When do female cats reach sexual maturity?
Female cats reach puberty as early as six months and when this occurs, she will have her first heat. At this stage, the female is fertile and receptive to mating. An entire female who is capable of sexually reproducing is known as a “queen“, and an entire male who is capable of sexually reproducing is known as a stud or tom. A cat is in the heat for 5 – 8 days and estrus will repeat every 2-3 weeks until she is pregnant or spayed.
Several factors activate the mating season, including the number of daylight hours. In the northern hemisphere, it is between March and September, in the southern hemisphere, it is between September and March.
Cats do not discriminate, and a female in heat will mate with any available male (or multiple males), this includes her father or siblings. When she comes into heat, she will display particular behaviour such as increased vocalisation (known as calling) accompanied by treading and rolling. You may notice if you stroke her, especially along the back, she will put herself in the mating position, crouching down with her rump raised and her tail to the side. Loss of appetite is also common in the female in heat as she has more important things on her mind. At this point, she will do anything possible to escape and find that mate.
The mating process
If a male is available, he will approach her from the rear and grasp the skin on her neck; he will clasp her sides with his front legs, he will tread with his back feet and insert his penis which is accompanied by a few deep thrusts. Ejaculation occurs within 15-30 seconds. This is accompanied by a low growl from the stud and a piercing scream from the queen. Barb-like projections on the penis cause pain to the queen, but this is necessary to stimulate ovulation. When the stud pulls away, the queen may lash out at him if he’s not quick. Mating may be repeated several minutes to several hours later. A female can mate up to 30 times during her heat period.
Can a litter of kittens have different fathers?
Yes. A queen will mate with multiple toms and is entirely possible for a litter of kittens to have different fathers.
Cats are incredibly fertile creatures, and pregnancy almost always occurs if the queen mates. The gestation period of a cat is between 63 – 54 days. Symptoms usually appear around the second week of pregnancy when her nipples pink up. By 3-4 weeks your veterinarian can feel the kittens by palpitating the abdomen.