Female Cats and Pregnancy

A female cat who hasn’t been spayed is known as a queen. The female domestic cat can start reproducing as young as four to five months old.

Fertility Cycle in a Cat

When a female cat is ready to reproduce, they go into heat.

How Often Can Cats Go Into Heat?

Cats are polyestrous throughout the breeding season, which means they can have many heat cycles each year.

When Do Cats Go Into Heat?

The breeding season varies geographically and according to environmental conditions like as temperature and daylight hours.

For example, female cats in the Northern Hemisphere typically go into heat from January to late September. Cats that live in more tropical locations or that spend the most of their time indoors, on the other hand, may cycle all year.

How Long Do Cats Stay in Heat?

The heat cycle, also known as the estrous cycle, lasts on average six days.

What are Signs that a Cat is Heat?

The most obvious signs that a female cat is in heat are behavioral. Female cats in heat will become a lot more affectionate and demanding of attention. Rolling and rubbing on the ground and objects is common. Female cats will also walk around and tread their hind legs.

Female cats in heat will also become more vocal. Caterwauling, yowling, and excessive purring are commons sounds a cat in heat will make to attractive male suitors.

Cats are induced ovulators, which means that breeding triggers the ovaries to release eggs.

Length of a Cat’s Pregnancy

The gestation period for a cat is nine weeks with a range of 64 to 71 days.

Signs a Cat is Pregnant

It takes a couple of weeks before a female cat starts to show visible signs of being pregnant. The first sign is using a “pinking” of her nipples. At around three weeks, the fur around the nipples may also start to fall out, making the teats more visible to the impending kittens.

Cats can also experience “morning sickness” due to surging and changing hormones usually starting around 4 weeks. Female cats may have a reduced appetite, vomiting, and fatigue during those weeks. The appetite in a pregnant cat usually rebounds around six weeks into the gestational period.

As the cat’s pregnancy progress, she will gain weight and her appetite will increase. Pregnant cats will eat about 1.5 times more food that normal. Pregnant cats will also drink a lot more water than typical.

Nesting Period

During the last couple of weeks of a cat’s pregnancy, she will start to nest. This means preparing for a hidden, safe, and comfortable place to give birth.

Having a safe, dark, and dry place is especially important for cats that given birth outdoors. Kittens when they are first born are blind, deaf, and mostly immobile and are vulnerable to predation.

During the final week of pregnancy, the cat’s mammary glands will grow in size. Two days before the cat gives birth, her mammary glands will start to produce milk.

A pregnant calico lying on her left side on a concrete patio.
A pregnant calico cat. Photo: © paulmckinnon / stock.adobe.com.

When birth is imminent, the cat will start to pant, meow, and become restless. The cat will frequently groom around the birth canal and nipples. Some believe newborn kittens will follow this scent trail to access their mother’s milk.

A cat’s temperature will drop about one ºC when labor starts.

Litter of Kittens

A female cat will give birth to as little as one kitten or as many as nine kittens at one time. The average size of a litter is between 4 to 6 kittens.

These kittens can have different fathers. Female cats can mate with multiple partners while they are in heat.

A group of kittens is known as a kindle. More: 9 Things to Know About Kittens

A black kitten and a gray tabby kitten sleeping on a red bed with white polka dots.

Female Cats Can Become Pregnant Again After Giving Birth

Female cats can go into heat about six weeks after giving birth.

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