Zee & Zoey’s Spay/Neuter Series – The Facts of Life: The 101’s of Kittens and Conception

Kittens can safely be spayed or neutered at 4 months old to help prevent accidental pregnancies and for their health and well-being.

Kittens are adorable, but they are also powerful procreating machines if not spayed or neutered!

While I consider Zee & Zoey’s kittens one of the biggest blessings of my life, it is also because of them that I have learned so much about the subject of spay/neuter and become such an advocate to educate people on the importance of the procedure for not only reducing cat over population on the streets and in shelters, but for the overall health and behavioral benefits to your cat. It just so happens that February is National Spay/Neuter month, so I thought what a better time than now to run a month long  series of informative posts on the subject to help promote the cause.

So that the topic doesn’t get overwhelming, I am going to break it into manageable concepts and thought I would begin with kittens, since they are what started it all in the first place for me! Yes, kittens, those irresistibly adorable balls of fur that melt our hearts with their playful antics and sweet and precious little faces. Did you know, however, that these darlings are actually powerful procreating machines that can sexually mature as early as 4 months of age?

If a male kitten is not neutered at a young he, he could possibly impregnate an unspayed female kitten which would result in a litter of kittens

Hard to imagine that this precious little being could be potentially responsible for finding a fertile female and mating. But if our Kizmet, who is 4 months old in this picture, had not been rescued from the streets and neutered, that very well could have happened.

That’s right. Crazy as it may seem, being mere babies themselves, but a female kitten can conceive as early as 4 months of age  and a male kitten can impregnate a fertile female at the same young age. Since the average gestation period for a cat is 63 days, that means that a kitten could deliver a litter when she is as young as 6 months old. The health and physical risks alone to the pregnant kitten are too scary to think of, not to mention that a kitten does not have the proper mental capacity to raise kittens herself. If you want some perspective, that’s like a pre-teen becoming pregnant, which we clearly know is wrong.

To prevent any early accidental pregnancies, a “pre-pubertal” spay/neuter is now recommended by veterinarians and is safe with kittens as soon as they weigh at least 2 pounds, which is ideally between 8 and 12 weeks of age. I know speaking from my own lessons learned, that I thought a female cat had to have experienced her first heat before you could have her spayed, but that simply is not the case and that is how I ended up with a litter of kittens. Once I knew the facts, I made sure all of Zoey’s kittens were spayed and neutered at a young age. We knew we were keeping three of her kittens – two girls and one boy – and I certainly did not want to risk having the male kitten mate with one of his sisters.

Another false impression that I was under, is that if a cat had a litter of kittens and was nursing, that she could not become pregnant while lactating. That is simply not the case and a lactating female should be kept away from any circumstances that could enable a willing male to find her. As soon as it is safely recommended by a veterinarian, a mother cat should be spayed to avoid the possibility of an unexpected litter.

A female cat can become pregnant again while nursing - as soon as it is safe, she should be spayed to prevent further litters of kittens.

One phone call to my vet and I was quickly informed that my previous notion that a cat could not become pregnant while nursing was dispelled. A nursing cat can become pregnant and precautionary measures should be taken to keep her outside of temptations until she can safely be spayed.

But kittens are just so darn cute. What’s the big deal if another litter is born? Well, the big deal is that not all of these kittens are born into loving and responsible forever homes like Zoey’s kittens. According to the ASPCA, there are approximately 70 million homeless cats on the streets and in shelters and they all were kittens at one point. Kittens who become part of an endless breeding cycle if they are not altered. Kitten season will be upon us soon us (depending on climate, it begins in late spring, peaks in early summer, and ends in the fall) and shelters that are already filled to the brim will be overrun with more, as people will bring in litters that their own cat accidentally had, or litters that will be found out on the streets by an outdoor cat caretaker, or a stranger who happens upon a litter in an unexpected manner.

Cat overpopulation is a serious issue that could be significantly managed with responsible spay/neuter practices.

Zee & Zoey’s kittens have brought me incredible joy and happiness, but they have also opened my eyes to the staggering numbers of cats on the streets and in shelters and just how important spaying and neutering is at an early age is.

Not to mention, those kittens born outside do so with consequences. These precious, tiny little beings are practically helpless to survive on their own and have a high mortality rate – approximately 75% of them will die, suffering unbearably due to the harsh elements and for those that do survive and are found and brought to a shelter, they typically are adopted first, but it is at a price – it is usually at the expense of the older, less adoptable cats, such as seniors, cats with disabilities, or black cats who are often euthanized to make room for the more adoptable kittens.

Black cats are among the last to be adopted in shelters and rescues.

