A charity is highlighting the importance of early neutering after a cat arrived in its care heavily pregnant at just nine months old. 

Black-and-white Maddie was barely more than a kitten herself when she was taken into care by Cats Protection’s Birmingham Adoption Centre after her owner had died. She arrived at the centre with 18-month-old Margot and three-year-old Mason.

None of the cats had been neutered and staff at the centre believe Margot and Mason are likely to be Maddie’s parents while Mason is likely to also be the father of Maddie’s two kittens who are now a week old.

The young family’s story illustrates commonly held misconceptions about pregnancy and mating between cats. In a recent survey of 1,000 cat owners, Cats Protection discovered 77 per cent of respondents were unaware a female cat can become pregnant as early as four months of age, while 86 per cent did not know an unneutered female can have as many as 18 kittens in a year.

As a result of fewer vets being able to carry out neutering during lockdown, Cats Protection has estimated as many as 84,000 extra kittens could be born this summer. The charity has produced an infographic with useful tips for owners on how to stop cats becoming pregnant and to prevent additional pressure on already over-stretched vets. Some of the tips include:

keep unneutered cats and kittens indoors to prevent unplanned litters
contact your vet to discuss whether you can book ahead for a neutering operation
ensure unneutered brothers and sisters are separated – cats will mate with their family members, so it is best to keep them apart

Cat Care Assistant Alice Batchelor-Reynolds says: “Even though Maddie is only nine months old herself she is being a great mum. We often find with our young mums that they need a bit of support and guidance when it comes to having kittens. As they are essentially only kittens themselves they don’t always have a fully developed nurturing instinct. In these cases we sometimes have to help them to clean and toilet their kittens but Maddie is doing everything perfectly so all we need to do is watch them grow and make sure everyone is happy and healthy.

“It’s very easy to forget that pregnancy in cats is risky and with limited vet appointments currently available, if your cat becomes pregnant she may not have easy access to the help she needs. Cats have no emotional need to become pregnant and neutering has a number of health benefits to both male and female cats. As a charity we are able to support owners on limited incomes with the costs of neutering pet cats once vet practices are fully operational again.”

Maddie’s kittens have been named Micah and Maddox and their progress can be followed at www.instagram.com/birminghamcatsprotection/. They will be available for homing once they are past nine-weeks-old.

Like all cats in the charity’s care they will be neutered, vaccinated and up-to-date with their flea and worm treatments.