Sexual Behaviour - Reproduction

Queens reach sexual maturity between seven and twelve months of age. Do not breed a queen until she is at least one year old, at which age cats breed most easily. Toms mature sexually between ten and fourteen months of age.

The oestrus cycle
Queens come into heat (oestrus) according to a seasonal rhythm. The heat period lasts for two to four days and occurs at approximately two-week intervals. The cycle is usually repeated two or three times in spring (mainly March and April) and again in summer (mainly June and July), with sometimes a third period of activity in September. Not being machines some queens do their own thing and have heat cycles somewhat outside these main peaks. When a queen is in heat she will adopt a characteristic posture: front end flat on the ground, rear end stuck in the air and hind legs “pedaling” an invisible bicycle.

A queen begins to rub and roll.

Preventing pregnancy
A good time to have a female kitten neutered (spayed) if you do not intend to breed from her is when she reaches four months of age. This operation is done by a qualified vet under general anaesthetic. It consists of removing both ovaries and part of the horns of the womb. The incision is usually made in one flank. There is very little risk of strain involved in the operation: the kitten is bounching around again twenty-four hours after the operation. Sutures are generally removed seven to ten days after the operating and there are rarely any after-effects.

Tom kittens can be castrated when four months old. Personally I recommend waiting until they are a couple of months older. This allows the penis to grow in diameter and may avoid troublesome clogging up with urine sludge later in life. Castration is the painless removal of the testicles by a veterinarian. Although it can be done under local anaesthetic up to six months, after that age a full general anaesthetic is used. “Doctored” toms do not necessarily become fat, sluggish and lazy, although their urine loses its pungent aroma and they become sweeter characters.

Some fold think spaying and castration are cruel, a denial of a cat’s natural desires. In practice, a castrated tom is spared the bites, abscesses and other unfortunate consequences of midnight battles on the rooftops. And it is humane to save unwanted pregnancies.

Both spaying and castration can be carried out if necessary at any age, though a vet will not usually want to spay a queen who is more than a couple of weeks pregnant. If possible it is best to avoid operating on a queen that is “in heat”, at these times the high level of sex hormones in her blood slows the speed of clotting when the vet operates.

The classic position adopted by a queen ready for mating.

In females, an alternative to the surgical approach is the Pill. These contraceptive tablets, such as megestrol acetate, can be used in one of two ways: half a 5mg tablet daily for two months during the breeding season; or the same weekly for up to one-and-a-half years during the non-breeding season. Diabetic cats and certain others should not be put on the Pill, but discus the best procedure with your veterinarian.