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It’s kitten season!

Q: Is it my imagination or is there such a thing as “kitten season”? When I visited the shelter last winter to adopt a kitten, there were none. The shelter staff asked me to check back this spring or summer, when they said they’d be flooded with kittens. Are kittens born during only part of the year?

A: It’s not your imagination but the extraordinary feline reproductive cycle that creates “kitten season” during the spring and summer.

Female cats are seasonally polyestrous, which means their heat cycles repeat continuously—but only during seasons with increasing daylight. To add to their reproductive intrigue, cats are induced ovulators: They release eggs for fertilization only with the stimulation of breeding, not spontaneously like almost all other species (including dogs and humans).

These two characteristics mean that unsterilized female cats are in heat at the same time, and they get pregnant when bred. Since females can get pregnant as young as four months of age and pregnancy lasts just two months, it’s no wonder that shelters are inundated with kittens during spring and summer.

When you visit the shelter, consider adopting more than one kitten. Their antics will entertain you for years.

Editor’s Note: Spaying your cat as early as possible can help reduce certain health issues and pregnancy.

Lee Pickett, V.M.D. practices companion animal medicine. Contact her at

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