Cats can reach sexual maturity as early as four months, depending on breed and genetics. At this point, they begin their heat cycles and can get pregnant if a tomcat responds to their call. However, they don’t reach skeletal maturity until around 10 months. Generally, it’s best to wait until they are between 12 and 24 months old before you allow breeding.
Breeding cats too soon can be detrimental to their health.
Are you curious to know when it’s safe to start breeding cats? Dive in for detailed information about how long males and females should wait before mating. We will also discuss the importance of following the recommended breeding timelines.
When Are Cats Mature Enough for Breeding?
Cats go through puberty or sexual maturity when they are four to six months old. However, it takes a while before they develop into fully-fledged adults. During puberty, most felines are still downright crazy and display kitten-like behaviors like charging around and hanging from the drapes.
Cats become young adults physiologically by the time they are 12 months old. However, they are technically still kittens and may retain their playful nature. Most cats, irrespective of gender, calm down and display an adult personality when they turn at least 24 months old.
When to Breed a Female Cat
Female cats start to call way before their bodies fully mature. They may still be too young to take on the full stress of pregnancy, giving birth, and raising a litter.
The best age to breed a female cat is between 12 and 24 months old. At 12 months, its body has developed fully and can cope with the demands of pregnancy. Breeding cats that are at least 24 months old is even better because they are more subtle.
A two-year-old cat is both psychologically and physiologically ready to reproduce. It will have an adult-like personality, established daily patterns and routines, and even an understanding of setting boundaries with potential suitors. These traits make breeding and raising a litter easier.
When to Breed a Male Cat
A few weeks after birth, male cats experience a surge of testosterone that causes the masculinization of neurons that directly influence their sexual behavior. However, their Leydig cells are inactive until they are at least three months old. Still, numerous vital physiological processes occur between birth and three months, allowing male kittens to produce enough testosterone or androgens.
At three months, the Leydig cells activate to trigger the development of penile spines and maturity of the testes. At five to seven months, male kittens have mature testes to allow spermatogenesis. Their penile spines also reach maximum size around this age to permit androgen-dependent mating activity.
Most Tom cats show sexual characteristics and behaviors by the time they are seven months old. They could begin mounting, neck biting, and pelvic thrusts, although they are not sexually developed enough to complete copulations. They reach sexual maturity and are ripe for breeding at nine to twelve months.
Why Wait Until a Cat Is 1 to 2 Years Old Before Breeding?
Male cats are infamous for their lack of fatherly skills. They don’t stick around after mating and are not involved in raising their offspring. As such, they are ripe for breeding as soon as they are physiologically developed to complete copulations.
On the other hand, females are involved in carrying the pregnancy and rearing the kittens. While they may reach puberty at four months, it’s best to let a maiden queen that has never been bred before go on at least three heat cycles before breeding.
Cats below 12 months old may still have developing bodies. As such, they are at risk of complications because their bodies are not well-equipped to support a healthy pregnancy. They also face more significant health risks during childbirth and may not have the skills and instincts to take care of their litter.
What if I Don’t Want My Cats Breeding?
Shelters and rescues have brimming cat populations, and the world doesn’t need any more unwanted kittens. Fortunately, there are no proven health or welfare perks of a cat having a litter of kittens. If you don’t want your cats breeding, you need to have them neutered or spayed at four months.
Desexing procedures are fast and straightforward. They only take a few hours, and you can take your kitty home the same day. They also have numerous benefits, the most significant being increased longevity.1
Other perks allied with spaying and neutering include but are not limited to the following.
If you don’t want to breed a female cat, it’s best not to let it repeatedly go on heat before having it spayed. Repeated calling without finding a mate increases the risk of developing a pyometra uterus infection. While this potentially life-threatening concern can be treated through surgery, scheduling an ovariohysterectomy procedure is costlier than spaying.
4 Tips to Ensure a Breeding Cat Is Happy and Healthy
Breeding cats can be an exciting proposition, especially when dealing with breeds that sell for big bucks. However, it is crucial to consider the welfare of your pets and not to take lightly the need to keep them healthy and happy.
If you are considering breeding your cats, here are a few tips that will come in handy.
1. Do Your Research
If you are a hobby breeder, it is imperative to understand the responsibilities you must take on once your cat is pregnant. Moreover, it would help if you did your research to acquaint yourself with the overall cost of breeding.
Among the most substantial expenses you will incur is the cost of the initial vaccinations for a litter. Depending on the number of kittens produced, this can quickly sum up to a few hundred dollars. Also, you’ll need to start introducing solid foods by the time your kittens are ready for sale at eight weeks old.
Unfortunately, there is also a possibility of getting stuck with kittens with no potential buyers. You can save yourself from the headache of raising unwanted litters by getting your budget and facts right before you start breeding.
2. Schedule Health Checks
The exact timeline for breeding even a full-grown cat depends on its strength and overall health status. Before breeding, take your queen to your vet for a full health checkup and screen for illnesses, diseases, and genetic disorders. Inform your vet of your intentions and seek a go-ahead.
3. Have a Proper Nutritional Budget
The nutritional needs of a pregnant cat can impact your budget, especially during the last half of gestation. Still, you must meet these needs to ensure your pet has maximum chances of birthing a healthy litter. Provide high-quality kitten food formula throughout the pregnancy and only switch back to regular food a few weeks after birth.
Furthermore, a lactating cat needs plenty of energy calories to take care of its offspring. You should provide kitten food or a nutrient-dense diet until the kittens show interest in solid foods and nurse less. Most importantly, increase the number of meals served daily to ensure the lactating cat regains a healthy weight.
4. Invest in Pet Insurance
A strong and healthy cat will have more of the same health needs even after breeding. However, it is best to prepare for the worst and invest in pet insurance. This will ensure you can foot your bills in case of pregnancy or childbirth complications.
How Soon After Breeding Will a Cat Produce Its First Litter?
Mating once or twice does not guarantee that your cat will become pregnant. However, it will birth its litter in approximately two months if it becomes expectant. It is common for the gestation period to go unnoticed, especially if you have a fat or hairy pet. To avoid being caught off guard, consult your vet immediately if your cat shows changes in abdominal size or feeding patterns right after breeding.
How Often Can You Breed a Cat?
According to GCCF breeding guidelines, cats should have at most three litters in two years. Giving your cat at least 26 weeks between litters ensures it builds enough strength and resources for the subsequent pregnancy. Because even a nursing feline can get pregnant, you must limit its access to Tom cats until it is ready to be bred again.
Do I Have to Neuter and Spay My Cat if They Live Indoors?
If you have one indoor female cat, keeping it away from potential mates is generally easy. However, if you have several cats of different sexes, keeping them separate can be challenging. Your best option is to schedule desexing procedures because even littermates can mate once they hit puberty.
The best age to breed cats is between 12 and 24 months old. At this point, they are both physiologically and psychologically mature to deal with pregnancy’s hormonal changes and stressors. They can also cope with the demands of childbirth and raising a litter.
So, what if you don’t want a batch of kittens running around your home?
If you are not ready to help raise a litter, don’t wait a day longer than four months to have your kitties neutered or spayed. Talk to your vet as soon as they start demonstrating behaviors associated with mating or courtship. Cats are prolific breeders, and you cannot afford to take chances!
Featured Image Credit: Ivan Yohan, Shutterstock