This Valentine’s Day, our question is ‘should you let your female cat have a litter of kittens before they are neutered?’ You may have heard that this is a good idea for your cat. However, this is a common myth and a regular misconception, as there is little evidence to suggest that this is actually beneficial to your cat’s overall health. Breeding your cat does not come without risks and it is a decision which needs to be carefully made.
Table of contents
Is breeding my cat an easy process?
Simply, the answer is no! As well as being prepared for the textbook scenario resulting in a bunch of healthy kittens, you need to also be prepared for things going wrong. You may encounter hurdles before birth, during birth or after birth. And this can be a very costly and worrying process.
If you do decide to breed your cat, I would advise that you seek Veterinary advice. This is to ensure that your cat has a health check with your Vet to confirm whether she is healthy enough to consider breeding. Always have your pet registered with a local Vet practice. Don’t wait until they are sick to register them, do it before!
It is also super important to ensure that your cat does not carry any congenital abnormalities such as an umbilical hernia. Furthermore, we would not recommend breeding these individuals due to the risk of passing these traits onto their offspring and it would be irresponsible to do so.
What are the implications of breeding my cat?
There are a multitude of factors to sit down and consider before breeding your cat. Below lists some of these factors (this list is not exhaustive):
As I have already mentioned, there can be hurdles you may encounter which can become costly, for example caesareans.
The ‘GCCF’ is the governing body of the cat fancy. They issue guidelines for each breed of pedigree cat. The GCCF is a bit similar to the kennel club for dogs, with respect to providing information on breed standards.
Pregnancy ultrasound scan
A cat pregnancy length, also known as gestation, is usually between 63 and 68 days long. Your Vet can perform an ultrasound scan to confirm a pregnancy from around 3 weeks after mating. Your Vet will not, however, be able to accurately confirm how many foetuses there are. Anyone who says they can is misinformed. While it is possible to distinguish between “not pregnant” and “pregnant”, when you start trying to count the numbers of beating hearts of kittens who are moving around inside, it is fundamentally inaccurate.
Cats are generally amazing at caring for themselves. This means that they are a species which generally are low risk during pregnancy, labour and lactation. However, breeding your cat does of course not come without risks. Usually, cats in labour do not require much human assistance, but rarely do they have some difficulty and experience dystocia (difficult birth). If your cat is in active labour, there is no sign of a kitten despite 20 minutes of active straining, contact your Vet for advice. If in doubt about anything, contact your Vet to check whether intervention is required.
Vaccinations and health care
We always recommend that your pet is fully up to date with vaccinations. Ensuring your cat is fully vaccinated prior to breeding will provide support to your newborn kitten’s immune system. Additionally, it is also very important to ensure that your cat is up to date with flea and worm treatment, speak to your Vet to make sure the products used are safe to use in pregnant/lactating cats. As always, prevention is better than cure.
Ensuring that your cat has the current nutrients and nutrition during their pregnancy and lactation is vitally important. Energy demands during pregnancy and lactation are especially high and they must have an adequate intake of nutrition to be at optimum health. Speak to your Veterinarian for nutritional advice for your breeding cat.
In 2019 alone, the ‘Cats Protection’ charity rehomed 41,000 cats. With the UK (and many other Countries across the globe) having thousands of abandoned and unwanted felines, it is not surprising that Vets are advising against letting your cat have at least one litter.
When can my cat be neutered/spayed?
Female kittens can reach sexual maturity from a very early age! Some kittens can be sexually mature from around 4 months of age. Many practices neuter cats from around 4 months of age before they hit puberty, aiming to prevent any unwanted pregnancies.
If you do not want your cat to get pregnant, do not let your cat have any outdoor access before they are neutered. Your cat could become pregnant after one single encounter with a male cat (even a relative such as her brother – cats aren’t as fussy about their partners as humans)!
Generally, when younger cats are neutered they recover and heal much quicker from the neutering surgery than older cats. Furthermore, neutering cats at a young age reduces the risk of mammary tumour/breast cancer development later on in life.
If your cat has a litter of kittens and you decide not to breed again, we would still strongly advise neutering her, this will prevent a pyometra (womb infection) which can be life threatening.
To conclude, there are no documented health benefits to your cat having at least one litter of kittens before being neutered. As well as there being many health concerns and risks that come alongside breeding, there are also a ‘cat-astrophic’ amount of cats at rescue centres needing homes, excuse the pun. If you do decide to breed your cat, please breed responsibly, seek Veterinary advice and be prepared.