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How soon can a cat go into heat after giving birth?


Photo of Pregnant Cat

Pregnant Cat

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Question: How soon can a cat go into heat after giving birth?

Adrienne asks: I have a cat that had a litter about 5 months ago; they were absolutely adorable. I kept one of them, a little boy and would like to know if this is true: As long as the mother still has one of her litter will she not come back in season again?


Adrienne, I'm glad you asked. I assume your mother cat is no longer nursing the male kitten, who is now five months old. Even if she were, the old wives story about female cats being safe from pregnancy as long as they are still nursing kittens is simply not true. Actually, most cats will have an estrus cycle (the technical name for heat) within six to eight weeks after giving birth. In rare occasions, a cat will have an estrus cycle within a week after her kittens were born.

You also asked, "If this is not true will the little boy try to mate with his mother?"

Bingo! Short answer to that question is a resounding YES! In more detail, both male and female kittens can reach sexual maturity between four and six months, so it is entirely possible that your kitten could impregnate his mother at his current age. Of course, the longer you wait to have him neutered, the higher the chances that your female cat will find herself pregnant again. This is potentially dangerous both for your female cat and for her kittens. You haven't mentioned if this last litter was the first litter she'd had, or if she had given birth before. Several repeat pregnancies with only short periods between, give added burdens to your cat's health. Bearing kittens, giving birth, and nursing them can sap your cat's physical resources, leaving her malnourished and exhausted, eventually.

Responsible breeders of purebred cats keep this in mind, and limit the number of litters a given Queen (female cat) will have, and keep a reasonable gap of time between litters, to enable her to completely wean her kittens and to recover her optimum health. At some point the Queen will be retired, at which time she will be spayed, to prevent any further pregnancies, and to allow her to enjoy her senior years, so richly deserved.

Since your cat is not a purebred, there is no legitimate reason to allow her to continue having kittens. You did not mention what happened to the other kittens in this litter. Whether they were given away "free to a good home," or surrendered to an animal shelter, the downside is this: Although it has been improved by educating the public on the importance of spaying and neutering pets, we still have a huge cats and dogs overpopulation problem in the United States. In 2011, 20 million animals were euthanized in shelters to help reduce the overpopulation. This figure in most cases included young and healthy animals. Since kittens are so popular, the majority of people who adopt, will adopt kittens, leaving the adult cats behind at risk of euthanasia. The more kittens available, the risk of their escaping euthanasia becomes greater. If you gave the kittens "free to a good home," some of them may have actually found good homes, where they would be spayed and neutered. However, some of them may have been allowed to breed, making the overpopulation problem even worse.

Although my words may seem harsh, they are based on fact. I don't blame you for not knowing these details. At least you were concerned enough to ask. But now that you do, my best advice to you is to get both your female cat spayed and the little male kitten neutered. They will both be happier and will make better pets in the long run. As they grow older, if you enjoy having kittens around, you might volunteer to be a foster for kittens, or even foster a pregnant and her offspring. Cat rescue groups are always looking for fosters, and quite often they have arrangements to get free or low-cost spay and neuter for the mother cats and their kittens. Or they take the kittens to "adoption day" events at reputable pet supply stores, such as Petsmart or Petco, to find homes with folks willing to pay for spay/neutering at the time of adoption. It would be a win-win situation for all concerned.

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