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Why Did My Cat Have Only One Kitten? 3 Possible Reasons

Written by: Ashley Bates

Last Updated on June 7, 2024 by Catster Editorial Team

mother cat giving birth to her child

Why Did My Cat Have Only One Kitten? 3 Possible Reasons


Dr. Paola Cuevas Photo


Dr. Paola Cuevas

MVZ (Veterinarian)

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

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If your cat mistakenly or intentionally became pregnant, you’re probably excited about the birth. But if the big day comes and you keep checking the mother to see how many little kitties you have to love on, you might be shocked only to see one.

The clock keeps ticking, you keep checking, and still—no more babies come. Cats typically have between four and 10 kittens per litter. So, let’s discuss why your cat might have only had a single birth and what signs to look for that signal something more time-sensitive is at play.

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The 3 Possible Reasons Why A Cat Will Have Only One Kitten

1. Lack of Development in Fertilized Eggs

For whatever reason, your cat might have several eggs to fertilize, but the body won’t let them grow. Sometimes, it can be a good thing, as it can signal issues with the fetus. Some eggs won’t develop or won’t successfully implant. In that situation, there could be a chance that the mother delivers a single kitten, and that’s all.

It’s vital to ensure she doesn’t have any additional kittens. So, look for other signs of prolonged labor to ensure she’s finished and at no risk of a medical emergency.

Pregnant White Cat
Image Credit: Boy77, Shutterstock

2. Dystocia

Most cats can give birth, which is also called queening. It is a natural process for them, and most mothers do it easily and without complications. But just like with humans, issues can arise in this vulnerable hour.

The word dystocia means difficult or abnormal birth. Suppose your cat has delivered only one kitten but continues to show signs of labor. In that case, it could mean that your cat has a complicated birth, such as a stuck kitten, or another potentially life-threatening complication.

The size or shape of the pelvic canal sometimes causes dystocia. If the pelvis is injured or is narrow, the mother might have severe pain, trouble laboring, and even get a kitten lodged during birthing.

It can also be caused by kittens that are too large. If the kitten is too large, they can’t comfortably fit through the birth canal, which can cause a pause in labor. Some mothers who experience this complication will require a C-section.

Signs of dystocia include:
  • Labor lasting longer than 24 hours
  • Straining with no kitten production

You must seek veterinary attention at this time, as this is time-sensitive and somewhat dangerous for the mother.

cat examined by Vets
Image Credit: Kzenon, Shutterstock

3. Your Cat Might Not Be Finished With Birthing

Sometimes, cats can go as long as 24 hours between birthing a kitten. The process might seem extensive, and it’s also quite strenuous for your cat. Just know that if she’s not moving around, it doesn’t always signal that it is the end of the birthing process.

Give her time and watch her body language so you can see when she is seemingly finished giving birth. If your cat shows no signs of distress after delivering only one kitten, she could be finished with labor.

However, if it just seems like your cat is struggling or acting unnatural, call the veterinarian immediately to ensure there’s no emergency. Even if your cat is still in labor and able to deliver naturally, they are running into some pretty long birthing times, which can cause complications for both the queen and her kittens.

mother cat gave birth to kitten
Image By: Azami Adiputera, Shutterstock


Safe Birthing Tips

If you know your cat is getting ready to deliver, there are some ways that you can intervene to make her more comfortable. First, give her a space away from the rest of the household. You’ll want her to feel as safe and calm as possible during the process.

  • Build her a private nest or birthing box to deliver her kittens in.
  • Regularly check her temperature to stage the process.
  • Offer a quiet area free of any distractions.
  • Calm her down by offering total privacy, even from you.
  • Never handle the kittens right away, as this could cause stress.

When to See the Vet

It is a terrific idea to give your veterinarian a heads-up if you plan on letting your cat have a litter of kittens. They should be on close standby when she’s ready to go into labor, just in case any complications arise.

If you feel like your cat might be struggling at any point in the birthing process, it’s best to call your vet and explain her behavior. They might advise you to bring her in for further evaluation or recommend ways to help her at home.

In rare events, emergency surgery may be necessary. So, if you have any suspicions, it’s time to make the call. But to cover your bases, here are some signs during labor not to ignore:

  • Extreme lethargy
  • Excessive thirst (polydipsia)
  • Abnormal palpitations
  • Foul-smelling discharge
  • Fever
  • Excessive bleeding

If your cat has had only one kitten, she might refuse to take care of it if she has further complications. So, this is also a sign in some cases.

vet holding burma cat
Image By: Elpisterra, Shutterstock

Importance of Spaying Your Female

Many owners let their cats have kittens without understanding the full implications of the decision. Some are not prepared for the extensive care required and must surrender the kittens to a shelter.

The best thing you can do is spay your female so you don’t have to worry about her having complications during birth. Also, getting your female fixed decreases her risk for reproductive-related health issues later in life.

Some issues like uterine cancer, mammary gland cancer, and uterine infections are extremely common. Spaying her before she has kittens decreases the likelihood of those risks. Plus, it impacts the overall longevity of your cat.

If you’re having trouble finding the funds to spay your female, you can always look for alternative options that are easier on the wallet. Instead of going to a veterinary office, which charges $200 to $500 to spay a female cat, you could look at shelters and mobile clinics in your area. Sometimes, they provide significantly lower prices for the same surgery.

cat spaying procedure
Image By: De Visu, Shutterstock


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Final Thoughts

So now you know that it is possible, while rare, for a female to give birth to a single kitten. If you have had an ultrasound during your cat’s pregnancy, you might already have known this before the kittens even came.

But if you are with your cat during the birthing process and you’re concerned that she only has one kitten, look for signs that the labor will continue. Take note of any behavioral or physical changes so you can report them to your veterinarian. If your cat is struggling in any way, it’s best to get her to the vet so she can receive the appropriate care if it’s something more serious.

Featured Image Credit: Goldziitfotografie, Shutterstock

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