If you have had a cat for a few months, you might be tired of how often they are in heat. New pet parents typically take time to understand their cat’s cycle. However, cats have an instinct for mating and motherhood, wanting to have kittens. If you have a cat exhibiting signs of heat, and now you think it might be pregnant, it could be. Pet parents often ask us, “Can a cat be pregnant in winter?” While cats are usually not in heat in cold months, they can be pregnant in winter.
This article covers everything you need to know about your cat’s pregnancy in winter.
Pregnancy in Cats
Before we tell you about cats giving birth in winter and the probability of you welcoming a kitten in cold months, it is important to understand heat and pregnancy in cats.
Kittens reach sexual maturity at five months when they long for mating and breeding. However, they are long-day breeders that require 12 hours of daylight to have a heat cycle.
Female cats can become immediately pregnant again after giving birth to kittens, even if they are feeding their offspring. It might surprise you that some cats known as ‘queens’ may breed up to three times a year, giving birth to 100-150 kittens in ten years. Thus, you might see feral cats pregnant in winter, too. These ‘queen’ cats go in and out of their heat cycle every two to three weeks, lasting around a week every time.
Can a Cat be Pregnant in Winter?
When we talk of cats getting pregnant in winter, theories say cats do not prefer winter for breeding. However, it could vary depending on your location and your cat’s personality.
As cats need 12 hours of daylight to initiate breeding, most cats are not pregnant in winter. However, it is because of light, not temperature.
Auburn University’s College of Veterinary Medicine conducted a study in 2001 that mentioned that exposure to light plays a major role in cat breeding.
Thus, outside cats usually exhibit sexual dormancy in winter months with low sunlight. However, indoor cats are exposed to artificial lights and could be in heat year-round.
How Daylight Affects Cat’s Cycle?
Daylight is important for your cat’s body to stop producing melatonin, a hormone-induced by darkness. When the cats stay in the dark for long, their body produces melatonin that suppresses FSH (follicle-stimulating hormone) and LH (luteinizing hormone). Both these hormones are critical to reproduction in female mammals, including cats.
Thus, days with less sunlight (winter days) keep the cat calm, and they do not get in heat.
Do Cats have Kittens in December?
Previously, cats exhibited heat cycles from February to October and rested during winter months. However, their behavior is changing for various reasons.
Despite cat experts mentioning that cats do not give birth in winter, some might. Some of the most common reasons for cats being in heat or pregnant in December include:
- Artificial lights in homes can mimic sunlight, making it difficult for the cat to differentiate between summer and winter. So, if your indoor cat is in heat throughout the year, it could be because of the lights in the house.
- The type of cat you have also influences their heat and breeding cycle. So, if you have a short-haired cat, they are more likely to cycle throughout the year.
- People in warm climates may also observe their cats in heat more often. Thus, they also sometimes give birth in December and January.
How Long can a Cat be Pregnant in Winter?
Cats are typically pregnant for around 63 to 65 days or two months; cats that mate in spring give birth in summer when they can care for their kittens better. Thus, summer and early autumn are also known as ‘kitten season’ in many regions. These cats mostly go into heat the next year in spring and summer as the weather gets warm. But in another case, if she gets pregnant in December, the gestation period will remain the same. In odd cases, the pregnancy may last for 72 days.
How to Tell if My Cat is Pregnant in Winter?
If your cat has been in heat and now seems calm, it could be pregnant. The signs and symptoms appear usually three weeks after mating. Look for the following signs to see if your cat is pregnant:
- Your cat eats more than usual (she’s eating for two, right?)
- She has gained weight; you might see a 2 to 4 pounds increase in weight.
- If she is over three weeks pregnant, you might also feel that your cat looks swollen.
Besides observing these signs of pregnancy in your fur baby, taking them to a vet for proper diagnosis is suggested. The vet will conduct an ultrasound, blood test, or radiology exam to confirm the pregnancy.
Do Kittens Born in Winter Survive Long?
Kittens born in winter have to bear harsh winter weather, so cats do not widely give birth in winter. The chances of kittens’ survival in extreme weather are quite low. However, you can save them by keeping them warm and providing adequate feed.
How to Avoid My Cat Being Pregnant in Winter?
Not everyone welcomes the idea of having multiple kittens, and you can prevent it by spaying or neutering your cat in time. Experts suggest getting them neutered as early as five months. It prevents them from the agony of being in heat without the possibility of mating. Moreover, you would not have to worry about having to care for more fur babies.
The Bottom Line
Cats mature as early as four months and are in heat from February to September. Thus, new cat parents are often surprised to see their cat pregnant in winter. While cats rarely breed in winter, the answer to ‘Can a cat be pregnant in winter?’ is not strictly ‘no.’ Queen cats can get pregnant as much as three times a year. At the same time, indoor cats may also breed in winter because of favorable conditions. You can get your cat diagnosed by a vet through an ultrasound, radiography, or blood test.
What does being ‘in heat’ mean?
Being in heat means the cat is looking to mate and have kittens. Most kittens are in heat from February to September, as the days get shorter in winter, and cats are long-day breeders.
Can a cat get pregnant when not in heat?
When cats reach maturity and look for mating, they are typically in heat, even if they do not exhibit symptoms; this is known as ‘silent heat.’ These cats are fertile and develop ovarian follicles but do not show any behavioral signs, making it difficult to understand if they are in heat.
Can you pick up a pregnant cat?
It is best not to pick up your cat from her tummy area as it might hurt her or cause discomfort. If you want to pick your cat, scoop it from the bottom carefully.
What does a 6-week pregnant cat look like?
As the gestation in cats lasts around 8 weeks, 6-week pregnant cats look big compared to their usual stature. Their abdomen swells and the back hollows out.