SAN DIEGO — San Diego Humane Society’s Kitten Nursery is caring for a cat who gave birth to 11 kittens. This is rare, as the average litter size for cats is three to five kittens. Even more unusual, the cat has 11 nipples – one for each kitten. On average, cats have six to eight nipples and they almost always have an even number.

“A healthy litter this size is incredibly uncommon and certainly not something we see every day in the nursery,” said Jackie Noble, kitten nursery manager.

The mother and her kittens were discovered by a good Samaritan inside a dumpster in downtown San Diego. The finder said it did not look like someone had dumped the animals there, but rather the mother thought it was a safe place to hide and take care of her babies. The cat and kittens are all in good health. They are receiving care at SDHS’s Kitten Nursery, where they will stay until the kittens are ready for adoption and the mother can be spayed.

The San Diego Humane Society says a litter this large highlights the importance of spaying and neutering. 

"It is critical for the community to work together to spay and neuter community cats. Cats can get pregnant about every three months, so it’s possible for a single cat to have more than 200 kittens in her lifetime," Noble said.

Community cats can be altered through trap-neuter-return (TNR) programs. Community cats are trapped, spayed/neutered, vaccinated and ear-tipped for identification. After recovering, they are returned outdoors to live their lives without having any more kittens. SDHS offers free spay/neuter, vaccinations and ear-tipping for community cats at each of their three campuses. Learn more about community cats and TNR here.

The kittens will not be available for adoption for several weeks, according to Dariel Walker with the humane society. Click here to see kittens that area available for adoption at humane society locations in Escondido, Oceanside and San Diego.