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Why Did My Cat Have Only One Kitten? 3 Possible Reasons

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	Dr. Paola Cuevas Photo

Reviewed & Fact-Checked By

Dr. Paola Cuevas

MVZ (Veterinarian)

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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If your cat mistakenly or intentionally became pregnant, you’re likely pretty excited about the birth. But if the big day comes and you keep checking mama to see how many little kitties you have to love on—you might be shocked only to see one.

The clock keeps ticking, you keep checking, and still—no more babies come. Cats typically have between four and ten kittens per litter. So, let’s discuss why your cat might have only had a single birth and what signs to look for that signal something more time-sensitive is at play.

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The 3 Possible Reasons Why A Cat Will Have Only One Kitten

1. Lack of Development in Fertilized Eggs

For whatever reason, sometimes, things just don’t go smoothly in the reproductive system. Your cat might have several eggs to be fertilized, but the body simply won’t let them grow. Sometimes, this can be a good thing, as it can signal issues with the fetus.

Instead of producing deformation and other imperfections, some egg simply won’t develop or won’t successfully implant. In this situation, there could be a chance that the mother delivers a single kitten, and that’s all.

It’s vital to ensure she doesn’t have a kitten stuck here. So, look for other signs of prolonged labor to ensure she’s completely finished and at no risk of a medical emergency.

Pregnant White Cat
Image Credit: Boy77, Shutterstock
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2. Dystocia

Most cats can give birth, which is also called queening. This is a natural process for them, and most mothers do it with ease and no complications. But just like with humans, issues can arise in this vulnerable hour.

The word dystocia means difficult or abnormal birth. Suppose your cat has delivered only one kitten but continues to show signs of labor. In that case, it could mean that your cat has a complicated birth, such as a stuck kitten, or another potentially life-threatening complication.

Dystocia is sometimes caused by the size or shape of the pelvic canal. If the pelvis is injured or is narrow, the mother might have severe pain, trouble laboring, and even get a kitten lodged during birthing.

It can also be caused by kittens that are too large. If the kitten is too large, it won’t comfortably fit through the birth canal, which can cause a pause in labor. Some mothers who experience this complication will require a C-section.

Signs of dystocia include:
  • Labor lasting longer than 24 hours
  • Straining with no kitten production

You must seek veterinary attention at this time, as this is time-sensitive and somewhat dangerous for the mother.

cat examined by Vets
Image Credit: Kzenon, Shutterstock
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3. Your Cat Might Not Be Finished With Birthing

Sometimes cats can go as long as 24 hours between birthing a kitten. The process might seem extensive, and it’s also quite strenuous for your cat. Just know that if she’s not moving around, it doesn’t always signal that it is the end of the birthing process.

Give her time and watch her body language so you can clearly see when she is seemingly finished giving birth. If your cat is showing no signs of distress after delivering only one kitten, that could very well be all she wrote.

However, if it just seems like your cat is struggling or acting unnatural, call the veterinarian immediately to make sure there’s no emergency situation taking place. Even if your cat is still in labor and able to deliver naturally, they are running into some pretty long birthing times, which can cause complications for both the queen and her kittens.

mother cat gave birth to kitten
Image Credit: Azami Adiputera, Shutterstock


Safe Birthing Tips

If you know your cat is getting ready to deliver, there are some ways that you can intervene to make her more comfortable. First, give her a space away from the rest of the household. You’ll want her to feel as safe and calm as possible during the process.

  • Build her a private nest or birthing box to deliver her kittens in.
  • Regularly check her temperature to stage the process.
  • Offer a quiet area free of any distractions.
  • Calm her down by offering total privacy, even from you.
  • Never handle the kittens right away, as this could cause stress.

When to See the Vet

It is a terrific idea to give your veterinarian a heads-up if you plan on letting your cat have a litter of kittens. They should be on close standby when she’s ready to go into labor, just in case any complications arise.

If you feel like your cat might be struggling at any point in the birthing process, it’s best to call your vet and explain her behavior. They might advise you to bring her in for further evaluation or recommend ways to help her at home.

In rare events, there can be the need for emergency surgery or other intervention. So, if you have any suspicion at all, it’s time to make the call.

But just to cover your bases, here are some signs during labor not to ignore:

  • Extreme lethargy
  • Excessive thirst (polydipsia)
  • Abnormal palpitations
  • Foul-smelling discharge
  • Fever
  • Excessive bleeding

If your cat has had only one kitten, she might refuse to take care of it if she has further complications. So, this is also a sign in some cases.

vet holding burma cat
Image Credit: Elpisterra, Shutterstock

Importance of Spaying Your Female

Kittens might be one of the cutest baby animals on the planet. Many folks can agree on that. But the reality is those cute little kittens grow up into big cats – big cats that people often don’t want to pay for or take care of.

Many folks let their cats have kittens without fully understanding the full implications of this decision. Some are not prepared for the extensive care required to take proper steps, resulting in a lot of homelessness, feral offspring, and an influx in shelters.

The best thing you can do is spay your female, so you don’t have to worry about her having any complications during birth whatsoever. Also, getting your female fixed decreases her risk for reproductive-related health issues later in life.

Some issues like uterine cancer, mammary gland cancer, and uterine infections are extremely common. Spaying her before she has kittens decreases the likelihood of these risks. Plus, it impacts the overall longevity of your cat.

If you’re having trouble finding the funds to spay your female, you can always look for alternative options that are easier on the wallet.

Don’t be afraid to explore your options. You could look at shelters and mobile clinics in your area instead of going to a veterinary office which charges $200 to $500 to spay a female cat. These services offer significantly lower prices for the same surgery.

cat spaying procedure
Image Credit: De Visu, Shutterstock


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Final Thoughts

So now you know that it is possible, while rare, for a female to give birth to a single kitten. If you have had an ultrasound during your cat’s pregnancy, you might already have known this before the kittens even come.

But if you are with your cat during the birthing process and you’re concerned that she only has one kitten, look for signs that labor might continue. Take note of any behavioral or physical changes so you can report them to your veterinarian.

Don’t hesitate on matters like these, as they can be time sensitive. So, if your cat is struggling in any way, it’s best to get her to the vet so she can receive the appropriate care if it’s something more serious.

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Featured Image Credit: Goldziitfotografie, Shutterstock