How Do Cats Mate? When Is Their Breeding Season?
In the old Tom and Jerry cartoons, Tom would often offer Jerry up as a gift to a pretty female feline he had his eye on. In the infamous “Blue Cat Blues” short he courted his would be girlfriend with various gifts, only to be constantly outdone by another male. Depressed at failing to win her over, Tom sits on the train tracks awaiting the inevitable. Fortunately for real cats, getting a mate is a much simpler thing.
Unfortunately for human cat owners, it’s perhaps a little too simple.
- Breeding Season
- What Occurs During Mating?
- Should You Breed Your Cat?
- Can a Litter Contain Kittens from Multiple Sires?
- At What Age Can a Cat Become Pregnant?
Cat mating can be done at any time, but cats are more likely to be more drawn to mating based on daylight hours. In the northern hemisphere, this is generally between the months of March and September. In the southern hemisphere, that is more likely to be between September and March.
What Happens During Estrus?
Estrus can be best described as the period when a female cat is more reciprocal of the idea of mating. It is linked with the emission of estradiol (a type of estrogen) that comes from ovarian follicles. While it may seem analogous to a human woman’s menstruation, it is very different. For one thing, there should be no sign of bloody discharge though there may be some mucous discharge.
Female cats are what’s known as induced ovulators. What that means is that ovulation will not take place unless there is mating or manual stimulation. If the female cat (also known as a queen) does not mate during her estrus cycle, her hormonal levels will eventually drop off. Afterwards, the estrus cycle will end until it starts again in another two to three weeks.
What Occurs During Mating?
The queen will signal that she is willing to mate with an unusual posture known as lordosis. Fans of 2 Live Crew are familiar with this position known as “Face down (expletive deleted) up, that’s the way we like to (expletive deleted)” She will raise her rear end in the air and move her tail up and to the side to expose her vulva. She will tread her rear legs rhythmically as if walking in place.
The male cat (also known as a tom) will mount the female from her rear, holding her by the scruff of the neck with his teeth. This biting behavior might partially be to ensure that she’ll cooperate. Another theory is that it may also excite the part of the female’s brain that causes ovulation.
Intact toms have barbed penises (similar to a fishhook) and when it is withdrawn, the queen will often make a sound like a scream. It is unknown at this time if the scream is from pleasure or pain, but as she may swat the male across the face afterwards with claws drawn, it can be inferred to be pain. Afterwards, she may groom herself. Despite the pain mating causes her, the female may be eager to try again not a few minutes after doing so.
How Soon After Mating Does Conception Occur?
How do cats get pregnant? Ovulation will generally happen within twenty to fifty hours after mating. The eggs will remain capable of being fertilized for about a day. The eggs, if viable, are then fertilized in the oviduct. It is then that they travel down to the uterus by way of the uterine horn. The eggs will be implanted in the uterine lining within ten to twelve days.
Female Cat on Heat
The animated German film Felidae accurately demonstrates how a queen acts when she wants to mate. (Be warned: even though this is a movie where all the main characters are cats, cat lovers find it hard to stomach.) She will start rolling over and rubbing against everyone and everything.
She may make some yowling sounds while taking on the lordosis position. Any touch to her back might trigger her into assuming the position. She may spray more and have less of an appetite. She will also be looking for any opportunity to go outside. Don’t let her do this unless you are prepared to take care of a litter of kittens.
Male Cat Calling
“Stray cat is crying, so stray cat sings back” goes Cyndi Lauper’s “All Through the Night”. Chances are you may have been torn out of a sound sleep one night after hearing a cats mating call. While toms do not go on heat, per se, they will behave oddly if they get a whiff of a queen on heat. He will try to figure out where this potentially willing lady is by calling out to her. He is effectively saying “Hey baby! Hey baby! Where are ya, baby?” There is a reason loud and obnoxious sexual remarks from men are called cat calls.
Some queens may act more affectionate but some may act more aggressive. Toms may fight other toms for the right to mate with a queen. If your feline buddy of either gender flattens their ears and hisses, they are in a bad mood and need to be left alone.
Should You Breed Your Cat?
