This comment by Gabriel Altunel highlights a problem:
Our little girl Cinnamon has given birth after the two months she’s been with us while we were trying to look for a spaying center. We are not thinking of giving them to a shelter, however, we will give them to compassionate cat lovers whom will give them a good home, meaning we’ll look for a home for the kittens once they grow a little. 3 were born and they are all healthy and sound along with their mommy. My son helped her give birth by cutting their umbilical cords. So far their colors are gray, black, and black and white. (Comment added to a page by Elisa on the age to sterilise a cat) – note: no criticism of Gabriel is intended in this article.
There seems to be a considerable number of kittens born “inadvertently” before the mother cat has been spayed. These kittens are unwanted, at least at the beginning of their lives. They add to the vast pool of unwanted cats, which is the most pressing cat problem in America, in my opinion.
Although some births are accidental due to delayed spaying, some people believe a female cat should give birth to kittens once. I think the reasoning is that it makes her a better character or something like that.
“A segment of the American population believes that female cats need to experience parturition before they are sterilized” (PH Kass in a section on cat overpopulation in The Welfare of Cats)
However, the general advice from veterinarians will be that a queen (intact female cat used for breeding usually) does not need to have a litter of kittens to be “psychologically fulfilled”.
A study by Luke in 1996 concluded that:
“20% of cats gave birth to an average of 2.43 litters with an average size of 4.3 kittens, prior to being spayed.²”
If the figure of 20% of cats refers to 20% of all female cats in America that is a large number. And the reason, in part, is because the owner thinks the cat has to have a litter to be alright psychologically. A belief that seems to have no foundation in science.
The reasons why people want their female cat to have a least one litter are:
- treating their cat as a person and believing that a female person has the right to give birth to offspring;
- the cat will be healthier throughout her life;
- the cat’s owner wants children and in allowing her cat to give birth takes pleasure from that experience. It is a vicarious birth experience. The woman wants to be a mother again.
- the belief that cats need to reach sexual maturity before being sterilized².
There was a time when vets did advise that cats should be at least 6 months old before sterilisation. They now provide alternative advise. The timing for sterilization appears to be quite important. Modern thinking is that a female should be spayed between 5-7 months of age and:
“before she goes into her first heat¹”
Apparently the operation is easier to do at this age and there are less complications. Some vets spay cats when they are 7 weeks old. Some research indicates that spaying early causes the female to be taller but there are no health problems nor are their any long-term behavioral effects¹.
That is the overview of what appears to be a considerable problem in the USA and in other countries. Clearly the cause of what must be a large number of unwanted cats is due to misplaced thoughts and beliefs by the owner of a female cat.
As Ruth aka Kattaddorra consistently writes; it is about education, education, education.
- Cat Owners Home Veterinary Handbook pages 426-427
- Welfare of Cats pages 124-125