Maine Coon kittens are simply adorable and when your cat is expecting her first litter it is an extremely exciting time. You will naturally wonder what her litter size might be. How many kittens can a Maine Coon have?
Whilst Maine Coons produce an average of four kittens per litter, the number can vary from one to as many as 12. That said, it is unusual for a Maine Coon pregnancy to produce a litter with more than six kittens.
In reality, it is difficult to accurately predict a Maine Coons’s litter size as there are various contributing factors which are fully explained below.
What Can Affect a Maine Coon’s Litter Size?
How many kittens in a Maine Coon litter? There are several factors that can affect the number of kittens a Maine Coon has and some of these can harm the queen’s and the kittens’ health.
The Mother’s Age
- A young cat having a first litter
Age can definitely affect the size of a Maine Coon’s litter. Guidelines suggest a Maine Coon should not be bred until she is at least 12 months old and ideally not before she is 18 months. This is because a pregnancy before this age can have a detrimental effect on her health and her kittens’ health. It is perfectly normal for a young cat’s first litter to consist of just 2 to 3 kittens.
- An older cat having a first litter
A Maine Coon that is 3 to 4 years old and a first-time mother will also usually have a litter of 2 to 3 kittens.
- Subsequent pregnancies
Second litters onwards can increase in size to 4 to 5 kittens and sometimes even 6, but litter size can reduce if your queen is not bred from regularly as her womb can become less hospitable.
- Aging cats
As a Maine Coon grows older her litter sizes naturally decrease.
Health and Nutrition Before Conception
Health and nutrition can hugely influence the size of a Maine Coon’s litter. Your queen may produce fewer ova and have a higher fetal abortion rate if she is not well-nourished and in optimal condition.
It is possible for an unhealthy Maine Coon or one that suffers any trauma to reabsorb some or all of the fetuses in a litter.
Infections from bacteria, viruses or parasites can also affect the litter size.
Before beginning a breeding program, ensure your Maine Coon’s vaccinations are up-to-date and that she is declared healthy by a vet.
The stud should also be carefully selected and proven to be healthy.
Genetics play a large role in Maine Coon litter sizes and kitten health, so make sure you are fully aware of the full genetic history of your queen and intended stud.
It is paramount that both are free from any genetically transmitted conditions in an attempt to eradicate these from the breed.
Maine Coons are polyestrous, which means they come into heat several times a year. Each heat lasts several days and during this time it is the act of breeding that induces ovulation, that is, causes the release of eggs from the ovaries.
Therefore the queen can be bred at any time during the active stage of her heat cycle. The optimum for success is 3 to 4 matings in a 24 hour period.
This will increase the chances of conception and a large litter size. After ovulation has occurred, the queen will go out of heat within a couple of days.
Unfortunately, you can’t get a Maine Coon to pee on a stick to test if she’s pregnant.
If your cat is pregnant, after 3 or 4 weeks you will notice these signs:
- Pink swollen nipples
- Swollen belly
An experienced vet should be able to gently palpitate your cat’s womb to confirm a pregnancy. Do not do this yourself as you could easily cause a miscarriage.
If a vet can’t feel any embryos and you believe your cat is pregnant, you can pay for an ultrasound scan. This will detect fetal heartbeats but can’t accurately determine the number of kittens present.
After day 45 of the pregnancy, you can also request an X-ray. This will show the fetal skeletons and give a better idea of the number of kittens your cat is expecting.
This is still not 100% accurate because the kittens will be overlapping each other to an extent.
Maine Coon Gestation Period and Pregnancy Care
Cats have a typical gestation period of 63 to 70 days so once a Maine Coon’s pregnancy is confirmed, you can calculate her due date as being 9 to 10 weeks from the date she was mated.
In the first 6 weeks, make sure your pregnant Maine Coon has a high-quality diet that caters fro her increasing appetite.
From week 7 of her pregnancy, a Maine Coon will start to eat noticeably more food. This is because the kittens begin to grow more rapidly from this point.
To ensure she has enough food intake, you can introduce kitten food into her diet as this is more calorific.
Avoid giving your Maine Coon any medication or worming treatments during pregnancy unless they have been prescribed as safe by your vet.
If your Maine Coon is an outdoor cat, keep her in during the last few weeks. This will stop her from finding somewhere outside to give birth.
Prepare her a comfortable nesting box somewhere warm and quiet so that she can get used to it.
Don’t force her to use it if she doesn’t want to.
When your Maine Coon is ready to give birth, she will wander around the house looking for the perfect spot. Shut doors to rooms and closets that you would rather she did not give birth in.
Once she chooses a location, you should not try to move your Maine Coon somewhere you would prefer. If she feels stressed, her labor could stop and this can put her life and the kitten’s lives in danger.
Once your Maine Coon is ready to give birth, be on hand in case of complications but do not invade her space.
The first kitten may take up to an hour to be born and then the rest should appear about 30 to 60 minutes apart.
If your cat pushes for more than an hour and produces nothing, or a kitten is partially out for that length of time, contact your vet urgently.
Caring for Mother and Kittens
During the time when she is nursing her kittens, your Maine Coon will still need her extra calories.
All litters usually have one slightly smaller kitten known as the runt. As a cat’s uterus is Y-shaped, the kitten in the center of the Y receives the least nutrition, which results in it having a low birth weight.
Most of the time, the runt catches up with the other kittens in size by the time it is 6 to 8 weeks old and goes on to be a healthy adult cat. Your vet will advise you of any extra care it requires.
Try to handle the kittens as little as possible unless you are sure your Maine Coon is happy for you to do so. Once they are 10 days old, you should begin to gently stroke them every day.
From the age of 4 weeks, you should pick your kittens up and begin to socialize them properly. Give them plenty of positive experiences with as many adults and children as possible to ensure they grow into confident, sociable adults.
Failure to do this from week 4 to week 14 could result in shy cats that lack confidence. Make sure you give them plenty of toys too.
A vet should check the kittens over and at the right age, give them their necessary vaccinations.
Finding Homes for the Kittens
Unless you are going to keep them all, finding the right owners for your kittens is a big responsibility. You must ensure they go to people who will give them the good homes they deserve for life.
Before the kittens reach the age when they are due to leave your home, make sure you have a clear vetting procedure in place. Be prepared for some people to ask to return kittens to you as this does happen.
Though it’s nice to know how many kittens your Maine Coon will have, you will only really know the number for sure when they are born. A vet may perform a scan or an X-ray but these are not 100% accurate.
And Finally …
Before you commit to your Maine Coon having kittens, spare a thought for the large number of Maine Coons desperately waiting to be adopted from shelters, alongside various other equally worthy cats.
Millions of cats every year are sent to shelters because their owners no longer want them or are unable to care for them. A large proportion of these are Maine Coons or Maine Coon crossbreeds.
Though some shelters have a no-kill policy, not all do. It’s a heartbreaking
Talk to other breeders and you will discover that there isn’t a great deal of profit to be made breeding Maine Coons – it’s not that lucrative a business and it is hard work.
So, if your cat has kittens, are you prepared to be responsible for them for their whole lives if necessary to prevent any of them from ever ending up in a shelter and adding to the millions already there?