July 19, 2019

Sexuality of the cat: mating and sterilization

The sexuality of cats has always stimulated the curiosity of man, especially for the complicated courtship ritual, and for the fiery behavior of both male and female. In fact, during the mating season, the cat transforms completely.

During the periods of heat, which happen from two to four times a year and last from 15 to 20 days (usually between the end of winter and the beginning of spring and then from the end of spring to the beginning of summer), the cat licks more than usual, is restless, rolls on the ground, rubs against our legs and gives small blows with the head, purrs more noisily and is more affectionate with the owners.

If caressed, the cat flattens to the ground carrying her tail against her hips and beats the ground with her hind legs. At night, then, it emits intense vocals (sometimes even for hours!) to recall all the males of the surroundings. However, in spite of its strong sensuality, the cat does not allow itself to be seduced so easily, on the contrary, the rites preceding the mating may last even some days.

When there are more “suitors”, the cat often enjoys rejecting them and watching carefully their brawls: the winner will mate with her. The mating lasts a few seconds: after the act, the female emits a penetrating mewing and separates violently from the companion (sometimes it does not deny him even a nail!).

During the mating season the cat can mate with more males and for this reason it is not surprising if kittens of different fathers will be born in the same birth. If, on the other hand, a couple of fertile cats share the same house, they will usually promise fidelity.

Male cats usually reach sexual maturity between 10 and 14 months, later than cats, which mature between 7 and 12 months. They can reproduce even in old age, but only the most robust remain active also during the old age.

Cats are very prolific, so the birth of one or more litters can be a practical and organizational problem for those who own a female: where to put all the kittens? Most owners choose sterilization. This intervention considerably modifies the behaviour of the cat, which suffers a lot from sexual instincts, but does not distort it: the sense of the hunt, the intelligence and the liveliness remain intact.

Sterilization has its advantages: besides keeping under control the number of cats living in colonies, the sterilized cat reduces its wanderings, is more affectionate, less aggressive, is more interested in food, no longer manifests the typical “cravings” of heat. Furthermore, if practiced within the first year of age, it is an effective means for the prevention of the tumours of the breast and the uterus, very frequent in the cats.

However, even if sterilization inhibits sexual instincts, it may happen that castrated males participate in “fake” matings with cats in heat and vice versa. This is explained by the fact that sterilization does not completely eliminate the sexual hormones.