A Bakers Dozen of Cats
April 13, 2021
One of the things I look forward to each week is getting ‘show prep’ from my favorite Disc Jockey who also happens to be my brother. He sends interesting and humorous facts and events in advance of each Tuesday, providing me fun ideas for the particular date I need.
This week he shared the following for today, April 13. He writes:
“1969: An Australian Siamese cat named Blue Danielle had 13 kittens. It’s no longer a record, but it deserves honorable mention. The purring alone must have driven everyone crazy.”
Which got me wondering, what WAS the largest litter of kittens ever born?
The record was set the very next year when a four year old Burmese cat named Taragone Antigone produced 19 kittens. Unfortunately, only 15 survived (14 males, one female). I gleaned this information from a website called The Nest which also stated “Clementine, a mixed domestic shorthair gave birth to 15 (11 survived) in New York in 1976, and that same year a Siamese named Tikatoo had a litter of 15 in Canada.” (see link below)
The Infallible Wikipedia does not list the information on the largest litters, but helpfully details the, ahem, mating habits of felines. Perhaps the most interesting fact in that regard is this:
“Because ovulation is not always triggered by a single mating, females may not be impregnated by the first male with which they mate. Furthermore, cats are super fecund that is, a female may mate with more than one male when she is in heat, with the result that different kittens in a litter may have different fathers.”
Another interesting aspect is that cats are known to give birth to as many as three litters a year. With litters averaging from 3 to 9 kittens, it doesn’t take long to be overrun by cats. I should know.
My family’s kitten adventures began in December 1998 when our one and half year old cat, Purr, went into heat. It was a conscious decision on my part to let the cat do this as I knew that having a batch of kittens was highly desired, especially by my then 5 year old daughter.
As Purr’s big day approached, the excitement in the house grew. Then, one morning late in February 1999, the process began. Much to my daughter’s delight, she got to witness the birth event and immediately bonded with all four of the kittens.
It didn’t take long for each cat’s personality to shine through and the four were named: Kinky – the lone male – named for the crook in his tail; Winky – who had one eye which blinked independent of the other; Phantom – who had a half dark, half light face; and, finally, People Cat – so named because of her propensity to climb out of the box and love on whatever person was there.
Kittenmania took over. The cats lived in our large laundry room, kept inside by a baby gate once they started roaming. But soon they were all over the house and, especially, upstairs in the playroom or the kids’ rooms.
Since keeping five cats was not an option, at five weeks I’d moved fully into ‘find them a home’ mode but not before promising that we would keep ‘one’ of the kittens. My targets for people to adopt them were classmates of the kids and soon Winky left to be loved by a third grade girl and her family.
Phantom, it turned out, was not the right cat for us. She was afraid of everything: loud noises, sudden movement, and the other cats. Sudden incontinence was the response to these factors, so she needed a calm environment with an understanding owner. Her salvation was the veterinary assistant.
It looked as though Kinky would be our cat as my son’s teacher, Mrs. B., was all set to adopt Peop (as we had started calling her). But when Mrs. B’s husband objected, the adoption was off. I was secretly glad as Peop had become my personal assistant, supervising whenever I worked at my desk, and I wanted to keep her.
So our little family of three cats was set. Or so I thought.
One day in early April I had an appointment to have Mama Purr spayed. Then the unthinkable happened. She escaped the house and was gone for 24 hours. The last time that happened…
Yep. She was pregnant once again.
Purr got bigger and bigger and soon we were anxiously awaiting the new arrivals. She rejected Peop and Kinky (something which was true for the rest of her days) who moved upstairs to hang with the family and Purr stayed downstairs as she began the process of nesting once again.
Unfortunately, I had an out of town conference which took me away at the critical moment. With Grandma and Grandpa there to watch the kids we were all set.
Then on day two of the conference, a flurry of emails from my nine year old son announced the kittens’ arrival.
“Mom,” the first email proclaimed, “Purr has four kittens!”
I noticed a string of emails from him and clicked open the second, then the third, fourth and fifth emails.
“Now there are five!”
“Mom – there are six kittens!”
“Now there are seven!”
My stomach dropped as I counted three more emails in the thread. How many kittens did Purr just have? What were we going to do with all those kittens?!
I open the next email.
“Purr has eight kittens!” the email happily proclaimed.
It took every ounce of courage to open the next one.
I let out a shudder. While eight would be hard to manage I was thankful it had ended there.
When I arrived home the next day I found a moving mass of cats in the laundry room. Purr looked oh so pleased with herself.
Soon the reality of having ELEVEN cats in the house took over. The litter box for Mama and babies required cleaning every two hours. I took old vinyl tablecloths and turned them upside down in the laundry room to keep the carpet (who puts carpet in a laundry room? Asking for a friend) from getting urine soaked. Our house smelled like a cattery. Probably because it was.
That summer all we did was manage cats and eventually were able to find homes for the crew, much to Purr’s dismay. And Purr? That randy lady did make it to the vet (as did Peop and Kinky) so that future, possibly record breaking, litters of kittens would not happen.
But had I known then that the record was 19 I totally think Purr could have broken it. Then she would have been famous and I would have had a nervous breakdown. It probably worked out for the best.
A couple of links: