When a female cat is in heat -- ready to reproduce -- you can’t miss the signs. She meows loudly, rubs her head on you more often and crouches down with her forelegs pressed to the ground and her backside up. She is in ready position for a tomcat.
When the tomcat finds the female cat in heat, called the queen, he puts his front paws on either side of her. He then bites the queen’s neck, and uses his back legs to move himself up and down while he has entered her. The tom ejaculates, which typically causes the queen to scream and leave the area. The queen then grooms herself. She might become pregnant and give birth to kittens in about two months.
Before cats reproduce, the queen goes through four stages: proestrus, estrus, interestrus and anestrus. During proestrus and estrus, you will observe a queen trying to attract a tom. During proestrus, which lasts about one or two days, she will not accept him because she isn’t ready. She is merely trying to attract a mate. She will act the same during proestrus, which lasts four to six days -- sometimes with even more pronounced behavior -- and will now accept a tom who comes around. Inestrus, which lasts from seven to 14 days, occurs after the proestrus period. If she mated, she will prepare for giving birth. If she didn’t mate, she waits for the next cycle. No mating behavior occurs during anestrus, which lasts 90 days from November to January. If the queen had kittens, she uses this time to nurture them.
If your cat has started the reproductive cycle, she might display behaviors you don’t like, such as spraying urine around the house and trying to get out. If you don’t want her to have kittens, don’t let her out. It’s one thing to breed her by carefully screening the male cat; it’s another to let your cat run loose to mate with any cat she finds. She could pick up an infectious disease if she mates with an infected male.
If you don’t want your cat to go through the reproductive cycles, you need to spay her. You can spay a cat as early as 8 weeks. It’s usually safe to spay her before she’s 6 months if you want to stop her from ever becoming pregnant. Some cats, however, can go into heat at 4 months, while others won’t until they are 10 to 12 months. You can spay her when she’s in heat, but it’s not an ideal time; she might lose too much blood from being spayed while in heat.
Laura Agadoni has been writing professionally since 1983. Her feature stories on area businesses, human interest and health and fitness appear in her local newspaper. She has also written and edited for a grassroots outreach effort and has been published in "Clean Eating" magazine and in "Dimensions" magazine, a CUNA Mutual publication. Agadoni has a Bachelor of Arts in communications from California State University-Fullerton.