Top Causes of Infertility in Cats

Black and white cats during the mating season in spring. Stray and homeless cats on the street.

Infertility in Cats

While cats are among the most prolific and fertile animals, some suffer from infertility for a variety of reasons. The cause of this condition varies for each individual pet. If you want your cat to have a litter of kittens and they don’t get pregnant, this article details some possible reasons. It also addresses the issue of infertility in males.

1. Inadequate Exposure to Daylight

The reproductive cycle of a cat is governed by solar radiation. This is why cats go into heat in late February or early March until the end of September or the beginning of October. 

If you wonder why the mating "doesn’t stick" for heat cycles experienced in the winter, chances are their best time to conceive is spring. Waiting for a while and contacting a veterinarian is a good idea. In short, don't give up hope.

2. Ovarian Cysts and Tumors

Reproductive health issues are the primary cause of infertility in female cats. Cats that have received some form of contraceptive in the past are more prone to developing these complications. If you want to avoid a pregnancy at this time but want kittens in the future, it is best to have a vet give the cat a contraceptive injection. Contraceptive tablets are often not dosed correctly.

Ovarian cysts and tumors are usually diagnosed with an ultrasound, cytology, or biopsy. Hormone treatments may be effective. If the size of the growth is life-threatening, your vet may recommend surgery. This prevents any chance of motherhood in the future.

Uterine conditions such as pyometra and cystic endometrial hyperplasia also lead to unsuccessful pregnancy.

3. Testicular Disorders

Infertility in male cats can be caused by reasons similar to those of female cats, but in most cases, it’s something related to the testicles. Males whose testicles have not yet descended (cryptorchidism), are too small, or were affected by a health issue in the past might not be able to produce viable sperm cells. 

The quality of a male cat’s sperm is assessed microscopically by analyzing the speed at which they move, the overall number, and the shape of the sperm cells. 

Stray cats touching noses during mating season.

4. Hermaphroditism

Both classic hermaphroditism and pseudohermaphroditism affect cats. The first consists of the pet having both types of reproductive organs in their body, with rare cases where either is fully functional. The second is an abnormality in which a female cat has normal ovaries but also develops testicles.

If your cat was born with any of these two genetic reproductive abnormalities, they are likely to be infertile. 

5. Stress

While stress isn’t typically the single cause of infertility in cats, it certainly affects a cat’s ability to become pregnant. Anxiety caused by separation from their owners, frequent trips to the vet, or changes in their living environment can influence a cat’s body and mental state. A pet without these complications has a better chance of being fertile. 

6. Medications

The most common medication for stopping or postponing heat cycles in cats is megestrol acetate (MA), with veterinarians using drugs such as Ovaban or Megace to prevent estrus in this species. Multiple advances are being made in this field, as noted by a June 6, 2023 article by The Harvard Gazette. According to this source, a new drug containing anti-Mullerian hormone (AMH) prevents ovulation and conception for as long as two years at a time. 

The main issue with birth control pills and injections is that sometimes they are not dosed properly and have many side effects. Some cause infections, uterine hypertrophy, mammary tumors, and hormone complications such as diabetes. While it may not be the primary cause of infertility in cats, an infertility injection can lead to health complications that make it impossible for females to get pregnant later on. 

Fluffly gray cat and orange calico cat sitting on cement steps.

7. Poorly Timed Mating

Ovulation is instantaneous in cats, but it needs to happen at the right time during the estrus period. If mating occurs too early or late in the heat cycle, the female might not ovulate. 

The copulation itself influences whether a cat becomes pregnant. If the intercourse is interrupted, the female may not experience ovulation at all, resulting in what mistakenly looks like infertility. 

8. Infections

According to California-based veterinarian Dr. Autumn P. Davidson, “In cats, toxoplasmosis, feline leukemia virus infection, feline infectious peritonitis, and feline viral rhinotracheitis may cause infertility or the death of the fetus or newborn.” 

Other infections that affect a cat’s fertility include herpesvirus, calicivirus, and bacterial infections

9. Poor Nutrition

Malnutrition and obesity are the two weight-related complications that affect fertility in cats. Obesity can result in repeated attempts to get pregnant without any success. A malnourished cat may have a successful conception but the developing fetuses may die and be absorbed into the cat's body during the first two weeks of the pregnancy due to poor nutrition

Malnutrition may also cause miscarriage during the pregnancy.

Fluffy outdoor ginger cat walking in snow looking alert

Get in Touch With Your Vet Today

If you’re hoping your cat becomes pregnant, but there are still no little fuzzy buns in the oven, contact your veterinarian as soon as possible. Infertility is a condition that doesn’t typically impact your cat’s general health. However, if it is a symptom of an infection or cancer, that primary disease must be treated. 

Given that cats are a master at disguising their symptoms of illnesses, the earlier a condition is diagnosed, the quicker and easier it is to treat. 

Another thing to consider is the very important issue of cat overpopulation. That is why spaying and neutering are widely recommended for domestic pets. If you want the joy of a new kitten in the house that you can nurture and watch grow into a fine, fit feline, you can do your part to address that problem by adopting as many kittens as you can love from your local animal shelter or rescue agency. Those pets need love and care more than any other right now. 

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