Reproduction is an integral part of feline interaction and behavior. Your cat is ready to reproduce when it reaches puberty which is at the age of six months. After that your feline experiences what is known as the heat cycle.
Cat behavior before mating includes howling, being overly affectionate and demanding, loss of appetite, and females assume the mating position. Some cats will mark their territory with urine. Finally, you may notice the cat licking its genitals and trying to escape to find a mate.
This article will look at what to expect from your male and female cats when they are in heat. It will also explore how to manage your feline when it is in heat and how heat cycles in cats work.
Seven Pre-Mating Behaviors in Cats
1. The Cat Grooms Itself Excessively
Cats groom themselves all the time. It is a favorite pastime. However, when your cat is getting ready to mate, it will tend to spend a lot of time licking its genitals.
Their genitals should be clear of any discharge, like blood. Cats in heat should not bleed.
You should monitor your cat when it exhibits this behavior without showing any other signs of wanting to mate. Excessive genital licking could be a result of a urinary tract infection.
2. The Feline Becomes Overly Affectionate
Your feline becomes more demanding and affectionate during this time. You can expect it to slide and rub against you constantly, especially around its hindquarters.
It will not only rub against you but will also rub against the furniture, doors, toys, and other pets.
This kind of rubbing is distinct because it is accompanied by the cat lifting its tail and assuming the mating position. Sometimes the cat may roll around on the floor.
3. The Cat Marks Its Territory
When your cat is in heat, it will mark its territory by spraying the area with urine. It sprays the urine on vertical surfaces by backing up to the selected surface and urinating while rhythmically walking its hind legs in place.
While this happens, the tail is raised and quivering at the same time.
Unfortunately, the territory marking can target anything from furniture to walls and furnishings. Marking territory happens with male cats.
4. The Cat Engages in Vocalization
Howling is the most predominant form of vocalization for a cat that is in heat. When my cat Sophia is in her heat cycle, we can barely sleep because of the racket she causes.
Not only will your queen yowl, maybe throughout the night, but she will also attract other cats, especially tomcats that come to fight for her attention right outside your house. The queen uses a special yowl that communicates her readiness to mate, and the tomcats vocalize back to let her know that they are a suitable mate.
A mating call can also be characterized by meows and trills or a long sequence of trilling. If your cat is yowling, it may sound like it is in pain or distress. Some cats even sound like they are moaning.
5. The Cat Assumes the Mating Position
If the female is ready to mate, she will signal her willingness by bending her forelegs so that her chest is down on the ground. She then raises her hind legs while raising her tail so that her genitals are exposed to her mate.
This mating position is called lordosis.
While in this position, you may notice her hind legs treading rhythmically in place. Also, your cat’s tail will be held to the side, ensuring that the perineum is completely exposed.
Another characteristic position is the low crawl. As the cat crawls along the ground, it may continuously call and moan and appear pretty restless.
6. Your Cat Prefers the Outdoors
Even if your cat is a homebody, it will suddenly look for any avenue to escape the house and find a mate. Tomcats will be lining up to mate a female cat in heat since her vocalizations attract the males to her.
The queen is driven by instinct at this point, and her instincts tells her to go outside and find a mate. All she needs is for the door to open, and she will make a run for it. Do not be surprised if your obedient, well-trained, indoor female cat goes outside and stays there for one day or even a week, sometimes more.
If you do not want your queen to mate with the neighborhood tomcats, seal the door and other openings.
7. The Cat May Lose Its Appetite
Your cat is preoccupied at this time, so food may be the last thing on its mind. You may notice a decreased interest in food as the cat focuses on finding a mate.
But the normal loss of appetite should last no more than two weeks. After that, your queen should return to her regular feeding habits. Any longer than that may be an indication that your cat has another underlying health issue.
The Heat Cycle Explained
You can expect your female to go through the heat cycle unless you have spayed her. If your cat doesn’t go through the heat cycle, it may already be pregnant.
