When Kittens Have Kittens

five kittens outside

I’m so disappointed in my favorite “natural rearing” email list tonight. They’re talking about how old a cat should be when she’s spayed and encouraging the person who asked to wait until her cat is seven or eight months old to spay her.

But what they’ve neglected to mention is that a female cat can become pregnant at four months and have her first litter when she’s six months old. Yes, kittens can have kittens! Even indoor cats should be spayed before they reach “child bearing age,” because indoor cats in heat can slip out the door, and accidents do happen!

Here are some interesting numbers from the Banfield Pet Hospitals blog:

  • The average litter is between two and five kittens, although there can be up to 10 kittens in some litters.
  • If just two kittens from the litter survive, and one is a female and the other is a male, two females will give birth about nine months later. Then the number of cats in our family goes from three to eight cats. Nine months later, there will be 16.
  • According to one study, in seven years two cats can result in a total of 98 cats or more.

No one on my email list is going to let her cats reproduce twice a year, year after year. But you get the idea.

Personally, I’m an advocate of early spay/neuter. Sometimes the realities of this world need to trump everything else. And the reality is that thousands of unwanted kittens die in shelters each year. The Humane Society of the United States estimates that shelters kill more than 2 million healthy cats and dogs every year. Many of them are the unwanted offspring of much-loved family members.

Only you and your cat can decide when it’s the right time to have her spayed. But if you decide to wait, think about all those unwanted kittens dying in shelters and decide what you’ll do if the unthinkable happens. Are you prepared to keep those unanticipated kittens? Will you take them to a shelter and hope for the best? Will you adopt them out yourself?

Here’s something else to think about: If your cat has kittens, and you adopt them out, you’ll be taking homes away from kittens who are already in a shelter and desperately need them. Their lives depend on them!

To me, the easy answer is to get a cat spayed before she’s even capable of having kittens. If finances are preventing you from doing this, here’s a list of low-cost spay/neuter clinics in the Baltimore area. There’s a nationwide list here.


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