A female cat screams during mating because the male’s penis hurts her. The penis of a tomcat is covered with thorn-like keratinized spines. These spines begin to appear when a tomcat reaches puberty, typically at around six months of age. This coincides with the male cat’s sexual maturity. Neutering a male cat before he reaches the age of six months can prevent these barbs from developing.
There are a couple of reasons why cat penises are barbed. For starters, male cats used the barbs on their genitals to stimulate ovulation in queens. Unlike humans, female cats do not ovulate before mating. Ovulation or the release of eggs occurs after mating.
The tomcat’s penis facilitates ovulation by triggering a neuroendocrine stimulus in the queen. In turn, the stimulus induces a hormonal shock. Although the barbs in the male cat’s penis can hurt the female cat, these do not cause any damage or bleeding.
Apart from triggering the release of eggs in a female cat, the barbs in a tomcat’s penis also perform another key role: preventing the queen from escaping. Unlike dogs that are more social in nature, some female cats are loners and tend to dislike the intrusion of the tomcat.
Aside from that, the act of mating can be quite painful for queens. Apart from the pain caused by the barbed penis of a tomcat, the queen may also be hurt when the male cat bites her neck. In turn, this can prompt the female cat to run away before she and her partner finish mating.
How cats mate
Mating begins when the tomcat bites the queen’s neck. Soon after, the male cat mounts the female cat to penetrate her. This succession of actions usually takes four seconds.
Due to the pain caused by the penile barbs, the queen will scream. In some instances, she might attempt to escape from the tomcat by rolling or pawing at the male cat.
On average, mating usually lasts for about 19 minutes. However, it is not unusual for mating to be complete in just 11 minutes or last as long as 95 minutes.
Because of the short time involved in mating, cats can copulate anywhere between 10 to 50 minutes in an hour. Copulation in cats lasts for only a few minutes because the act leaves both males and females vulnerable to attacks from predators that might take advantage of the situation.
Post-mating behavior of cats
Once the cats are done mating, you might notice behavior that is similar to aggression.
After copulation, the female cat will exhibit a diverse array of behaviors that may seem unusual for your pet. Your usually calm and regal cat may act aggressive, even to you.
Once the mating is completed, the queen will drive away the tomcat, especially if the latter tries to linger. This can be attributed to the female’s hormones. Additionally, the tomcat may attempt to mate the queen when she is not yet ready.
After the tomcat has been driven away, the queen will groom herself, including her genitals. Soon after, she will roll herself on the ground and begin calling potential mates. It can take as little as half an hour before a queen is again ready to mate.
When a female cat is in heat, she will try to take advantage of that one to two-day window and mate as much as three to four times. Furthermore, queens in heat are not particular about who they mate with. In fact, it is not unusual for a litter to have different fathers.
Cat heat cycle
Mating in cats occurs between January and November. During this period, a female cat will go into heat several times until the end of the breeding season.
In cats, the heat cycle is influenced both by daylight and temperature. In a feral cat colony where the members are exposed to more daylight, the breeding season lasts about all-year-round.
A female cat reaches sexual maturity between the ages of seven and nine months. Upon reaching sexual maturity, a queen can remain fertile between seven and nine years. Typically, a female cat can no longer become pregnant after that period. However, it is not unusual for some queens to become pregnant after reaching the age of 10 years old or beyond.
Unless your queen is pregnant or spayed, she will undergo the heat or estrus cycle. A cat’s heat cycle is divided into four parts.
During this point, your queen will attract nearby tomcats. However, she is not yet ready to mate. This stage usually lasts for one to two days. At this point, you will not notice any sign that your female cat is already in heat.
After the proestrus, the next stage of the cat heat cycle is estrus. This stage can last for up to a full week.
During this period, your queen becomes receptive to the advances of male cats. Due to the hormones flooding her body, your queen will display signs that she is in heat.
If your queen is unable to mate or becomes pregnant, she will enter the phase known as interestrus. This is the period between heats.
During this phase, your cat will act normally. The phase can last between a few days to three weeks. After this period, she will once again go into heat.
The anestrus phase is the dormant phase in a cat’s heat cycle.
During this period, she will not exhibit signs of being in heat until the breeding season begins again. As previously mentioned, the heat cycle is influenced both by daylight and temperature. As such, your female cat may go into heat all year round due to exposure to artificial lights.
What to do when your cat is in heat
Being in heat does not cause pain in queens. However, your pet may need some extra attention. Here are a few things that you can do for your pet when she is in heat.
1. Help your cat groom herself.
Additional brushings and extra petting can help your queen feel more at ease and calmer.
2. Provide your queen a haven.
Some female cats can become aggressive and irritable, even to her humans. As such, you should provide your cat with an area where she can spend some time alone.
3. Play more with your cat.
When your cat is in heat, her urge to hunt may be higher. Provide her with an outlet for this by spending more time playing with her.
4. Secure your home.
Your cat’s instinct to mate can drive her to find suitors, even those outside your home. Take some extra precautions and make sure that your queen cannot get out.
5. Do not forget to clean the litter box.
When a queen is in heat, she tends to mark her territory more often than usual. Encourage your queen to keep her markings inside the litter box and away from the carpet and furniture by keeping her box clean.
6. Keep your cool.
A queen in heat can be a handful. She might attempt to escape, become more vocal, or even act aggressively. Try to be patient with your cat during this period.
Pregnancy in cats
Pregnancy in cats can last between 64 and 69 days. At around 16 to 20 days of pregnancy, you can feel the fetuses inside your cat’s uterus when you touch her belly while she is relaxed. At this point, the fetuses will feel like a string of pearls.
To confirm if your cat is indeed pregnant and to check the health of the kittens in her womb, you can bring her to the vet for an ultrasound. Usually, an ultrasound is performed when the cat is on her 26th day of pregnancy and onwards.
At around the 18th day of pregnancy, the breasts of some queens will take on a pinkish hue and become noticeably larger than usual.
Consider spaying your cat
Unless you have decided to breed cats, you should strongly consider sterilizing your cat, whether it is a male or a female.
A queen can become pregnant as much as five times a year. On the other hand, a tomcat can impregnate several queens in your neighborhood multiple times because they do not need to be in heat to mate.
Spaying your queen and neutering your tom can go a long way in helping reduce the population boom in feral cats. Shelters are brimming with unwanted kittens that are often euthanized when few people are willing to adopt.
Furthermore, just a single kitten added to a feral cat population can contribute greatly to overpopulation.
Apart from helping contain the population of feral cats, sterilization offers a few substantial benefits to cats, from the reduction of health risks to the overall improvement of health and wellbeing.
Unless you are ready to handle the issues associated with breeding cats, it is best to get your cat fixed.
Cat vocalizations while mating
Both female and male cats can vocalize during the breeding season. A female cat will scream while copulating because of the pain from the tomcat’s barbed penis. Males can also become more vocal in response to the actions and noises that females make.
Image: istockphoto.com / ablokhin