Tuesday 22 June 2021

How many litters does a cat have in a year?

The answer depends upon whether we are talking about domestic or wild cats. And I don't think it is possible to produce a one size fits all answer to the question. In fact, you will see a variety of answers to this question on the Internet. My conclusion is that domestic cats have 2-3 litters per year. Wild cats in general have one litter per year. It is hard to find definitive answers with respect to the wild cat species because even the best reference work that I have doesn't provide answers sometimes on a species-by-species basis.

Litter of kittens
Image by David Mark from Pixabay.

However, the sand cat and the bobcat appear to produce 2 litters per year but this may not happen every year. In fact, a semi-tame bobcat in a zoo produced 2 litters but Mel and Fiona Sunquists, the authors of a great book on the wild cat species, Wild Cats of the World, said that this is probably unusual. This indicates to me that one litter per year is more normal for the American bobcat.

Theoretically domestic cats could have 5 litters per year but practically it is probably as stated above although Dr. Desmond Morris in his book CATWATCHING argues that they have 3 litters per year and if they have 14 kittens within those 3 litters then within 5 years, there could be more than 65,000 kittens!

You will see that there is a difference between the theoretical numbers and practical numbers.  Many kittens die, for example. And there are variables which influence the number of litters per year. For example, when a group of male lions take over a pride and they kill the cubs, the lionesses are brought into heat. They become receptive to mating. This artificially forces them to have a litter. 

But if their offspring become adults then usually they don't have another litter until their existing offspring have reached the age of 18 months. This would imply that they have one litter every 18 months if their cubs are not killed by incoming males in acts of infanticide.

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