How Many Kittens Can Cats Have?

Nicole LaForest, LVT, BSc, MPH
By Nicole LaForest, LVT, BSc, MPH. Reviewed by Michael Kearley, DVM on Apr. 29, 2024
A mother cat checks in on her kitten.

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In This Article

Pregnancy in Cats

Cats, like many other mammals, reproduce sexually. This process involves the mating of a male and a female cat, resulting in the fertilization of the female’s eggs.

Over time, the fertilized eggs grow to become embryos, and eventually, after several months, become kittens.

Cats have multiple kittens—called a litter—so it’s important for pet parents to ensure that these kittens are born healthy, providing proper care and nutrition for the mother cat.

Pregnancy in Cats

Generally, the gestation period for cats is about 65 days.

However, there are some factors (like the individual cat’s health and breed) that may affect pregnancy length, resulting in gestation as short as 52 days or as long as 74 days.

Throughout pregnancy, a cat may express several signs that indicate that she is expecting: weight gain, enlargement of the nipples, an increased appetite, or behavioral changes.

Even though not all cats will display obvious signs of pregnancy, it’s important to remain vigilant during the initial stages so that the right level of care and attention can be provided to the cat.

An important factor to consider is the mother cat’s health. When a cat is in good health, she is more likely to have larger litters than a cat who has underlying medical issues, such as feline leukemia (FeLV).

Several factors can impact the number of kittens a cat can have, including the age of the mother and breed of parents. In fact, the mother cat’s age is one of the most significant factors.

Cats are more likely to have smaller litters when they are younger and larger litters when they are older.

Breeds such as Orientals, Burmese, Abyssinian, Persian, and Siamese also typically have larger litters.

Another important factor to consider is the mother cat’s health. When a cat is in good health, she is more likely to have larger litters than a cat who has underlying medical issues, such as feline leukemia (FeLV).

Cat parents need to provide their feline companions with regular veterinary care to maximize their reproductive potential.

How Many Kittens Are Typically in a Litter?

Most house cats have three to six kittens per litter, with the average being four. Smaller litters are typically expected with the first pregnancy.

What Impacts a Kitten Litter?

The number of kittens in a litter is determined by several factors.

While it's possible for some cats to have a predisposition to have larger litters, others may have smaller litters due to genetics.

Other influences on the number of kittens born include:

  • Nutrition: Malnourished cats may have a decreased litter size or a difficult time getting or staying pregnant.

  • Stress: Increased stress levels are detrimental to your pregnant cat’s health and well-being.

  • Underlying health issues: Cats that are sick or have underlying disease may have smaller litters than those that are healthy.

Can You Tell How Many Kittens Your Cat Will Have?

While it is not always possible to accurately predict the number of kittens a cat will have, there are some signs that can provide an indication.

As the pregnancy progresses, a veterinarian may be able to palpate (feel with the hands) the abdomen and estimate the number of kittens, based on the size and position of the fetuses.

However, this method is not foolproof and may not provide an accurate fetal count.

X-rays are another tool your veterinarian can use to determine a litter size, usually more helpful around 45 days of gestation. However, your veterinarian may not want to expose your pregnant cat to radiation, or they may be inclined to wait until your cat is further along in her pregnancy.

The safest and most accurate method to determine a litter size is ultrasound, as it is more useful earlier in pregnancy and can detect litter size around day 30.

This diagnostic test is not as readily available as X-rays, so it is worthwhile to research veterinary hospitals in your area that offer this service.

Regardless of the anticipated litter size and available testing, as a cat parent you’ll need to provide the proper care and support your cat needs throughout her pregnancy.

References

Kustritz M. Clinical management of pregnancy in cats. Theriogenology. 2006;66(1):145–150.

References


Nicole LaForest, LVT, BSc, MPH

WRITTEN BY

Nicole LaForest, LVT, BSc, MPH

Veterinarian Technician


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