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Littering: It's All In The Numbers

How many? How soon? How can this possibly be? These are common questions asked in my office. Here are some answers. Averages, that is.

Age at puberty:

Dogs and cats have their first heat cycles between 4 and 18 months of age, usually around 7 months. Larger breed dogs usually are a little later than their smaller cousins.

Heifers have their first cycle at around 10-11 months; Mares during their second year; Lambs and Kids born in the spring may come in estrus in the fall of the same year; Gilts at seven months

Hamsters at 1 month; Mice at 5 weeks; Rats at 7 weeks; Gerbils at 3-5 months; Rabbits at 4-9 months; Guinea pigs as early as 3 weeks although the males don't catch up until about 10 weeks of age.

It is not rare for people to come home from the pet shop with surprise extra Guinea Pigs that magically appear a month or two after purchase. Depending on your point of view, this may be a great bargain, the beginning of a new business enterprise, or the beginning of a desperate search for adoptive homes.


Dogs-9 weeks; Cats-8 to 9 weeks; Cows-91/2 months; Mares-11 months; Ewes and Does (goats) -5 months; Sows-4 months; Hamsters-16 days; Mice and Rats-3 weeks; Gerbils-3 * weeks; Rabbits-1 month; Guinea Pigs- 2 to 2 * months.

How Many:

How many varies a lot in some species and is very breed and nutrition dependant. Bitches can have 1-14 puppies, 1 being not uncommon among small breed dogs such as Pugs and Shih-Tzus, and 14 not unusual in very large breeds such as Newfoundlands. Queens typically have 2-6 kittens. Cows, Mares, Ewes and Does 1-2; Sows 4-12; Hamsters 4-10; Mice and Rats 8-10; Gerbils 1-12; Rabbits 7; and Guinea Pigs have 1-4.

The general principle seems to be that smaller species start earlier, progress faster and produce more offspring than larger species.

Another general principle seems to be the Murphy's Law corollary that the more you don't want a litter the larger it is. / Issue 192 - March 2018
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