Can Runt Cats Have Kittens

What is a Runt Kitten?

A runt is the smallest or weakest kitten in a litter (Source: Runt kittens are significantly smaller and weigh less than the other kittens born in the same litter. They typically weigh 25% – 50% less than their littermates.

There are a few potential causes for a runt kitten:

  • The kitten fails to receive adequate nutrition in the womb because of competition from larger littermates, placental abnormalities, or positioning in the uterus.
  • Genetic factors can predispose a kitten to be smaller.
  • Infections during pregnancy may stunt a kitten’s development.
  • Birth complications like hypoxia can impair growth.

Runts may catch up to normal size over time with extra care, or they may remain smaller than average throughout life.

Challenges Faced by Runt Kittens

Runt kittens often face significant challenges compared to their larger littermates. Due to their small size, they have difficulty competing with siblings for food and nutrition from their mother ( This can lead to malnutrition, poor growth, and higher mortality rates, especially in large litters.

One study found that kittens weighing less than 85 grams at birth had a mortality rate of 26%, compared to just 6% for normal-sized kittens ( Runts that survive are also prone to health problems like hypoglycemia, diarrhea, respiratory infections and fading kitten syndrome.

The struggles faced early in life can also lead to lasting behavioral issues for runts. They may remain undersized and timid even as adults. Runts often exhibit anxiety, fearfulness and lack confidence due to their challenging start to life.

Can Runt Cats Reproduce?

Physically, runt cats are fully capable of reproducing just like any other cat. However, there are some potential risks and complications to be aware of due to their small size and genetics.

One major concern is that pregnancy and birthing kittens may be more difficult for a runt queen. Runts tend to have smaller uteruses and pelvises which can cause problems accommodating and delivering larger litters (source). There is an increased risk of needing a C-section, uterine rupture, or emergency interventions during the birthing process.

Additionally, runts often come from smaller litters themselves due to genetic factors. This predisposition may be passed down, resulting in smaller litters for a runt queen versus a normal sized cat. The number of kittens may be fewer and the kittens often smaller in size as well (source).

While runt cats can technically reproduce, the risks posed by their small stature often make pregnancy and birthing high-risk. Breeders and owners should carefully consider these potential complications before allowing a runt queen to have kittens.

Gestation and Litter Size

The average feline gestation period is about 63-65 days or 9 weeks from conception to birth. Kittens are generally born within a 24 hour period, though it can take up to 48 hours in some cases.

Typical litter sizes for cats range from 3-6 kittens on average. According to WagWalking, the average litter size is 4-6 kittens, however first-time mothers and older cats often have smaller litters with 3-4 kittens.

There are several factors that can impact litter size in cats:

  • Age of the mother – Kittens and older cats tend to have smaller litters
  • Breed – Some breeds like Siamese tend to have smaller litters
  • Genetics – Some cats are predisposed to smaller or larger litters
  • Health and nutrition – Queens in poor health or malnutrition may have smaller litters
  • Stress – High stress levels can negatively impact litter size

For a runt kitten, the litter they produce is likely to be on the smaller side, with 3-4 kittens being common according to Proper care and nutrition is especially important for a runt queen to support a healthy pregnancy and litter.

Care for a Pregnant Runt Queen

Caring for a pregnant runt cat requires special attention to ensure the health of both the mother and kittens. As runts are smaller than average, they have higher nutritional needs during pregnancy. It’s important to provide extra calories and nutrients while monitoring the cat’s weight gain.

Feed the pregnant queen runt high-quality kitten food or growth formula food. Feed smaller, more frequent meals throughout the day to support healthy weight gain and provide constant nutrients. Consult your vet for exact diet recommendations. Aim for the cat to gain around 1-2 lbs total during pregnancy.

Monitor for any pregnancy complications and contact your vet if you notice decreased appetite, rapid breathing, discharge, or other concerning symptoms. Runts are at higher risk of complications, so extra vigilance is required (Source).

Prepare a quiet, comfortable nesting area a few weeks before birth, providing soft bedding and a box the queen can move kittens to. Limit stressors and make sure she has easy access to food, water, and her litter box. Follow your vet’s guidance on preparing for the birth.

Birth and Newborn Care

Signs that a pregnant cat is nearing delivery include nesting behavior, reduced appetite, vocalizing, and enlargement of the nipples. Most queens go into labor approximately 63-65 days after mating. If you don’t know the mating date, watch for these signs starting around day 61. Seek veterinary assistance if labor stops or does not progress normally.

