Twins can occur when two separate eggs become fertilized in the womb at the same time, or more commonly when a fertilized egg splits into two embryos.
This results in two babies instead of one, which can be identical or not.
In humans, it’s very easy to know when two babies are twins because there’s two instead of one!
However, cats have more than one kitten per birth, with litters usually being of around five kittens, so can they be twins?
I suppose the answer depends on what you consider twins to be in cat terms. If twinning is sharing the womb, then every kitten from the same litter is a twin (although this would mean there’s multiple twins instead of two, which contradicts the name!).
If twinning is sharing a womb but just being two, that is also possible, as there could be cat litters of just two kittens.
If twinning is being identical, that is also possible, as it isn’t uncommon for kittens of the same litter to look completely alike.
However, if you’re wondering whether cats can be identical twins, born of the fertilized egg splitting into two different embryos, producing two kittens, then the answer is yes.
This happens just like it does with humans, although it is a lot rarer in cats. It is also a lot harder to spot when two cats are identical twins, and the only way to know that they are for certain is to perform a DNA test.
Types of twins
Twins occur when two babies, or in this cat case, kittens, share the same womb. The word ‘twin’ in and of itself, means ‘double’.
This is why we will be looking at the two types of twins that can occur when a cat has a litter of two kittens, which makes them by definition, twins.
Fraternal twins occur when two kittens share the cat’s womb at the same time, without being from the same egg.
Essentially, they are like normal siblings but born in the same litter instead of during different ones. They can be the same or different sex, and they can look very alike or quite different, just like any siblings do.
They share half of their DNA genes. Twin cats are quite rare, as cats don’t often have litters as small as two.
Identical twins are an even rare occasion, and two kittens actually can’t be confirmed as identical twins unless a DNA test is performed to prove that they share 100% of their DNA genes.
Although they may be identical in appearance, the colors can showcase differently so they could be easily told apart and be different in looks, while sharing all of their genes.
Identical twins only occur when a fertilized egg splits into two embryos, forming two kittens with identical genes. The two identical twin kittens will look just like any normal cat siblings, so the likelihood is, you won’t ever be able to tell!
What can cause a cat to have twins?
It is very rare for a cat to have twins, as usually, a cat litter tends to be around an average of four to five kittens at a time. So, if it is so rare, what causes a cat to have twins?
Cats can have a litter of between one and twelve kittens, with some of the larger litters being more common in pedigree or highly valued breeds that are used for breeding. The average cat will have around 4 kittens per litter.
There are different factors that can cause a cat to have a smaller litter, specifically a litter of two, and they are as follows:
Breed of the cat
Some breeds of cats have larger litters than others on average, and this can heavily influence the possibility of a cat having twins. A breed of cat that on average has smaller litter sizes, is way more likely to have just two kittens in a litter.
While siamese-type cats tend to have the biggest kitten litters, it is Persian-type cats that have more of a tendency for smaller litters, which puts them at a higher chance of birthing twins.
Age of the cat
Another factor that can heavily influence the possibility of a cat having twins, is the age of the cat.
First-time mum cats tend to have smaller litters, usually of up to three kittens, and then the number increases the more litters they have.
When the cat then reaches the age of six, more or less, the number of kittens per litter goes down once more. The highest chance of getting twin kittens is with a cat that has never bred before.
Time of the year
The time of year the cat births kittens can be a small indicator of whether it will be a bigger or smaller litter, and this relates to how the cat has bred.
Let us explain:
Cats are seasonal breeders. This means that they come into heat during certain seasons (usually during spring and summer), and that is when they ovulate more and are ‘in the mood’ for breeding.
When they breed, this also further stimulates their ovulation, leading them to breed even more.
It’s basically a season in which cats go wild and try to make as many babies as they can. This means their eggs can be fertilized by more than one cat, so the different kittens that are birthed in the litter can be from different fathers.
If the litter correlates with having occurred because of the breeding season, the litter is likely to be a lot bigger, because more fathers will be involved.
However, if the litter is during winter, it will be more of an ‘off’ occurrence, so it will tend to be a lot smaller, and might therefore be a litter of twins!
Just like humans can have twins, cats can have both fraternal and identical twins. However, it is very rare for cats to have twins, especially because their litters tend to be of around four to five kittens.
Fraternal twins are when a cat has a litter of just two kittens. They are classed as twins because there are two of them, but they are essentially like any other sibling kittens that pertain to the same litter.
Identical twins, on the other hand, are when a fertilized egg splits into two embryos, forming two kittens with 100% the same genes.
There are different things that can cause a cat to have twins, despite it being very rare, and it usually comes down to the breed of the cat, the time of the year, and whether the cat has had kittens before or not.