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.. Cats in season

The oestrus cycle of a cat occurs repeatedly during mating seasons & sometimes outside of them.

 

Cats can come into season at any time throughout the year, although certain times are more common.

The season is dictated (most commonly) by day length & natural light. Typically, 1 or 2 months following the winter solstice, sexual activity increases. One month after the summer solstice, the activity decreases. The phenomenon is linked to the hormone melatonin. Melatonin increases in cats with periods of low light (winter), inhibiting the production of sexual hormones. Increased natural light decreases melatonin levels - in turn increasing sexual hormones & activity.

Pregnant cats & kittens that come into rescue centres conform to these seasonal patterns, although there are always exceptions.

Electric lighting can interfere with this natural cycle for example and females can come into season at any time of the year. 

 

Queens in oestrus may become increasingly vocal. The frequency, volume & length of her calls may increase & even lower in their pitch. She might become unusually friendly towards the beings around her & apparently to objects too - she may rub against obstacles & roll on the floor. She may even spray urine in her scent-marking frenzies.

Entire male cats are always sexually functional, but they will become more active & range further, even become aggressive at certain times of the year, or if they sense a female in Oestrus.

Each oestrus cycle begins with the development of follicles containing the oocytes.

Proestrus then lasts for 2 or 3 days & the queen will express oestrus behaviour in order to attract male suitors. She will rebuff any approaches during this phase.

Oestrus then follows & the female will accept a male instead of refusing him, as she would have during her tempting proestrus phase. 

When approached by a tom, his presence on her lower back will see her adopting the Lordosis position. She will crouch low to the floor with her rear end raised, the tail held to one side. She may also tread with her rear feet "Paddling" from one leg to the other.

The oestrus phase can last for between 4 & 10 days, copulation will reduce the period.

A female will, dependent on the circumstances, mate repeatedly with different toms during this time. (This is why stray Tomcats are so prominent in the alleyways, they are fighting for the survival of their genes.) It is possible for every member of a litter of kittens to have a different father. This gives the genes of a queen the best chance of survival as the variety in the gene pool of her litter offers strength in numbers & the strongest at least should survive. Female cats do not ovulate automatically but require sexual induction, therefore once stimulated she may produce eggs separately with each partner. Immediately following copulation, the female in oestrus will turn on her tom. This is believed to be due to the barbs on the end of a tom's penis, which are thought to be present to stimulate the ovulation but may be painful for the queen. Having mated, a female may then violently roll on the floor, the male will keep his distance until she is receptive again - multiple matings will follow the same pattern. A queen will come into heat repeatedly during her season.

The time between oestrus cycles, the interoestrus period, can last from a few days to 7 weeks dependent on factors such as bloodlines & breed.

Entire males and females out & about

Entire males and females out & about

Queens cats - females able to produce kittens

Queens cats - females able to produce kittens

Entire males have large jowls/cheeks, a result of testosterone

Entire males have large jowls/cheeks, a result of testosterone

2 years after neutering, the same male has visibly reduced jowls

2 years after neutering, the same male has visibly reduced jowls

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