According to the Guide to Raising Kittens by Shelter Medicine, newborn kittens are unable to regulate their own body temperature. They rely on their mother and environmental warmth. Make sure the nest area is draft-free and provide supplemental heating if needed. Weigh kittens daily to ensure adequate milk intake. Normal birth weight is around 100 grams or 4 ounces.

The first weeks are critical for kitten care. Ensure the mother cat is nursing and caring for her kittens. If she rejects or is unable to nurse, you may need to bottle feed using kitten milk replacer according to WebMD. Consult your veterinarian for advice if issues arise. With proper care, runt kittens can thrive alongside their normal weight litter mates.

Potential Issues with Runt Kittens

Runt kittens often face increased health and survival challenges compared to their normal-sized littermates. Some of the main potential issues include:

Higher mortality rates – Studies show runt kittens have a mortality rate around 25%, compared to just 10% for normal kittens. Their small size and underdeveloped state puts them at greater risk of being stillborn or dying shortly after birth.1

Increased health problems – Runts are more prone to health issues like respiratory infections, diarrhea, and hypoglycemia (low blood sugar). Their underdeveloped state makes their immune systems weaker.2

Smaller size could impact nursing – A runt’s tiny size can make it harder for them to compete for nursing with larger littermates. This can slow growth and prevent them from getting adequate nutrition.3

Difficulty competing with littermates – Runts often lag behind in growth and development. This makes it tougher for them to compete with siblings for food and their mother’s attention.

Caring for Runt Kittens

Runt kittens often need extra care and attention in order to thrive. Some key aspects of caring for a runt kitten include:

Providing supplemental feedings – Runts may need to be fed more frequently than their littermates. Bottle feeding with kitten milk replacement formula or a high-calorie gel may be necessary if the kitten is not able to nurse effectively.1

Keeping kittens warm – Runts can have difficulty regulating their body temperature. Keep them in a warm, draft-free area and consider using a heating pad or microwaveable heating discs.

Frequent weight checks – Weigh runt kittens daily to ensure they are gaining weight appropriately. Consult a vet if weight gain is inadequate.

Monitoring milestones – Check that the runt is developing normally and meeting physical and behavioral milestones for its age like teething, walking, weaning, etc. Delayed development may be a sign of underlying health issues.

With dedicated care and feeding, many runts can catch up to their littermates in size and strength. However, their early struggles could result in longer-term health and growth challenges. Working closely with a veterinarian gives runt kittens the best chance at becoming healthy, thriving cats.

Long-Term Outlook for Runt Cats

The longevity of a runt kitten that survives beyond 6-8 weeks is often comparable to that of their normal-sized littermates. While runts may be at higher risk for health problems as kittens, this does not necessarily impact their lifespan if given proper veterinary care and a loving home. Many runt cats go on to live a full life of 12-20+ years (source).

Some of the ongoing health considerations for runt cats include their susceptibility to viruses, dental issues from having a small jaw, and potential joint problems from dwarfism. However, providing excellent nutrition, limiting stress, and regular vet checkups can help minimize health issues (source).

In terms of behavior, runt cats often retain kitten-like personalities and energy levels throughout adulthood. Their small stature does not negatively impact their cognition or temperament. If anything, runts tend to be highly intelligent, sociable, playful, and affectionate cats. They have big personalities packed into a petite frame!

When to Avoid Breeding a Runt Cat

While runt kittens can often grow into healthy, happy cats, there are some cases when breeding a runt cat is not recommended:

If the runt has significant genetic disorders that could be passed down, it’s best to spay or neuter them and avoid breeding. Issues like heart defects, respiratory problems, and digestive disorders have a higher likelihood in runts and could impact their kittens (source).

Extremely small runts, especially those under 2 lbs at 8 weeks, may have trouble in pregnancy and delivery due to their petite size. The kitten’s safety should come first in these cases (source).

Kittens that required significant medical intervention as newborns are not ideal candidates for future breeding. Issues like fading kitten syndrome, blood sugar crashes, and birth defects place stress on a kitten’s system. It’s best to avoid passing these vulnerabilities on (source).

If your vet has concerns about a runt cat reproducing due to health risks, it’s important to follow their guidance. An experienced vet can assess the kitten’s development and make the best reproductive recommendations.

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