Cats are such wonderful and fascinating creatures. They lead a life that is rather unique to many other pets and it is true to say that owning a cat can bring many surprises to the table.
There is however nothing more joyous for most owners than when their female cat becomes pregnant. The thought of potentially lots of cute bundles of fur running around the house is enough to excite most people.
With that comes lots of questions about pregnancy and what to expect when your female cat is pregnant since their gestation period is very different from other animals.
One owner recently came to us and asked us about when their cat is likely to stop having litters. This is a very valid question and it is particularly important if your cat has already had many litters previously. It is not necessarily very easy to deal with litter after litter and you may be wondering when the cycle will stop.
So, at what age do cats stop having kittens? Cats, biologically, don’t stop having litters. Provided that female cats have not been neutered and are reasonably healthy, they can continue to produce litters their entire life. Female cats do not experience menopause and therefore this does not affect their ability to become pregnant in the same way it does for humans.
Keep reading to learn everything you need to know about female cat biology and why they can continue having kittens long after we would expect!
Do cats ever stop having litters?
Yes, it’s true! Those little fur babies will just keep on coming unless you physically put a stop to it. Having a couple of litters is nice, to begin with, but after a while, it is often the case this takes its toll on owners.
Pregnant cats need lots of care, as do the kittens when they are born. Cats can have anywhere up to 12 in a litter which can be a real handful. The average litter usually consists of 4, but there is always a chance of more.
If you own a female cat that has not been neutered and is allowed to roam outside freely there is always a possibility of pregnancy. There are way more ‘Tom’ cats out there than you would think and just because your cat has had litters before or is growing older in age does not mean they are exempt.
Cats do not experience menopause and therefore they do not have a ticking biological clock where fertility is an issue. There is no time limit for female cats to become pregnant and they can continue to produce offspring their entire lifetime.
It is fair to say that if you do not want your cat to become pregnant and continue producing litters you must do one of the following:
- Have your female kitty neutered, known as spaying (where both the ovaries and uterus are removed)
- Keep your cat indoors away from straying Tom cats particularly whilst she is in heat
- Hormonal injections administered by your vet to prevent pregnancy
Providing you use one of the above methods it is very unlikely your cat becomes pregnant unless something has gone wrong. It is important to be aware that cats can become pregnant again around 4 weeks after producing a litter when their estrus cycle starts again.
Some people believe cats can’t become pregnant again so quickly, but this is simply not true and it is highly possible for a cat to become pregnant while still nursing their first litter. You can see how this situation can become out of control if not managed correctly.
At what age do cats stop going into heat?
Cats do not stop going into heat and therefore are fertile their whole lifetime. They can become pregnant at any time throughout their lives unlike humans that in the nicest possible way have a shelf life.
Cats do not go through menopause like humans and some other animals do and therefore this allows them the fortunate situation of continuing to reproduce.
Cats continue to produce eggs no matter how old they are and it is unlikely there is much variation of egg count as time passes. They are therefore considered to be very fertile creatures.
In very rare instances you will come across a cat that does not have a heat cycle and is therefore classed as infertile, but this doesn’t happen very often and will likely be the case from birth.
How many times can a cat get pregnant during a lifetime?
As mentioned previously, cats can continue reproducing as much as they wish to and as much as their body can handle. It isn’t uncommon for cats to have 2-4 litters per year which may seem a lot however their gestation period is much shorter than humans and usually lasts anywhere between 58 – 67 days in total.
When we look at this period of pregnancy and the fact a cat has a heat cycle every 4 weeks it is clear to see how very possible 2-4 litters a year actually is.
Based on the fact an average cat litter is approx. 4 kittens (sometimes up to 12) and they can live on average 12-16 years, over a lifetime your cat could have anywhere between 50-150 kittens during their lifetime.
This is an awful lot of offspring and if your female cat has not been neutered or preventative measures have not been put in place, you will need to have a very solid plan for these numbers. It will be unrealistic to think you could keep all of the kittens and likely you will need to sell them on.
This is often how rehoming centers become overrun with unwanted animals and it is a wise idea to think this through carefully before potentially contributing to this problem.
Can a 15-year-old cat get pregnant?
Yes, can just as easily have kittens at age 15 as they can at 5 years old. A cat never loses their ability to reproduce and at 15 years old your cat is more than capable to become pregnant.
Many owners believe that when cats get into their twilight years it is not possible for them to become pregnant and many have learned the hard way.
As you are probably well aware cat years are completely different from human years. When looking at a 15-year-old cat it may seem quite young to you, but if we convert this into human years your 15-year-old cat is the equivalent of about 76.
Check out this great cat to human comparison age chart:
|Cat Years||Human Years|
|1 Years||15 Years|
|2 Years||24 Years|
|3 Years||28 Years|
|4 Years||32 Years|
|5 Years||36 Years|
|6 Years||40 Years|
|7 Years||44 Years|
|8 Years||48 Years|
|9 Years||52 Years|
|10 Years||56 Years|
|11 Years||60 Years|
|12 Years||64 Years|
|13 Years||68 Years|
|14 Years||72 Years|
|15 Years||76 Years|
|16 Years||80 Years|
|17 Years||84 Years|
|18 Years||88 Years|
|19 Years||92 Years|
|20 Years||96 Years|
|21 Years||100 Years|
It can seem strange to think that a cat of all ages is still able to reproduce successfully since as humans we would not expect our grandparents to still be able to get pregnant at such as grand age. It is highly possible for cats of older age, and this quite often catches their owners off guard.
Cat pregnancies are visible after only a couple of weeks so it will not take you long to realize that your senior cat has become pregnant.
Some of the things to look out for as signs of pregnancy are:
- Nipples become enlarged and red (this is something that is known as ‘pinking up’)
- Sickness (vomiting)
- Gradual weight gain (between 1-2kg)
- Increased appetite (could also be a sign of worms or other infestations)
- Your cat will act more maternal (will likely be seeking much more attention from you)
- Ultrasounds by your vet (this is the only way to 100% know for sure)
At what age can young cats first become pregnant?
It may be surprising to hear since they are pretty much still kitties themselves, but cats can become pregnant at a relatively young age. Cats can become pregnant as young as 4 months old which is why it is usually advisable to have them spayed (neutered) before this age (if you wish to do so).
As soon as cats reach the 4-month mark the heat cycle is liable to begin which means pregnancy is possible. You will find that nearly all rehoming centers ensure every cat is spayed when brought in including kittens. It may seem quite harsh that a cat can get pregnant at such a young age, but our feline friends tend to mature pretty quickly.
In conclusion, unless you are planning on a house full of fur babies, potentially 2-4 times a year you may want to consider neutering as a viable option. Many rehoming centers will offer this service for free and all vets will happily carry out this procedure at a cost.
Up Next: Where Should A Kitten Sleep At Night?