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The Family Life of the Domestic Cat

If you do not get your cat desexed, fairly soon it will be having family after family of its own, adding to the pet overpopulation problem.

The Female Kitten

Cats breed fast and they start at an early age. When your female kitten is only 5 to 6 months old, before she is even fully grown, she will be ready and able to breed.

As soon as she comes into season she will be visited by all the unneutered male cats in the neighbourhood; there may be much caterwauling and possibly some fights between competing males.

Approximately 63 days later she will give birth to her kittens. There are usually between 4 and 6 in each litter.

The kittens are born covered with fur, but are quite helpless. Their eyes are closed, but open when they are about 10 days old. During the first three weeks the kittens do little but suckle and sleep. They then begin to play gently with each other, rolling around their bed. They may try climbing out of their basket. By 5 weeks of age they are running around.

Some kittens begin to take an interest in food when they are about 3 weeks old, but others show no interest at all until about 5 weeks. They should be fully weaned by 7 or 8 weeks of age.

By this time, unless the mother cat has been confined to the house, there is every chance that she will already be carrying her second litter!

A few months later these kittens too will be breeding, so your cat family, and your food bills, will be expanding at an alarming rate. Do not let this happen. Please be a responsible owner and spay your cat before she has her first litter.

The Kitten Season

Many people do not realise that there is a kitten season. They discover this fact when they try to adopt a kitten during the winter months, when they are few and far between.

At the first signs of spring all unspayed female cats from 5 to 6 months of age will come into season and will mate. This means that there are thousands of pregnant cats during the spring and early summer months.

The kittens are born mainly between October - March which means there are thousands of them all looking for homes during a short space of time. This causes great problems for animal welfare organisations such as the SPCA, which may not have space or room within their centres to care for the influx of kittens.

Because there are few kittens available in the winter, the early kittens are snapped up because people have been waiting several months for them, but as the season progresses the demand dries up. The kittens awaiting adoption get bigger and fewer people want them because they are "too old" at 3 months!

The message is simple - desex your cat! There is no truth in the old wives tale that every female cat must have a litter. Breeding benefits no one. Ask any homeless cat!

Another myth which should be dispelled concerns the drowning of kittens. Drowning is not humane. It is cruel and punishable by law. The only humane way to put down a kitten is to take it to a veterinarian.

If you know of people who drown unwanted kittens please report them to your local SPCA.

The Male Cat

The life of an unneutered male (or tom) cat is anything but a happy one. On reaching maturity, tom cats define a territory with their odour and fight any cat which enters this territory.

It is this fighting which is responsible for the shocking injuries and abscesses which cats so frequently suffer and the reason people are awakened at night by fighting cats. Neutering your tom cat will end all this.

Neutered male cats are more contented and home-loving. They do not develop the potent tomcat odour and thick bull-neck look.

The Wild (or Feral) Cat

There are no truly wild cats in New Zealand, but thousands of domestic cats and kittens are abandoned each year and left to fend for themselves. Unless they were desexed prior to abandonment, they will breed. Remember, it is an offence to abandon an animal.

Most female cats are determined and devoted mothers. Unlike dogs, who rarely raise a litter without human aid, the average female cat will succeed in raising her kittens, despite being homeless and under-nourished with little resistance to infection and disease.

Whilst many young kittens die in these situations, some survive and breed even more homeless kittens.

If caught and taken in hand at an early age, these feral kittens can be tamed and ultimately become loving house pets, but it takes hard work and much patience, and the chances are they will always be somewhat nervous of strange people and situations.

Caring people often go to great lengths to tame and socialise these stray, feral kittens with the idea of placing them into homes, only to find that after all their efforts there is no one willing to adopt them - so they must either keep them themselves or have them painlessly euthanised.

Whatever the sex of your kitten - for the sake of so many others - please do not let it breed, and never leave it to fend for itself.

Remember it is an offence, punishable by law, to abandon a domestic animal. To abandon or dump a domestic animal is a cruel and cowardly thing to do and prosecution can swiftly follow. For help or advice contact your SPCA or veterinarian.


Article Copyright The Royal New Zealand Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Incorporated (RNZSPCA) -