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Female cats may sometimes produce milk, that is lactate, when they are not pregnant. It depends more on the act of mating itself. Like humans, though, hormonal imbalances can be one of multiple potential causes.
Unlike humans, cats normally do not ovulate until they are actually in the process of mating. According to the Cat Health Guide, approximately 30 to 35 percent of queens, or unspayed female cats, ovulate even when they have not mated. This will cause symptoms of pregnancy, including milk production.
An imbalance of the hormones progesterone and prolactin is another cause of lactation. Progesterone is the hormone that causes pregnancy symptoms and prolactin is the hormone that causes lactation, or milk production.
For some cats, being spayed can be the cause of false pregnancy and milk production. According to WebMD Pets, some have experienced this condition 3 to 4 days after the removal of the uterus and ovaries.
According to VetInfo, some cats may experience false pregnancy and produce milk if they are spayed during the diestrus stage of their heat, or reproductive, cycle.
False pregnancy can also result from mating with an infertile tom, or male cat. As previously mentioned, the act of mating is what normally causes females to ovulate. If a female mates with an infertile male, an egg is released but never fertilized. The release of the egg causes the female's body to react as if she were pregnant even though she is not.
Cats with hypothyroidism may also experience false pregnancy and produce milk. In this case, it is caused by diverse blood changes. However, this is rare.