Mating – Reproduction

The cat, if you but singe her tabby skin, The chimney keeps, and sits content within; But once grown sleek, will from her corner run, Sport with her tail and wanton in the sun; She licks her fair round face, and frisks abroad To show her fur, and to be catterwaw’d
Pope, The Wife of Bath (Prologue)


Initial contact between tom and queen.

Choosing a stud
If you plan to breed from your pedigree queen, you will, unless you also have a similarly blue-blooded tom, have to find a reputable breeder. Make enquiries at a cat club, cat show or your veterinarian’s office. A first-class breeder of the kind you must seek, will have spacious, secure, hygienic and warm accommodation for the tom and queen. All the animals at the stud should be free of Feline Leukemia virus. You should ask to see veterinary certificates verifying this and produce similar ones, together with vaccination certificates, for your cat. A stud fee will be payable, though if the first mating should not prove successful, a second attempt is normally granted free of charge.

Discuss with the breeder the approximate date (always impossible to predict with complete accuracy) when you should deliver your queen.

Recognizing oestrus
So how do you know when a queen is ready to mate? Before the oestrus (heat) begins in earnest she will be more affectionate than usual, rubbing and rolling with exaggerated enthusiasm. When heat sets in she will start to “call” – howl in a most imperious manner – and show marked restlessness and a longing to go out of doors so she can go in search of a feline Don Juan.

Her call may be a low, plaintive love song or, in the case of a Siamese, a powerful aria worthy of Callas. Most noticeable of all is the mating posture described and illustrated opposite. Once the queen begins to call, telephone the breeder and arrange to take your cat around. Do not go through with the lover’s tryst if either of the cat is off-colour.

Coitus
At the breeder’s premises the queen will be placed in adjoining quarters to those of the tom, and separated by wire mesh. They will be allowed to mix when the female begins to make advances to the male. The couple will be allowed to mate three or four times and then perhaps left together for a further two to three days. You will then return to collect your hopefully pregnant animal.

When you arrive back home the queen may well still be in heat – do not let her go out of the house for few days. It is not unknown for superfecundation to occur – a condition in which offspring from two toms, one of them perhaps the crossbred and cross-eyed tom that ruled the neighborhood, are conceived contemporaneously. In such cases the litter will consist of a mixture of pedigree and non-pedigree kittens.

Once a queen is with a tom – whether it is in the breeder’s carefully supervised cattery or up on the roof – like many mammals the cats’ rituals of courtship and mating progress through a series of clearly defined phases, as described on the following page.

The queen's cycle

The queen’s cycle
If your queen becomes pregnant, the cycle from oestrus through gestation, birth and lactation, to the resumption of oestrus lasts on average twenty weeks. Feline heat cycles are seasonal, and tend to start in January. Within any phase, two or three two-week cycles occur. Each oestrus lasts two to four days.

Mating

Pic 1
1. The provocative rolling of the queen stimulates the tom’s interest.

Pic 2
2. The queen goes into the typical mating position. Her body is pressed to the ground, back hollowed and hindquarters raised.

Pic 3
3. The tom mounts the queen and seizes the scruff of her neck between his teeth.

Pic 4
4. The male often “pedals” with his hind legs immediately prior to the brief act of coitus.

Pic 5
5. The neck-bite together with the stimulation of the male’s body, spiny penis at this point trigger ovulation by means of nerve signals sent to the pituitary gland in the brain.

Pic 6
6. Ejaculation occurs immediately the penis is introduced into the vagina, and may be accompanied by a howl from the queen.

Pic 7
7. The tom separates from the queen and moves off a little way. Sometimes he will sit or lie watching her. Here, he is grooming himself.

Pic 8
8. The queen too goes off by herself. She may give a luxurious display of rolling, rubbing and stretching.

9. The above sequence is repeated after five to ten minutes, and then may accur many more times.

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