Sex and the Kitty
Sex and the Kitty
The feline reproductive cycle is unique as cats are capable of multiple pregnancies within a single reproductive season, making them one of the most prolific domesticated species.
Female cats become sexually mature when they reach at least 80% of their adult weight and are unusual in that their heat cycles are influenced by seasonal changes in the amount of daylight. Thus, a female cat may have her first estrus anytime between four and 12 months of age. The onset of puberty varies depending on the breed, time of year, social environment, health, physical condition, and nutritional state.
Cats usually begin their heat cycles in January and continue every two to three weeks until September. This period, known as being in heat, generally lasts an average of three weeks. Starting around January, a female cat will keep coming back into heat every 14 to 21 days until she becomes pregnant, is spayed, develops a serious illness, or the amount of daylight decreases, which is usually around October. Anoestrus, no heat period, lasts from October until the new season begins in January or February.
When a female cat goes into heat, she becomes very vocal, loudly calling for a male cat. She’ll roll on the ground and constantly rub against furniture or your leg. She’ll assume a breeding posture with her head and front legs near the ground and her rump held high. She’ll become very affectionate and may start urinating frequently. I’ve had numerous clients at emergency hospitals with their cats in heat, fearing something was dreadfully wrong.
Female cats will be in heat and accept a male for three to 16 days. They are induced ovulators, which means they ovulate when they have sex. In order for the heat cycle to stop, a female cat must have sex, at which time the chances are high that she will become pregnant because she will release her eggs at the time of mating. Female cats will actively search out males and attempt to escape from the house and yard. They will also spray urine when in heat. Once this behavior begins, it can be difficult to stop. Female cats can become pregnant again as soon as 10 days after giving birth, while still nursing the first litter.
To summarize, spaying your cat
• Greatly increase her life span
• Decrease her chance of developing breast cancer to almost zero if you spay before her first heat cycle (usually at six to seven months of age)
• Eliminate the risk of dying of uterine or ovarian cancer
• Eliminate the chance she will develop a pyometra
• Decrease your vet bills
• Increase your pet’s quality of life
• Prevent irrational mood swings and undesirable behavior caused by heat cycles, including pacing, crying, and trying to escape
• Curtail bleeding on carpet and furniture
• Help decrease pet overpopulation
• Make your pet more social
• Make your pet happier and give her a better overall temperament
Neutered male cats are less likely to spray, roam, and develop testicular cancer or urethral obstruction. They have fewer litter box issues. Neutering drastically reduces their chance of contracting deadly cat viruses that are usually acquired during catfights. It also means you’ll spend less money on vet bills from fight wounds.
The effects of testosterone cause many diseases and health problems. Neutering provides relief from hormone-driven urges like:
• Aggression toward other animals and people
• Territorialism, which is the tendency to be overprotective about the home ground
• Roaming, which is the desire to escape and seek sexually active females in heat
• Marking territory with urine and or feces
Urine MarkingUnaltered male cats are notorious for spraying a foul, potent, musky-smelling urine. This is a normal sexual behavior of unaltered male tomcats; they scent their territory to affirm their dominant status. These cats will indulge in territorial urine marking on every upright surface they can find. This obnoxious smell will permeate anything it is sprayed on. Many intact house trained male cats will urine-mark inside and outside the house on walls, curtains, shoes, handbags, couches, bedspreads, carpets, furniture, doorsteps, windows, flowers, and shrubs—yours and the neighbors’. Unfortunately, stains and odors resulting from urine spraying can be difficult, if not impossible, to remove. Luckily, this behavior is decreased by at least 50% in neutered cats.
by Karen Doc Halligan