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Not many people breed from their cats, unless they own pedigree cats. But they often have questions about breeding, mating, neutering cats, and related topics. It is worth knowing the facts, so here are the answers to a few FAQs...
Absolutely not! The vet removed your cat's testicles during the operation to castrate or neuter him, but his penis is definitely still there. However, it can be hard to see. In most species the penis is easily visible, but in a cat it points down and back and isn't always obvious. But if you know where to look – between the back legs and close to the very back – it will most definitely still be there. But it's also very small – on average less than half an inch long. Interestingly, a cat's penis is equipped with tiny barbs, and their purpose is to trigger a reaction in the female which causes her hormones to make her ovulate. But these barbs do disappear in the neutered male.
Feline copulation starts when the female lets the male know that she is open to his advances, often by calling loudly. The he grabs her and manoeuvres himself into position. As stated above, the male cat has barbs on his penis. During copulation, these barbs can be painful for the female cat, and she will probably scream. She may also attempt to break free by rolling or striking at the male with her claws. When it's all over, the male runs off to brag about his prowess, often noisily. The female cat has a so-called 'after reaction', where she'll roll around and clean herself, and often make a noise about all this too.
All of this means that the whole process sounds extremely noisy to we humans, from start to finish! But this has survival advantages. The female cat is an 'induced ovulator', which means the act of mating causes her to produce eggs. This is caused by stimulation, and the loud noises the cats make are a part of that stimulation.
A female cat with good access to males who gets an early start in the breeding season (February to September) will probably be able to raise three litters of kittens in a year. Litter sizes vary from one to ten kittens, but probably average around four or five. But if you add it all up, a busy cat mother can produce 50 to 150 kittens in her lifetime. Those kittens can then do the same, from the age of about six months, and so can their kittens, and so on. So you can see how it all adds up.
However, rabbits can produce six or more litters in a year, with each litter containing five to eight offspring. Rabbits are pretty constantly pregnant throughout the breeding season, which is the same months as the cat's. So one rabbit can produce about thirty to sixty babies in a year. The reason for this is that the cat's pregnancy is much longer than the rabbits – about sixty-six days for cats versus thirty days for rabbits, and the mother cat must invest more time in raising the kittens.
So in the sheer numbers department, when it comes to breeding, the rabbit most definitely wins. But cats are extremely prolific, and that is why it is a good idea to spay and neuter pet cats, or they can be responsible for more kittens than you might believe possible.
Feline pregnancy lasts about sixty-six days from ovulation. If you're very observant, you may notice your cat's nipples changing colour fairly early on in her pregnancy; vets and breeders call this 'pinking up'. However, the best way to be certain if your cat is pregnant is to ask your vet. Vets can confirm pregnancy in a couple of ways. From as early as twenty days, a really good vet may be able to feel the kittens developing. But this is not foolproof, and if you want to know for certain, and ultrasound scan will reveal kittens starting from about twenty days into the pregnancy. A pregnancy test can confirm the diagnosis about halfway through, and at this point you might also be noticing that your cat is gradually becoming more round. However, sometimes in young cats with very small litters it is not obvious to the inexperienced eye. I remember as a child, our six month old family 'kitten' surprised everyone by having her own two babies when no-one knew she was pregnant. It does happen, and is a good reason to spay your female cat when she is about four months old.
This is an old wives tale for which there is absolutely no evidence. It is responsible for far too many unwanted kittens, which are every year passed on to cat adoption centres, which usually find themselves bursting at the seams during the kitten season. Your cat can get pregnant from the age of four months and have the kittens when she is six months old, barely more than a kitten herself. These feline teenage mums often don't really know what to do with their babies, and sometimes don't want to be bothered with them; they would prefer to be out playing. Having kittens that young is not good for their health either, and can stunt their growth. Don't listen to people who tell you to let your cat have a litter. It is best to have your female cat spayed at an early age and let her enjoy life. Don't add to the unwanted kittens in the world.
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