Despite that black cats are graceful and beautiful creatures, they are often the cats overlooked for adoptions for many reasons, one of them being the ridiculous notion that they bring bad luck. Photo credit: Deposit photos.

What can we do? First of all, the only way to ensure there will not be unplanned or unwanted litters born is to have your cat spayed or neutered at an early age. The simple fact is that a male cat is wired to find a female cat in heat and a female cat will continue to have a heat cycle until she mates. And that includes indoor cats that you might think don’t need the procedure. Indoor pet cats can accidentally get outside and if you purposely let your pet cat outside, where there is a will, there is a way when it comes to finding a mate. Outdoor community cats need to become part of managed TNR (Trap, Neuter, Return) programs and of critical importance, dumping your cats on the street, or litters of kittens on the street is not only cruel and inhumane; it is illegal and should never be an option.

So, the next time you see that cute photo of a sweet and fuzzy kitten, just remember that with that picture comes a price and it is not always a pretty one… Take the responsible road and have your cat spayed or neutered. Not only will you be helping control cat overpopulation, but your cat will be healthier and happier for having the procedure.


For further information on spay/neuter, cat overpopulation, and more cat facts, please reference these detailed articles in my spay/neuter series:

Zee & Zoey’s Spay/Neuter Series – The Overall Health, Behavioral, and Emotional Benefits for Cats and Society at Large

Zee & Zoey’s Spay/Neuter Series – Debunking the Misconceptions, Excuses, and Reasons Why People Don’t Spay or Neuter Their Cat

Zee & Zoey’s Spay/Neuter Series – Cat Overpopulation and the Moral Ethics of Time

Zee & Zoey’s Spay/Neuter Series – Making Sense of Cat Overpopulation When the Numbers Don’t Add Up

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  1. Thanks for sharing this information. Until our last three kitties, we never knew that kittens could be spayed/neutered at such young ages. And we think lots of kitty caregivers are also ignorant of this unless they work regularly with a shelter or cat rescue group as we now do. After the recent bad press kitties have gotten about killing off bird populations, it is of even greater importance that everyone becomes educated. We look forward to the remainder of your posts on this subject. Purrs and hugs, the kitties at http://www.thecatonmyhead.com, Lily Olivia, Mauricio, Misty May, Giulietta, Fiona, Astrid, Lisbeth and Calista Josette

    • Deb says:

      Janet – I have long sinced learned that it is unfair to assume that just because you are a cat lover, that you know all the facts. I am over 50 years old and still learning and that is why posts like this one are so important to share.

  2. Rosemary says:

    This is an extremely important message for all cat lovers.

  3. Wendy S. says:

    You always write posts like this that are not only are full of interesting facts but also easy to relate to with our fur babies. I was aware of some of the facts about spaying but I too didn’t know that a mother cat who’s nursing could become pregnant too. I spayed my two girls right away because I’m so aware of all those kitties who are just waiting for their forever homes caused by unwanted pregnancies. Thanks Deb for another great post.

    • Deb says:

      Thank you Wendy – I feel that an approach that people can relate to, rather than being too techinical or overwhelming is the best way to teach.

  4. Linda says:

    Thanks for the good info on the importance of early age spay/neuter!

  5. da tabbies o trout towne says:

    a very good post Zoey; my poor mom had TWO litters by the time she was 6 months old….HELLO…..HUMAN ….

    ….I love you mom….

    dai$y….queen of cats, royalty of trout towne =^..*=

  6. mariodacat says:

    Mario’s mom here., Wonderful post. Yes, kittens are adorable – who wouldn’t love them. But having litter after litter isn’t good for the mom and all it does it add to the over population of cats. I love cats and dogs, but it kills me to see them sitting in shelters or roaming the streets homeless.

    • Deb says:

      I know, Mario’s mom. I just had no idea about the extent of any of this years ago. It breaks my heart too, and that is why I try so hard to speak to the mainstream in a way that reaches the heart of the matter.

  7. Brian says:

    Very well said and it is sooooooo important for everyone to pay attention!

  8. Connie Marie says:

    Thank you for this article. It’s fun to read and loaded with facts
    and an important message!
    I love my black cats but a friend of my son’s wouldn’t come in our home
    because of “bad luck”. So we know 1st hand. They are very loving and playful.
    Thank you again for including them.
    Your articles reach thousands and should will be read, saving even more
    thousands of kittens from being born unintentionally, and ending up on the streets or shelters.