There are four phases to the heat cycle:
This is the stage where the female cat begins to feel the pull of being in the heat, but the physical manifestations haven’t presented yet. The proestrus stage tends to last for one or two days.
The queen is not yet ready to mate during this period, and she doesn’t show any other signs of wanting to mate.
Estrus is the second stage, and the one most cat parents struggle with. It is also called estrous or oestrus. That is when the queen begins the vocalizations to attract a tomcat. It will exhibit lordosis behavior and other mating signs, as discussed above.
Your female cat may mate several times before it becomes pregnant. That means your queen may mate with different tomcats during this time. As a result, her kittens may have different fathers. The ability of the queen to have a litter of kittens with different fathers is known as heteropaternal superfecundation.
This is the third stage that occurs when the cat doesn’t mate or get pregnant during the heat cycle. It is also known as the period between heats. During this time, the cat will stop exhibiting any signs of being in heat.
However, after three days or even a few weeks, your cat will enter the heat cycle again. And the process of proestrus, estrus, and again interestus repeats itself once again.
Interestus is also known as diestrus.
The Anestrus is the dormant period in a cat’s reproductivity. That means that your feline does not experience any estrus activity regardless of the season.
If your cat is not going into heat at all, you can consider using artificial lighting to help facilitate the process. Most queens come into their heat cycles during long daylight seasons like fall. So when you use artificial lighting to simulate daytime, your cat may come into heat.
Of course, ensure you consult your vet about such programs to see if they are suitable for your pet.
The Mating Process Explained
The heat cycle in cats is also known as the estrous cycle.
Female and male cats engage in a pursuit and avoidance dance when they encounter each other during the mating period. That means the female tries to avoid the male, and the male pursues.
This dance can last for several hours before the cat accepts to copulate with the male.
If the male tries to mount the queen before she is ready, he will be met with aggressive behavior that may result in injuries.
When the queen is ready for copulation, she will exhibit lordosis behavior. That means that she will assume the mating position. The male will bite the female on the nape of the neck to subdue her before mounting her.
With the male on top, the female is at a disadvantage. The male then penetrates the female in a process that typically lasts only as long as four seconds.
The copulation process is painful for the queen, which explains why she cries out in pain. That is because the male reproductive organ has barbs that hurt the female as the male withdraws. The barbs are supposed to stimulate ovulation.
The female is induced to ovulate during this cycle which triggers the release of eggs that are fertilized by the male’s sperm.
Ovulation occurs 20 – 50 hours after the cats have mated. The eggs produced during this mating session are viable for a day, and if fertilized, they implant into the uterine lining within 13 days.
Female cats are ready to mate and have a litter as early as four months, while male cats become sexually mature by the seventh month. Some take their time and become sexually mature by 12 months.
Managing Your Cat’s Mating Behavior
The truth is, living with a cat in heat is quite challenging. Not only is the cat restless, but it is also acting on pure instinct most of the time.
I guess that is what makes animals different from human beings. Your cat will not be reasonable during this time. You can expect great escape attempts, aggressive behavior, especially towards other cats of the same sex, and a noisy racket lasting through the night.
While there is no reasoning with a kitty during this time, there are some things you can do to make the season manageable for you and your cat.
a) Give them a little extra attention
Your cat needs attention during this time to distract it from the raging hormones it has no control over. So, spend more time playing with it, brushing, or petting it.
That will take its mind off the estrus and give you a little peace in the household.
Remember that your cat is experiencing a stressful period during this time. Spending some quality time will help your cat feel more loved and secure to handle the confusing changes.
Invest in some toys that require your cat’s hunting instincts. Hunting is also instinct-driven behavior which can help replace the mating instinct. When the cat is preoccupied with the toy, it becomes engrossed in the game.
b) Keep the male and female cats separate
If the queen has access to a tomcat while in heat, then mating will surely take place. If you can keep the cats apart, you can ensure the heat cycle passes.
