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How Many Kittens Usually Survive in a Litter?

Nicole Cosgrove

Cats are considered very fertile animals. They can give birth with minimal fuss and few problems. However, with that said, it is common for some kittens to die during birth. It’s upsetting, but it is natural, and there are steps that you can take to ensure that the mother cat and her kittens are healthy, so that they have the greatest chance of surviving birth.

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Litter Size

Cat and her kittens in a box
Image Credit: azkia_am, Pixabay

An average litter of kittens is between three and five kittens, but this can vary from as few as one kitten to as many as twelve. Younger mothers, and those giving birth to their first litter, will usually have fewer kittens, while experienced mothers that are in their prime can comfortably have as many as 10 cats or more.

The mortality rate, which is the ratio of kittens that die at or immediately after birth, is between 15% and 30%. This means that, in an average litter, it is likely that one kitten won’t make it. It is also possible that all kittens will be healthy.


What to Do With a Dead Kitten After Birth

It is the mother’s instinct to try and clean her kittens. This will include any that were stillborn or that died soon after birth. As harrowing as it might seem, it is important that you leave the kitten with the mother so that she is aware of what has happened.

Once the mother realizes, she will usually turn her attention to her living kittens. Carefully remove the dead kitten and take it to your vets if you wish to have it cremated. Alternatively, you can bury the kitten in a small box, but whatever your intended next step, be sure to remove the kitten from the mother.


Why Would a Whole Litter of Kittens Die?

Persian cat with one kitten
Image Credit: AMURAK PONGPATIMET, Shutterstock

Although it is unlikely, it is possible that a whole litter of kittens can die. If this means a litter of three or more are stillborn, it is likely that something went wrong during the pregnancy or that the mother was not healthy enough to look after her kittens in the womb.

By the time a kitten converts to eating solids, at around four weeks of age, it will have a much greater chance of survival. As such, it is those first few weeks of life that are the most important.


What Can Cause Kittens to Die?

Some kittens are born very weak, and they may not have the strength to feed or digest food properly. These kittens will usually perish soon after birth. Some are stillborn, which means that they perish before they are born. Other potential causes of death soon after birth include a kitten not receiving the food and nutrition it requires from its mother, and even death caused by the mother herself. Young mothers can go into stress, and they may stop feeding their kittens or cause them physical harm that will lead to their death.

Related Read: How To Take Care of a New Kitten (The Complete Guide)

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How Many Kittens Usually Survive in a Litter?

Cats are prolific breeders and a mature, experienced mother, can have up to a dozen kittens or more, although the average litter size tends to be around 5 kittens. Any of a number of things could cause one or more kittens to be stillborn or to perish soon after birth. While this can be difficult to experience, it is natural, and approximately one in every five kittens dies before it reaches four weeks of age.


Featured Image Credit: TaniaVdB, Pixabay

Nicole Cosgrove

Nicole is the proud mom of Baby, a Burmese cat and Rosa, a New Zealand Huntaway. A Canadian expat, Nicole now lives on a lush forest property with her Kiwi husband in New Zealand. She has a strong love for all animals of all shapes and sizes (and particularly loves a good interspecies friendship) and wants to share her animal knowledge and other experts' knowledge with pet lovers across the globe.