Pass by almost any pet store and you'll most likely see cute kittens and playful puppies romping around happily in the front windows. An adorable face is hard to resist, and those furry little kittens with their big eyes are no exception. But as that tiny kitty grows, so will her urge to mate and produce even more tiny kittens. Cats, unlike humans, reach puberty fairly quickly, and can get pregnant as early as just 4 months old.
Female cats can first go into heat anywhere between the ages of 4 months and 1 year, depending upon their breed. Generally speaking, domestic shorthairs will come into heat earlier than their longhair counterparts. When your cat goes into heat, she will become more vocal as she calls for a mate and behave much more affectionately by rubbing against you or the furniture.
Sexuality and Mating
Cats will cycle into heat every 2 or 3 weeks until mating occurs, or until the days shorten, as the amount of daylight influences her cycles. Peak breeding seasons usually take place in the months with longer days, such as between January and September. Giving birth is not a mating deterrent to cats, as she can cycle into heat soon after her kittens are born--getting pregnant again even while nursing her last litter.
A cat is pregnant for 60 to 63 days, on average. Cats ovulate after mating, so it is possible for a single litter to contain kittens produced from more than one mating. There aren't many obvious signs of pregnancy in the first few weeks, but as the pregnancy progresses, you may notice symptoms such as larger, pinker nipples and increased appetite with weight gain. Her personality also may change, in that she will become more loving and affectionate, and will sleep more.
Caring for a Pregnant Cat
About midway through her pregnancy, add kitten formula to the mother cat's diet, slowly increasing the amount until she is eating all kitten food about a week before birth. She may need to eat smaller meals throughout the day as her kittens finish developing. Drugs and medications should be avoided during pregnancy and nursing, unless specified by your veterinarian. Two weeks before birth, create a nesting box for your kitty mother-to-be, allowing her a safe, quiet place to birth her babies.
There is no set-in-stone breeding season for cats, and a female can have up to 5 litters in one year, with each litter producing anywhere from 3 to 6--or more!--kittens. Though their fertility may decline as they age, cats have no equivalent of menopause and can become pregnant even in their advanced years. Nursing cats can be spayed, although it is better to wait until the kittens have been weaned.