    • Deb says:

      Connie, I don’t know how many people I am reaching, but if I can save even a hundred kittens from being unintentionally born, that would make me happy. Thousands would be amazing. But the only way it will happen, is if people share this message, talk about it with others, and then talk about it some more! Black cats are so beautiful – I used to have one named Tosha. I had found her on the streets one very dark and cold night – she was riddled with fleas and had clearly been abandoned…

      • Connie Marie says:

        Our cats have all had a rough start too. It’s so sad to see what people do. You have lots of friends, so your message should be heard far and wide!
        Another important fact about spaying cats is that it cuts cancer risks extremely! I know people who just neuter their
        males and not spay females. Please let people know that fact as well. The practice of doing it so young is new, but works better because it can be done by shelters before adoption. I have always been spouting off on the importance of spay,neutering. Thankfully a friend opened a low cost clinic in Cedar Rapids. I used to drive an hour, now it’s just across town, plus they do rabbits too! So I’ve passed that along to people.

      • Deb says:

        Thank you for the important health tip, Connie. I will actually be posting about the health and behavioral benefits of spay/neuter as the next part of my series and you are so, so right…

  9. Great article. Truffle and Brulee were about 6 months old when they were spayed. The silver shaded Persians mature at a slower rate and are smaller.

    • Deb says:

      Sweet Purrfections – yes, all cats are different, but at least with the two girls, you did not have to worry about them mating!

  10. Deb, spring is springing soon with unwanted litters of kitten. This is wonderful way to send a timely message this month, and shared with love.

    • Deb says:

      Thank you Layla – here in Florida with our year round weather, unfortunately when it comes to unwanted kittens, we have a much more frequent kitten season.

  11. Cindy says:

    I wrote a good article on why people must spay and neuter their cats relating to this article that clears up some of the misconceptions that a lot of people have. Imagine my friends did not want to spay because of fear that their cat would not hunt again! So not true!
    You wrote a good article, I like it. Can I feature it on my site?

    • Deb says:

      Thank you Cindy – I appreciate your feedback and would be honored to have you feature the article. The wider the audience this can reach, the better. This will be part of a series, I will also be addressing the myths associated with why people don’t spay/neuter, as well as the health and behavioral benefits. Let me know if you need anything from me.

  12. So beautifully written. Being that I am a spokesdog for a humane society I see first hand what happens with so many kittens. There is not a day go bye when I see or learn of a car pulling up with a basket of kittens wanting to surrender them to our shelter. Unfortunately being a no kill and so full of cats we have to say no if we can’t find a foster pawent.
    Our vet unfortunately does not spay or neuter until they are at least 5 mths old. There are other vets who will do it at 6 weeks but we won’t. I also learned about the female coming in heat every few weeks recently on the show “the cat from Hell” I was floored. Now we can answer peoples questions about certain things on kitties. The most misconception we know is jjut because a female lives her entire life inside doesn’t mean that she shouldn’t be spayed. A male cat can still smell her even if she hasn’t been near the front door. Educating people about spaying and neutering is the best thing to do to help with over crowded shelters.
    I love your site. Its pawgeous, its informational and I enjoy reading it.

    • Deb says:

      Thank you so much for your comment, Carma. Hearing stories from someone who is so close to the issue is important, because you know firsthand how vital it is to getting this type of information out to the public at large. The interesting thing about a cat and her heat cycle, which I did not know until recently, is that it is based on daylight hours. So, an indoor cat is technically in an environment where she could conceivably experience light all day and night. Our kitten, Mia, who is now 3 years old, went into such a severe heat that I thought she was possessed. Well, it all makes sense now, because I was unemployed at that time and home all day and night. All she did was moan and writher her body across the floor, practically 24/7. She barely ate and she peed all over the house… ugg… I wish I had known back then what I know now, because I would have had her spayed earlier than I did!

      I appreciate your compliment on the blog and am so happy you enjoy all aspects of it!

      • I did not know that about the daylight and heat cycles! Since most lights in houses now emulate sun light spectrum I can see why it would confuse a females cycle. See I learned something NEW today!

  13. Also may I please put a link to this article on my site to share with my followers and the Humane Society followers? Maybe more people will listen to you than to me , a poodle.

    • Deb says:

      Oh Carma!! Please do…. I so, so, so want this message to reach as many people as possible and I can only go so far with it… having your input, poodle or not, would be wonderful!! 🙂

  14. Beautifully written, Deb. …70 million. Wow. That is a staggering number. I think it’s particularly powerful how you’ve illustrated that many of these cute kittens (which we so easily lose our heads over) come at a price.
    xo GG

    • Deb says:

      Thank you Glogirly and Katie… I am just happy that our newest additions, both your Waffles Too, and my Kizmet, have been neutered so we don’t have to worry!! Not only is safer for them incase they accidently get outside, but they will both be healthier as a result! 🙂

  15. Connie says:

    I have fostered kittens that were way too young to become pregnant. It is heartbreaking. I once heard someone actually say that if a cat CAN become pregnant than it is ready to do so. I could only sit there in stunned amazement and remind her that the human female starts becoming capable of being pregnant at her first menstrual cycle. With those coming earlier and earlier these days, does anyone think that a teen (or preteen) pregnancy is a good thing?

