Kittens Born Before Mother (Queen) is Spayed

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.

Kittens born before mother spayedThere 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.


  1. Cat Owners Home Veterinary Handbook pages 426-427
  2. Welfare of Cats pages 124-125
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Kittens Born Before Mother (Queen) is Spayed — 6 Comments

  1. Yes it’s about EDUCATION EDUCATION EDUCATION….sometimes my needle gets stuck on that word lol
    It’s strange how some people still believe a cat needs to have a litter of kittens before being spayed. Our vets always recommended a cat to be spayed around 6 months of age but if she came into season meanwhile, keep her in and make the appointment for a week to 10 days later because a cat being spayed in season is in danger of bleeding a lot. The vets I worked for would also spay cats who may have been mated but the kittens were unwanted, because they would be barely starting to form.
    It’s actually kinder to cats to have them spayed without going through mating and birth, some mother cats are barely out of their own kitten hood themselves.
    I’m against spaying at 7 weeks old, I think kittens should be allowed to enjoy their kitten hood before going through surgery but worse than that I think it’s outrageous that some vets declaw kittens as soon as they reach 2 lb in weight, at least spaying doesn’t cripple kittens for life.

    • Ruth, I had no idea that some vets declaw kittens at such a young age. All declawing is wrong, but somehow that just seems especially wrong. As an American, I’m ashamed that declawing is allowed at all. 🙁

      • Yes it’s dreadful Caroline, what is supposed to be a last resort procedure for serious scratching behaviour is sometimes done on tiny kittens who have had no chance to learn ‘claw manners’
        Sometimes people put getting them declawed even before getting them neutered!
        I don’t know why claws are looked upon as nasty things to be rid of by some people over there because they are a beautiful intricate and essential part of a cat.
        No need for you to be ashamed, you are one of the enlightened ones 🙂
        and now part of the quest to educate and ultimately get declawing banned.

  2. There is so much ignorance about cats and it’s high time for widespread education of those ignorant people who must OWN a cat but don’t know the first thing about them or how to care for them.

  3. I had the pleasure of meeting a proud momma cat and a mom to be yesterday. We were loading a fireworks truck and the bunkers are often located on farms. The owners intended to spat before kittens, but did not act in time. The mommas are both very small, almost kittens themselves. The farm has a male neutered cat also, so they do take care of that kind of thing. Even the best caretakers can make mistakes. It’s also possible the one cat came to them pregnant. Somehow she had hijacked a ride inside a delivery truck and got herself delivered to the workplace of the farm owner’s wife. She took the cat home. As we were transferring product from the 53′ trailer to our straight truck there was suddenly a little calico cat right in the semi trailer with us. How she got up there I don’t know, but that explains how they got her. We checked the truck very carefully before leaving!
    If the only times kittens were born were the occasional oops we wouldn’t have the problems we have with overpopulation. But some people just don’t care and it’s litter after litter or they dump the cat, unspayed, to fend for herself. Even on that farm– their male cat is neutered. Those kittens came from someone else’s roaming male cat.
    But I enjoyed the kittens anyway and the mom cats and the dog. I had a cat and dog vying for my attention. Suddenly, the dog sneezed right on the back of the pregnant cat’s head. The other cat came up and groomed her there a couple minutes later. I think barn cats have a pretty good life, one Monty would probably enjoy. He’d get more outside time and see other cats, but he’d never tolerate a dog sneezing right on his head.

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