Why it's never a good idea to let your cat have 'just one litter'

Rescue cat Lola with her kittens

Rescue cat Lola with her kittens - Credit: Feline Network

We hear it all the time, people using the excuse to let their cat have kittens, saying its natural, beneficial for the cat.

This simply is not true.

In rescue, we see some horrific cases where a cat has given birth to deformed, deceased or terribly ill kittens. 

Kitten mortality rate is high anyway, with domestic cats. 

While cats are typically good mothers, they often struggle with that first litter, the kittens might not be strong enough to latch on, mum may not have enough milk, kittens can be born ill, with cleft palates, upper respiratory conditions etc which means they will have a slow death.

Over the past year we’ve had several instances where kittens are born OK but succumb to starvation, they cannot suckle or have mucus blockages, or the mum is simply too young to cope, often being a kitten herself, the kittens can strangle themselves on the umbilical cord or just cannot latch on to suckle, and mum ignores them or accidently lays on them.

Kitten fade is a term known too well within cat rescue, and is an inexplicable slow fading and death of kittens usually up to six weeks old and can happen if they are malnourished.

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Cats can fall pregnant as young as five to six months, and will often have been impregnated by several males, thus being more at risk of feline illnesses, and injuries, as Toms fight over her. 

Feline immunodeficiency (FIV) is common among unneutered Toms who have wandered off to find a mate, lost their way home, ending up living a life of fighting and scrounging food.

Furthermore, the pregnant female may escape, getting lost and giving birth in alarmingly unsafe places.

We have rescued mum and kittens from sheds, fields, car parks – and as well as the mum not being able to get a food source, the kittens often get picked off by foxes.

If the kittens make it to eight weeks, mum is likely going to be pregnant again, the kittens will be feral, and need trapping and taming – which is a mammoth task.  

There are schemes offered by bigger rescues to get your cat neutered at a reduced cost, most vets will now spey and castrate at 12 to 15 weeks. 

If you get your cat neutered as early as possible it reduces the risk of them accidently getting out while on heat. 

Lola's kittens

Lola's kittens - Credit: Feline Network

The pictures here are of our latest rescue cat, who gave birth in the fosterers home, only to lose two of the three kittens within two days of being born.

This is her third or fourth litter, which is appalling and for which there is no excuse.