    Those poor kittens barely have enough ‘reserves’ to survive themselves, they get drained to the point of illness (and sometimes death) trying to bring a family into the world. it is heartbreaking.

    I do love the Fix at Four series of videos out there, they are so darn cute and get the message across.

  16. Evdon Jo Stogner says:

    I am new to your site thanks to Glorgirly’s Katie. I follow her and her new little Waffles Too. I am super pleased that you have decided to post this informaton. I have been with cats for over 50 years and I learn every time I get a new one.
    I just had three adopt me last year and they were young. All females. I had plenty of time on the oldest one as she was older when she found me. However the two young ones only 6 and 7 months old now taught me that they can go into heat very early. Unfortunately I had to have one spayed when she went into heat as the other two did not know what to think of her and were actually attacking her. She was only 4 months old at the time. I had to find a different vet than my own to do it because she would not spay her until out of heat. That was not an option and I took her to the vet she recommended. It has made a different kitty out of her. She is not her happy self anymore it seems and I had the 6 month old spayed immediately afterwards.
    I have had mostly feral cats as I owned a business in a downtown area and seems I was always having to catch and home kittens. I finally managed to have the last ones at that time spayed/neutered and the kitten population downtown deminished greately. So far that is still the case only a few once in a while. If one came to my home and I could get my hands on her/him off to the vet they went. God was gracious enough to me to always provide funds for this. Early on it wasn’t as costly as today. I still support this and push it among those that I can. Thank you for this very informative article and looking forward to the next ones.

    • Deb says:

      So nice to meet you, Evdon. I don’t know how long you have been following Katie, but it was our contest, Zee & Zoey’s Cat Ruler of the World Contest and Campaign for a Cause, that really brought Glogirly and I together in a big way!! Katie won the title and because of that was able to present Blind Cat Rescue of NC a slew of prizes, money, food, and litter!

      Poor little babies… they can be absolutely miserable during their heats… Thank you for all you do for the ferals and I hope one day that your unhappy kitty becomes her happy self again…

      • Evdon Jo Stogner says:

        Your contest was where I met Katie and Glogirly. I voted and relentlessly shared her for her vote as she was representing Blind Cat Rescue, my favorite shelter and on top of that I am only about 14 miles from the shelter. Wonderful work they do and cat’ spread the word about them enough. Come to think of it the contest was where I first saw you. Katie is awesome. I have a number of awesome kitties on Facebook. My latest one is Little Bear (deformed legs) before him was Corky of Cats Cradle in Fargo ND, Moki the wobley cat and Daily Marida. Gaining more every day seems. Now Zee and Zoey.
        These little kitties and their momas brighten my day and awaken my mind to the many needs in this world we live in and all of the wonderful things out there for us to love, enjoy and take care of.

  17. Evdon Jo Stogner says:

    Another thought I shared this post on Facebook and will share the forthcoming ones as well. I will also ask some more of my Cat Pages to do the same. The more that know the better it will be.
    I love your web page it is awesome. Such great graphics.

    Still exploring it.


    • Deb says:

      Thank you so much, Evdon. I enjoy cats playing the keyboard and things of that nature as much as the next person. But this type of post is what needs to grab mainstream attention and that’s why I purposely chose a picture with such adorable kittens to grab the readers attention. I appreciate you sharing the post and that you are reaching out to others to do the same. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could really make a difference!!

      • Evdon Jo Stogner says:

        Would be fantastic. I have been fighting this for over 40+ years but now with the social media there are so many more ways to reach more people and I believe a difference can be made now.

        Gotta love the 21st century. I was just born a little too early LOL :o)

  18. meowmeowmans says:

    So well written Deb. This is such important information, especially with “kitten season” just around the corner. Thank you.

  19. Thank you for your throrough and enlightening article! The kindest thing we can do for our cats is to spay/neuter them early. I got my beautiful black and white Tuxedo kitty from the Humane Society and she was already spayed. She has an amazing temperament and has been a joy for all of her 8 years.

  20. Thank you so much for this article. I 100% totally support spay/neutering your cat (actually for that matter dogs as well)!

    My two beautiful cats were spayed as soon as they were the correct age and also spent their lives as total indoor cats (with the exception of monitored sun-baking in the backyard.). They never had to contend with cat fights and traffic dodging. There lives were stress free – which may explain why one lived to 19!!!