The answer is probably not. A feline has no physical need to be pregnant or sire kittens. True, it’s a biological urge, but it isn’t one that necessarily is acted on. There are so many kittens in the world already that need homes. There’s no need to add to the number.
Preventing Unwanted Pregnancies
If your queen goes on heat you would do well to keep her indoors so she not only doesn’t get pregnant but doesn’t get hurt by over aggressive toms or other dangers she may be too distracted to notice.
As the spraying and yowling of a queen in heat can be very annoying to you and frustrating for her, it’s best just to get her spayed. Neutering a tom may reduce his urge to roam and pick fights with the other boys. Both genders can get fixed after four months of age.
What to Do In Cat Pregnancy Period If You want to breed your cat
Well, don’t say you weren’t warned. The pregnancy period lasts about two months. Kitty’s abdomen will swell as will her teats, which will also become more pinkish in color. Her appetite will increase as she is now eating for two or more commonly five or even ten. Some may become more affectionate.
Some may become more aggressive. Be prepared for mood swings. She may show signs of morning sickness and fatigue. Take her to a veterinarian if it seems non stop. Keep her inside so she doesn’t get hurt.
In the last week, she will start looking for a suitable nesting spot. She wants someplace warm, comfortable and at least semi-private. You can help her out by lining a box with newspaper, towels and old sheets. If she decided she wants to have her kittens elsewhere, don’t be surprised if she insistently takes the kittens out of the box and puts them right back where she had them.
Usually, a cat can take care of her kittens on her own. Newborn kittens cannot regulate their own body heat, so they need to stay very close to Mama and their littermates. If the kittens are premature or the queen is sick or just decides motherhood isn’t for her, you may need to step in. They can be fed with a syringe and will need to be kept warm constantly for the first four weeks.
A cat who has just given birth may experience complications such as retention of fetal membranes, endometritis, mastitis and eclampsia. If the queen doesn’t pass all of the fetal membrane, it will start to decompose inside her, causing great discomfort. A vet will need to give her antibiotics and medicines to help her expel the tissue.
Endometritis is inflammation of the uterus and needs immediate medical treatment. Mastitis is inflammation of the mammary gland. If heat therapy and massage doesn’t work of if there’s an infection or abscess, medical care may be needed. Eclampsia, aka milk fever or lactation tetany is a life threatening illness. Get her to a vet and don’t let her kittens nurse anymore.
Can a Litter Contain Kittens from Multiple Sires?
Oh yes. Remember that scene in An American Tail where Tiger tells Fivel that he had three fathers? It’s not far removed from reality. Cats are not very much into monogamy to begin with and being an induced ovulator means a queen will be able to breed any and every time she takes a mate.
The estrus cycle can last anywhere between seven and twenty-one days, ample time for her to be serviced my many different males. The numerous siblings Tiger mentioned may have had some half-siblings in the same litter.
At What Age Can a Cat Become Pregnant?
Generally, a cat reaches sexual maturity between six and eight months. However, some queens are capable of getting pregnant as young as four months. Pregnancies at such a young age are strongly discouraged as her half grown body just can’t stand the stress of pregnancy. She would also be at a higher risk for various cancers and infections of the reproductive tract.
Many people are under the mistaken belief that a cat should have at least one litter before she is spayed. This is not the truth at all. You are urged to get your feline friend spayed or neutered as soon as possible. She won’t run the risk of birth complications and he won’t get his throat ripped out fighting a tom bigger and meaner than he is. Talk to your veterinarian about spaying and neutering.
- Spaying and Neutering at American Veterinary Medical Association
- How long is a cat in heat? at www.animalplanet.com
- Cats in Heat: The Cycle Explained Drs. Foster & Smith Educational Staff
- Estradiol at www.sciencedirect.com
- The neuter status of cats at four and six months of age is strongly associated with the owners’ intended age of neutering C. P. Welsh, BVSc (Hons), MRCVS, T. J. Gruffydd-Jones, BVetMed, PhD, DipECVIM-CA, MRCVS and J. K. Murray, BScEcon, MSc, PhD
- Clinical and pathologic features of endometrial hyperplasia, pyometra, and endometritis in cats: 79 cases by Potter K, Hancock DH, Gallina AM