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C2004-20

Dear Christopher Cat

This time every year, shelters are overflowing with kittens. Why now, instead of throughout the year?

Christopher Responds

Shelters and rescue organizations are flooded with cats throughout the year, but you’re right, they are overwhelmed with kittens now.

That’s because female cats are seasonally polyestrous. That fancy phrase means they have multiple estrous – or heat – cycles every breeding season, and their reproductive cycles are influenced by day length.

Female cats go into heat in January or February, as the amount of daylight increases.

Each pregnancy lasts two months, so the first litters are born in March or April.

A female cat may go into heat again as early as one week after her kittens are born, although often the heat cycle is delayed until the kittens are weaned at four to six weeks of age.

This process repeats itself through fall, stopping only in October, November and December in outdoor cats.

Maximal reproductive activity occurs in January and February, which means the population of newly weaned kittens peaks from April through June.

You can help address the cat overpopulation problem by ensuring that all your cats are spayed and neutered, like I am. If you are feeding outdoor cats, take them to the shelter or your veterinarian for the surgery, too.

June is Adopt-a-Cat Month, so this is a good time to decide whether you can make a lifetime commitment to a new cat.

I was adopted, and regular readers know how terrific I am. Adoptive cats make wonderful pets because we are grateful that you saved our lives.

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