Gentle Touch Animal Hospital knows that cats are good mothers—almost too good—and as a cat friendly practice, our goal is to improve life for our female feline companions. Read on to learn interesting feline facts, why we should celebrate female cats, and why a spay is the best Mother’s Day gift a cat could want.

Cats are extremely good mothers

Cats are second only to rabbits in reproductive efficiency. They are induced ovulators, which means that they ovulate when bred, and instantly become pregnant. Cats are seasonally polyestrous, and can have multiple litters of four to eight kittens each spring and summer. One unspayed female and a fertile tom cat can produce 420,000 kittens over the course of seven years. 

Cat overpopulation is a problem

The ASPCA estimates that 3.2 million cats enter shelters nationwide each year. Increased adoptions, neutering, and microchipping are helping, but 530,000 cats who enter shelters are euthanized each year.

Feral calicos likely have a litter

If you spot a feral calico cat, chances are that she has kittens, because the genes that code for their black and orange color are sex-linked. Since one X-chromosome becomes an inactive Barr body in females, calicos and tortoiseshells are almost always female. Rarely, males are both black and orange in color—they include XXY males (i.e., Klinefelter’s syndrome), chimeras, or those with a somatic mutation.

Kittens can have kittens

Cats can have their first heat cycle as young as 4 months of age, which in human years, is the equivalent of a 7-year-old girl having a baby. Having kittens at one year of age is like a 15-year-old girl giving birth. Reproducing before she is finished growing takes a toll on a cat.

Cats stay in heat until they are bred

Cats come into heat and remain in heat until they are bred or spayed. In the longer days of spring and summer, cat heat cycles can occur every two weeks and last up to 19 days, so a female cat can seem to always be in heat.

Cat heat brings problem behaviors

Behavior problems that often land cats in shelters include vocalization and spraying, which increase dramatically when cats are in heat. Cats in heat may be overly affectionate, excessively rub on furniture, and try desperately to get outside, sometimes running aggressively into doors and windows. 

Mother cats raise kittens on their own

Male cats, or toms, do not help take care of kittens, leaving the mother to shoulder all parenting duties. However,  male cats actively and effectively take part in producing kittens. In any given litter, each kitten could have a different father, which explains why many litters vary in appearance. 

Pheromones are a mother cat’s secret tool

Mother cats secrete a special chemical (i.e., a cat-appeasing pheromone) from their mammary glands to calm and reassure their kittens, and help them bond and get along. Cats secrete an estimated 40 pheromones from different body areas to communicate, and kittens detect the pheromones via the vomeronasal organ in the roof of their mouths. Don’t worry, however—spaying deprives cats of this natural behavior. 

Spaying cats reduces mammary cancer

Cats who are spayed before their first heat cycle have a 50% lower risk of mammary (i.e., breast) cancer, which is the third most common feline cancer, with 80% to 95% of cases highly malignant adenocarcinomas. These tumors grow rapidly and spread quickly.

Spaying benefits overall feline health

A study of 460,000 cats found that spayed cats on average live 39% longer than non-spayed cats, in part because they have four times the risk of being hit by a car, and three times the risk of being wounded in a cat fight. Non-spayed cats also carry a greater risk of feline leukemia and feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) infection. Spaying also saves cats’ lives by decreasing inappropriate urination, one of the most common reasons owners relinquish their cats.

Gentle Touch Animal Hospital’s team loves cats. We want mother cats in Denver and across our nation to enjoy the best health possible. Spay and neuter surgeries are crucial services we provide, and community outreach is close to our hearts. This Mother’s Day, consider a donation of $50 to our city shelter, to help spay a stray female cat and fund education on the benefits of spaying and neutering.