H: Heat Cycles in Feral Cats
We feed a few feral cats that we’ve been unable to trap…and they keep leaving us kittens. There’s Tippy, the gray table with a huge white tip at the end of her tail. And there’s Little Black Mama and Big Black Mama. Although we’ve named them, and refer to them by names, they obviously don’t come when called and after several years, still stay far from reach. Cautious and skittish to the max. Over the past few years, they’ve had at least one, and probably two litters a year. Fortunately, if they haven’t left a kitten when they move them, which is how we’ve gotten many of their kittens, we’ve been able to catch some of the others when they’re still young enough to socialize.
However, many sites share that cats are able to have three litters a year. That’s lots of potential kittens out there!
Different Cat Breeds web site states:
The mating season is long for cats, beginning in spring and ending in late autumn. Estrus (heat) periods occur about every two weeks and last about 4 to 7 days. Cats, like other animals in the wild, naturally plan the births for warmer weather. It’s known that cats in the wild estrus in winter, and give birth to kittens in the spring to summer when it’s warm and pleasant and there is potential for having more food. Cats living at home, who have plenty of food and artificial lighting, can estrus all year.
The Nest shares:
…can give birth to three litters of kittens per year, with an average of four kittens per litter, in an average lifetime of 15 years for an indoor kitty. This could result in up to 180 kittens in her lifetime.
Thank goodness for some of the low cost spay/neutering programs out there. They’re helping to try to keep the feral populations down some. I think we have the route to TCAP, our favorite facility, memorized.
Three of our six Thanksgiving weekend rescues. Lucky and Shadow were from one litter. We got them and their gray tabby brother, Nippers. (Named from…yeah, his ability to nip. He did not want to get caught.) Marbles (the gray tabby here) was from another litter, we’re guessing about two weeks younger. We also got his gray tabby brother and sister, Puddles and Harley too.