If you have ever been in close proximity to cats during their mating rituals, you have likely wondered why it sounds more like a fierce cat fight rather than a pleasant encounter. The screaming and clawing may be unnerving, but there is no need for alarm (although the female cat certainly has a reason to yowl!).
To shed some light on this matter, we spoke with a certified cat behavior consultant and a veterinarian to get the full scoop on these literal scream queens.
Why do female cats scream when they are in heat?
For some cats, the piercing cries can begin even before mating occurs. To understand what is happening, we need to delve into the world of feline reproduction.
According to the Merck Veterinary Manual, unspayed female cats, also known as queens, can experience their first heat as early as 4 months of age. During this time, they become receptive to males for mating. Queens can go into heat multiple times during the breeding season, which usually lasts from February to October for indoor cats, with slight variations. Essentially, it feels like the breeding season lasts almost the entire year!
When in heat, queens exhibit characteristic mating behaviors such as rolling, rubbing against objects, kneading their back feet, and, of course, yowling with gusto. Think of these behaviors as feline marketing tactics designed to attract a male partner.
Why do female cats scream when they are mating?
In addition to going through heat cycles, cats are induced ovulators. This means that the ovaries don't release eggs without the act of breeding. Unfortunately for the queen, ovulation stimulation is triggered by the male cat's penis. Cat behavior expert Pam Johnson-Bennett explains that the male cat's penis has spiny barbs that painful scrape the female cat's vagina during copulation. Hence the screaming. Along with the yowling, the queen will likely resist and try to scratch and run away from the male cat, who will be gripping her neck firmly with his teeth.
Signs that your female cat needs to visit the vet after mating
Cat mating is usually a straightforward and efficient (although not exactly quiet) process, but complications can arise.
"As always, any abnormal discharge or lethargy would warrant a vet visit," says veterinarian Laura Moon of Green Hills Veterinary Clinic in Moberly, Mo. "In rare cases, a female cat may have been aggressively bred, causing discomfort and straining that could lead to the rectum or vulva protruding out. This is a medical emergency that requires immediate attention."
What you shouldn't worry about is your cat needing some alone time. The Merck Veterinary Manual notes that it's normal for the queen to require some space away from the male cat after breeding. During this time, she will roll around and groom herself.
Signs that your cat is pregnant
According to Merck, a larger appetite, a growing belly, and swollen mammary glands are signs of pregnancy in cats. However, interestingly, cats can also exhibit these changes during a pseudopregnancy, also known as false pregnancy.
To determine if your cat is truly carrying kittens, you can find out approximately 30 days after breeding. "At this point," says Moon, "we can perform an ultrasound to determine pregnancy. And at around 60 days after breeding, we can perform an X-ray to determine the number of kittens." The average cat pregnancy lasts about two months, so by the time you can count the kittens, their birthday is almost here.
Moon adds that it is quite rare for cats to need assistance during delivery or a cesarean section. "They have managed to successfully birth litters just like their undomesticated ancestors!"
It is worth noting that unspayed cats can have up to three litters per year, and the average pregnancy results in four kittens. This means there could be 12 potential offspring in a single year. Additionally, the Spay and Neuter Action Project estimates that the mating of two unaltered cats can result in as many as 400,000 descendants after just six years! With this in mind, it is crucial to discuss spaying and neutering with your veterinarian as early as possible.