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How Many Times Can a Cat Get Pregnant in a Year? Vet-Reviewed Facts & FAQ

Written by: Chantelle Fowler

Last Updated on June 3, 2024 by Catster Editorial Team

pregnant cat-pixabay2

How Many Times Can a Cat Get Pregnant in a Year? Vet-Reviewed Facts & FAQ

VET APPROVED

Dr. Maja Platisa Photo

REVIEWED & FACT-CHECKED BY

Dr. Maja Platisa

DVM MRCVS (Veterinarian)

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

Learn more »

Cats are determined and very successful when it comes to mating. Currently, the only effective methods for preventing unwanted pregnancies, the exponential growth of unowned cat populations, and those getting handed into animal shelters is getting your cat spayed, or keeping them exclusively indoors, which may prove challenging for a cat in heat. So, neutering your cat is the most responsible thing a pet parent can do. 

However, if an accident did occur and your kitty has fallen pregnant, you need all the information about her pregnancy and how many litters a cat can carry in a year. These numbers should be enough to get an idea of how quickly cats can get out of control.

A cat can birth as many as five litters yearly, though most do not get pregnant that often.

Read on to learn about cat pregnancies, including how to prevent them and how many kittens cats tend to have in a typical litter.

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How Often Can a Cat Get Pregnant in a Year?

A cat’s gestation period lasts only around 2 months, so a single cat can technically get pregnant up to five times a year. However, this is rare; most cats will only produce a litter one to three times a year.

When it comes to intentional breeding of cats, multiple factors need to be considered and it’s a topic that sparks a lot of debate. Unfortunately, the number of abandoned cats in shelters in the U.S. is around 3 million every year, and around 500,000 cats get euthanized. By breeding cats, this issue may get exacerbated and contribute to increasing numbers of unwanted and abandoned cats.1 

Breeding may be justified when it comes to maintaining a certain healthy cat breed or a particular line if the future parents and their ancestors have gone through health screening and are likely to produce healthy offspring. Breeding cats is a full-time job, requires a lot of experience and knowledge, and should not be taken lightly, as many things could go wrong.

A pregnant cat

How Long Are Cats Pregnant For?

A gestation period in cats is between 64 to 71 days, but around 65 days (9 weeks) on average.

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How Can I Prevent Pregnancy?

Most cat owners know that preventing breeding is the only way to reduce the number of unwanted litters and the number of cats in shelters. There are several ways one can prevent an unwanted pregnancy from occurring.

beautiful pregnant cat
Image Credit: Jim Polakis, Shutterstock

Spaying

Spaying is the most obvious and effective way to prevent feline pregnancies. Not only will this prevent unwanted litters of kittens and undesirable frequent heat behavior, but it can also eliminate the risk of uterine infections and reduce the risk of breast cancer.

Avoiding Male Cats

A natural birth control method is simply preventing your female from coming into contact with males. The only way to do this is not to have an intact male in the house and to keep your female cat indoors at all times. Make sure all the windows and doors are closed and that all family members exercise caution when leaving the house.

pregnant cat looking
Image By: fabiansaragoza, Pixabay

Other Options

Megestrol acetate (MA) is a hormone that has been used in some cases to prevent female cats from going into heat and falling pregnant2. MA was used during the COVID-19 pandemic when spay and neuter clinics were forced to close. The use of MA for pregnancy control is “off-label” in the U.S., meaning the FDA hasn’t yet approved it specifically for the means of controlling female cat fertility.

Not all vets will recommend MA, as getting the right dose for each cat can be difficult, and there may be serious side effects on the cat’s health

We can’t stress enough how important it is to consult with your vet before considering the above methods, particularly off-hormonal ones such as MA, as inappropriate usage is very dangerous and may do more harm than benefit. It’s not a guarantee that a cat won’t get pregnant, and it may cause weight changes, lethargy, behavior changes, vomiting, diarrhea, shaking, collapse, seizures, increased drinking and urination, vaginal discharge, breast tissue enlargement and breast tumors, and recurrence of viral disease or liver problems.

Currently, there is promising research into gene therapy that may stop cats from reproducing for years, or even longer, with an injection of an anti-Müllerian hormone. The results have shown that some cats have not expressed heat behavior at all, and those who did mate with a male did not get pregnant.

The study population was very small with only six cats, but the findings are very positive and may offer an alternative to spaying in the coming years. This would be particularly helpful in managing stray and feral cat populations around the world.

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How Will I Know If My Cat Is Pregnant?

It’s challenging for us to identify any physical signs of pregnancy. The most definitive way to confirm your kitty is pregnant is via blood testing, abdominal palpation, ultrasound, or X-ray.

Some cats may experience pseudopregnancy, where a non-pregnant female will exhibit common pregnancy signs like lactation or nursing without producing any kittens. The cause of pseudopregnancy is unknown, but it’s thought that hormonal imbalances play a role.

Pregnant White Cat
Image Credit: Boy77, Shutterstock

How Many Kittens Are in a Typical Litter?

There can be between one and 12 kittens per litter; however, four seems to be the average.

Several factors can influence a litter size, including:

Fun fact: The world’s largest litter of domestic cats was 19, born to a Burmese/Siamese cat in the United Kingdom in 1970.

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Can a Nursing Mother Cat Get Pregnant?

A mother cat can get pregnant while nursing her newborn kittens. Your kitty’s first post-partum heat cycle can occur just a few weeks after she’s given birth. To prevent an unwanted pregnancy, ensure your female cat is away from unneutered males and talk to your vet about having her spayed.

fluffy cat pregnant give birth and new born baby kittens_iarecottonstudio_shutterstock
Image Credit: iarecottonstudio, Shutterstock

Should a Cat Have Kittens Before Getting Spayed?

Some people believe cats should go through an estrous cycle or birth a litter of kittens before getting spayed, but there are no valid reasons to do so. Cats can get pregnant on their first estrous cycle, thus increasing the chances of an accidental pregnancy.

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Final Thoughts

A cat can get pregnant up to five times a year, though they’re more likely to have one to three litters yearly. If breeding your cat is the goal, consider all the points we discussed, from ongoing costs and health checks, caring for the kittens, and inadvertently contributing to ongoing unwanted cat problems worldwide.

If you’d like to prevent pregnancies, spaying is the most reliable option. Because the procedure requires the removal of the uterus and ovaries, your cat will not be at risk of uterine infections. Spaying also lowers your kitty’s risk of developing breast cancer.


Featured Image Credit: abubibolabu, Pixabay

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