Visitors to the Sanctuary often notice one of the small cats like Little Mama in the Single-wide trailer or Tricia in the Double-wide trailer and assume that they’re kittens. It’s true that they do look like kittens but both of these cats are fully-grown and, in fact, quite mature. There are a few other small ones around, like Sara Lee, Gizmo, and newly-arrived Bengal Jinx but none of them are kittens either. So why are these adult cats still kitten-size?
In the case of the females, like Little Mama, Tricia, and Sara Lee, there’s a simple but somewhat sad explanation for their being so petite. They all had litters of kittens when they weren’t much more than kittens themselves. As any human female who’s been pregnant can testify, pregnancy takes a lot out of the body! Humans are generally aware of the nutritional care required during pregnancy and are able to supplement those elements and calories that the growing baby takes from them. Sadly, homeless female kittens don’t have that luxury. Cats can become pregnant when they’re as young as four to six months old.
At that age, their own bodies have certainly not fully developed and having a litter will most likely result in them never attaining full size. For a young feral cat, their intake of nutritional food is erratic at best, and almost certainly insufficient to support a litter of growing kittens in utero. They often have small litters of only two or three kittens, have difficulty giving birth, and may lose some or all of their tiny offspring shortly after birth. Then they have to feed the voracious little babies, again at the expense of their own nutritional needs.
Little Mama, Tricia and Sara Lee were all young and pregnant when trapped, which most likely explains their petite dimensions. As a cat from a Bengal breeder, Jinx was unlikely to have been a teenage mom, but, despite being eleven years old, she still looks like a kitten.
There are, of course, other possible reasons besides early pregnancy for a cat being on the small side. Gizmo, known as “Gizmo the Grey”, is not nearly as large as the average adult cat but, since he’s a male, early pregnancy doesn’t explain his size. He’s a feisty young ex-stray so probably didn’t get enough food to help his little body grow to a normal size.
There are several other diminutive female cats at the Sanctuary, such as Jax (Jacky) in the Single-wide and Marilee in the front courtyard, but the reasons they’re small aren’t always known.
Like humans, cats do just come in different sizes as a result of genetics and/or nutrition. The “runt” of a litter or one who was ill or poorly nourished as a kitten has a decreased likelihood of reaching normal mature cat size. Or, a small cat may simply be a member of a small breed or have parents of a small breed. As they become elderly, cats who were normal sized or even large in their salad days lose muscle mass and begin to look as if they’re much younger. Cheetah and Taboo in the front courtyard, and Booster in the Double-wide are all examples of cats who, as humans also do, have become smaller since they became “senior citizen cats”.
So, when you visit the Sanctuary and see cats that are smaller than the others, it’s not because they’re kittens. They’re fully grown but for some reason don’t look it. But they do look especially cute!