FEMALE CATS IN LATE FALL TO PREVENT SPRING (AND SUMMER) LITTERS
FORT COLLINS - If you have a female cat born
this year, you may be surprised by her litter of kittens as
early as February.
"Cats are seasonally polyestrus," said Dr. Lynne
Kesel, associate professor of clinical sciences at Colorado
State University's Veterinary Teaching Hospital. "That
means there's a certain season of the year when they come
into heat, and that's usually sometime in December. The majority
stop coming into heat in May or June."
Probably 90 percent of domesticated cats demonstrate
polyestrous behavior, said Kesel, who oversees the Veterinary
Teaching Hospital's spaying and neutering program. A cat born
as late as August could mate in December and give birth in
February (cats gestate for 64 days).
Polyestrous behavior has been observed in
big cats in the wild.
"We don't do a lot of selective breeding
on cats the way we do with dogs," Kesel said. "Essentially,
most cats are still mutts and close to the wild." Spring
births have survival value, she notes, ensuring that kittens
are born when their prey (mice, birds, etc.) are providing
a good supply of food for the nursing mother and eventually
for the young cats.
It's always a good idea to have dogs and cats
spayed or neutered, Kesel said, but it's easy to overlook
those female kittens born late in summer. Don't, she warned.
Pounds and shelters are full of overlooked animals, most of
them destined for destruction.