and surgical risk, but the overall incidence of complications is very low.

Before the procedure, your pet is given a thorough physical examination to ensure that he/she is in good health. General anesthesia is administered to perform the surgery and medications are given to minimize pain. You will be asked to keep your pet calm and quiet for a few days after surgery as the incision begins to heal.

When should I spay or neuter my pet?

Consult your veterinarian about the most appropriate time to spay or neuter your pet based upon his/her breed, age and physical condition. Keep in mind that, contrary to popular belief, it may NOT be best to wait until your female dog or cat has gone through her first heat cycle.

How do I decide?

Discuss your options with your veterinarian so you can get answers and make an educated


Successful removal of infected uterus of intact female dog, 2017 Pet Fixer Clinic.