Female cats can get pregnant immediately they reach puberty, which is as early as four months. In most cases, cats are capable of getting pregnant as early as 4 to 10 months of age unless they have been spayed to prevent pregnancy.
The exact time is determined by factors such as the cat's weight, breed, overall health, and time/season. Cats tend to get pregnant in spring or summer. However, they can get pregnant any other season/time of the year if the environment is conducive.
How Many Times Do Cats Go Into Heat (Oestrus)?
Since oestrus precedes pregnancy, it’s important to understand the process in-depth. Cats are polyoestrus species meaning they go into heat many times a year. Their counterparts (dogs) are dioestrous, meaning they go into heat just twice every year. Female cats usually go into heat until they mate and/or become pregnant.
How Soon Can A Cat Get Pregnant After Having Kittens?
When cats become pregnant, they will go into heat again approximately 8 weeks after pregnancy. This can take 1 to 21 weeks and generally coincides with the period when kittens are weaned. It's worth noting that cats don't have to become pregnant when they mate. They can show all signs of pregnancy, such as gaining weight and appetite but won't have kittens. This is referred to as false or pseudo-pregnancy. It takes cats 4 to 6 weeks to go back into heat after a false pregnancy.
If a cat that goes into heat fails to mate, she will go back into heat 1 to 14 days later. This cycle can repeatedly continue until she mates or when the breeding period comes to an end. Generally, cats go into heat 2-3 weeks from spring to early fall.
Signs Your Cat Is On Heat
Cats going into heat (oestrus) emit certain signs, which are mostly behavioral. They include:
i. Increased vocalization: Cats in oestrus have a yowl that tends to be louder and longer than a normal meow. Although distinct, the yowl can be confused with expressions of anxiety and pain. The distinguishing factor is usually the consistency and lack of an apparent trigger.
ii. Increased affection: If your cat is increasingly affectionate towards you and other cats, then she may be on heat. Common signs include increased weaving or rubbing against your legs and rolling on the floor. This sign can be distinguished from typical playfulness. Cats are overly interested in purring and petting sessions when they go into heat. It’s worth noting that some cats can be aggressive instead of being increasingly affectionate.
iii. Changes in mannerisms: Cats going into heat also want to spend more time outdoors. They also tend to have a bad appetite. Your cat may also have other mannerisms like spraying urine on walls and having increased attention on their genitals.
Important: Some cats don’t show any signs at all. However, this is rare.
Signs Your Cat Is Pregnant
There are signs to look out for to determine if your cat is pregnant. However, these signs don't confirm pregnancy. To avoid guesswork, just visit your vet and confirm that you have kittens on the way. Cats have full bellies all the time when they overeat, so such signs aren't accurate. An ultrasound is the surest way to confirm pregnancy. However, it should be done after day 16 of pregnancy. What's more, don't expect to know the exact number of kittens. An X-ray can let you know the size of the litter, but it's not always accurate.
Cats ovulate when they mate. As a result, a single litter can have kittens from more than one father. Cats have a gestation period of 60-63 days. Cats show initial signs of pregnancy three weeks after pregnancy. Common signs include increased appetite, larger and pinker nipples, and increased affection.
Other signs include increased interest in spending time indoors, quietness, increased sleepiness, and disinterest in male cats. Cats can have their first litter of kittens when they are 6 months old since they take approximately two months to have kittens and are capable of getting pregnant when they are 4 months old.
Caring For A Pregnant Cat
Although cats have relatively "quiet" pregnancies, lookout for signs of sickness i.e., vomiting and lack of appetite. If the "morning sickness" persists, take your cat to the vet. Signs such as fatigue are normal as hormonal and bodily changes occur. However, this phase fades in the first few weeks. If it persists, take your cat to the vet.
It's normal for pregnant cats to eat more food. You should supply adequate nutritious food to your cat to ensure you get a healthy litter. If you need some nutritional advice, visit your vet. Cats that get a large litter may have special nutritional needs for obvious reasons.
Helping Your Cat During The Birth Process
If you take your cat to the vet during pregnancy and get a clean bill of health, chances are she will go through the birth process successfully on her own. In most cases, you'll just wake up in the morning to the sight of kittens. However, it's good to have your vet on standby in case of anything.
Finding A Comfortable Home For The Kittens
Cats need a quiet, warm, and clean space to take care of their newborn kittens. You should set her kittens up in her favorite spot in a room and allow her to move the kittens as she pleases. If the area you have set up is warm and comfortable, she will make a new home there. If you want to send the kittens away, prepare adequately, and make the decision with the best interests of your cat and her litter in mind. If you don’t want another litter in a few months, you can consider spaying.
Is Spaying Or Neutering A Cat Recommendable?
Spaying or neutering is recommendable to prevent unwanted litters. It is also recommendable for health reasons i.e., to prevent mammary gland tumors. Veterinarians recommend spaying mainly for these two reasons. In fact, most shelters require pediatric spaying before adoption. This usually happens before a cat goes into the first heat cycle.
Although cats can be spayed at any age, it should be done early as possible to reduce the recovery time. Older cats have a harder time recovering from pediatric spaying when compared to their older counterparts.