Too many mice, too few cats: That was us a year ago. Now we have too many kittens and no mice. Is it time to bring back the mice? No, but it may be time to curb the cat population explosion!
If you follow my livestock trials and tribulations, you know the sheep barn was overrun by mice a year ago. We obtained three 6-week-old kittens last October. By midwinter, they'd whipped the mice problem.
Then on a Saturday morning in late April, I noticed that either one of the cats was getting very fat — or was pregnant. They are semiwild, so I don’t get too many good looks. It turns out she wasn’t fat. What I hadn’t noticed was that her two sisters had slimmed down. That’s because they already had kittens! Our FFA kids who show sheep found the first litter that same Saturday. They found the second litter the next day — five kittens per litter. I still thought of them as kittens; how could those kittens be having kittens?
I turned to the Internet. Here are 10 questions I should have asked before the kittens arrived!
1. How old must a cat be to have kittens? Not that old — the range is 4 to 12 months, with an average of 6 to 9 months.
2. What is a cat’s gestation cycle? Cats are independent — even in their physical makeup. Who has ever heard of a gestation period varying by 16 days?! It’s anywhere from 56 to 72 days, with an average around 64 to 67 days.
3. So how early did my kittens get pregnant? Simple math here. They were 8 months old when they had kittens, and it takes just over two months, more or less, so they were about 6 months old. No wonder they started crying for extra food in February!
4. Should you feed cats differently while pregnant? Really? Nothing is too good for my cats — their food literally comes in a 40-pound, plain blue bag bearing the name "Barn Cat Food." Yet, one website suggests mixing in kitten food to give them more energy. It also says you should discuss it with your vet. Yeah, right!
5. How many times does a cat mate before getting pregnant? OK, this is a family site! If you want to know, Google it. Suffice it to say that it’s a lot!
6, How can you tell if your cat is pregnant? Look for morning sickness! That’s what the website says. Or have the vet do an ultrasound. Of course, you have to catch them first.
7. How much sleep do cats get in one day? If you believe the internet, it’s 12 to 16 hours. Mine must sleep in the day and literally "run around" at night!
8. How many kittens can a cat have per litter? OK, it starts getting scary here. The answer is one to eight.
9. How many litters can a cat have per year? Scarier yet! The average is two to three.
10. How many kittens can a cat have in a lifetime? Scariest of all! You can do the math or take the internet’s word for it — about a hundred kittens! A single pair of cats and their kittens can produce 420,000 kittens in just seven years!
Help! I’m feeling sick. Yes, I know cats can be spayed. There’s just one problem — you have to catch them first!