Being in heat is not proven to be physically painful for your cat despite the distressful-sounding vocalizations it may emit and the obvious stress.
But once your cat’s heat cycle begins, it will keep repeating itself over and over again until the feline mates.
c) Consider herbal remedies
Some herbal remedies can help calm your cat down and alleviate the stress by relaxing your feline. Consider options like catnip which is excellent for inducing relaxation. Administer it according to instructions when you notice your cat beginning the low crawl, or exhibiting lordosis behavior.
It can also help relax your cat at night when it is time to sleep. That way, your cat gets some shut-eye, and there is less yowling.
You can grow catnip in your garden, and your cat can chew on it, or you can drop some of it in the cat’s food. This herb has a euphoric effect on the cat.
Other herbs that have a calming effect on your cat include valerian which may calm and relax your cat so much, so your kittie may fall asleep. This herb makes your cat docile after a short stint of excitement.
Chamomile is also proven to help your cat relax just the same way it will relax you. It is an excellent anti-anxiety and stress reliever for cats. Of course, you have to use it in doses recommended for felines.
Finally, you can use the Bach Rescue Remedy flowers to help your cat overcome the discomfort of estrus. It is a blend of five flowers developed by DR. Bach to help induce calmness and relaxation.
The original flowers in this blend are Rock Rose, Clematis, Impatiens, Cherry Plum, and Star of Bethlehem.
This blend helps with acute anxiety, and it is safe for cats.
Spaying and Neutering Your Cat to Eliminate Poor Mating Behaviors
If you do not want your cat to mate, it is advisable to spay or neuter it. Spaying refers to removing the female cat’s uterus and ovaries, while neutering applies to the removal of the male cat’s testicles.
But don’t be surprised to hear your vet use “neutering” when referring to the removal of the reproductive organs of both males and females.
When cats are spayed or neutered, they undergo surgery using general anesthesia.
These are services provided by a vet. Alternatively, you can take your cat to a spay/neuter clinic specializing in these procedures. After the procedure, your cat will have a cone placed on its neck to prevent it from interfering with the wound until it heals.
According to medical experts, spaying will make your queen healthier and have a long life, while neutering makes tomcats better-behaved pets. Also, neutering lessens your cat’s chances of getting testicular cancer.
When it comes to mating, spaying your queen ensures that she will not go into heat. And if she doesn’t go into heat, you don’t have to worry about annoying mating behaviors disrupting your household.
Unfortunately, several myths surrounding spaying discourage cat parents from taking their kitties for this procedure. They include:
i) Spaying or neutering is painful/harmful to the cat
There is no proof that spaying or neutering your cat changes their instinctive behaviors or makes them susceptible to any physical or mental problems.
Some people think that these procedures cause a cat to add weight. But with correct feeding and monitoring the exercise levels of your cat, you can keep your feline healthy and trim. Spaying and neutering have nothing to do with poor feeding habits.
Also, neutering a male will not make your tomcat act less masculine or suffer an identity crisis.
ii) Spay a female before its first heat cycle
Medical practitioners in cat hospitals recommend spaying your female cat before it gets its first heat cycle.
The cat is healthier if it is spayed at this time because that reduces the chances of getting mammary cancer. Also, female cats that haven’t been spayed before their first heat cycle are at a higher risk of uterus infections.
iii) Vets may do bloodwork before spaying older cats
Cats can be spayed at any age. There is no risk of spaying or neutering older cats. However, your vet may want to do some bloodwork on your cat before administering anesthesia.
iv) Neutering and spaying makes the cat less affectionate
These procedures make your cat calmer and content. That means your cat is better behaved, and you grow a deeper and more loving bond with it.
The truth is that neutered and spayed cats are not less likely to show affection.
Mating is a natural and instinctual behavior in your feline. You can only mitigate it by getting your queen or tomcat spayed or neutered, respectively.
If you choose not to carry out the above procedures, it is best to learn how to calm your feline so it has a less stressful time when in heat.
Writer: Mercy Nandika Amatieku