It hardly seems possible that your tiny kitten who likes to chase strings and bat around a toy mouse can actually begin mating soon -- but she can. It is useful to recognize the signs indicating your female is ready to mate so you won't wonder whether something is wrong.
When Cats Mate
Female cats start their reproductive cycle when they reach 80 percent of their adult size and when the days become longer. Cats typically give birth during the warmer months of spring through fall. This could occur when your kitten is as young as 5 months old. Indoor cats might not cycle as frequently as outdoor cats because they are not exposed to as much sunlight. But cat breeders often create lighting conditions to keep the cats cycling throughout the year.
The proestrus period leads up to mating time and can last anywhere from 12 hours to two days. Your female kitten, called the queen in this stage, tries to attract males but is not yet ready for the mating act. She will become extra affectionate during this time, rub her head on you and pretty much any object she sees, and will stick her rump in the air. She might also yowl loudly and urine mark as she tries to attract a tomcat.
Estrus is the mating period, also called “heat,” and can last seven days. The queen will rub her head and yowl as before, but she is now ready to mate. Don’t pick her up during this time -- she doesn’t want that kind of attention. You might see her crouch down and extend her back so that her vulva is exposed. She will let the male bite her neck now, and she will accept him for about 30 seconds. She will then roll around on the floor and lick her genitals to ready herself for more mating. This could last all day.
Interestrus and Diestrus
If your cat did not mate or ovulate during the mating period, she will be in interestrus and will continue the estrus behaviors for one week on and one week off until she becomes pregnant, is spayed or when winter approaches. Your cat is in diestrus if she mated and ovulated. She might be pregnant and will stay out of the heat for about a month. If she is pregnant, she will have kittens in about 65 days.
Spay or Neuter
The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals recommends you spay or neuter your cat before 6 months of age. You can spay or neuter as early as 8 weeks of age. It's preferable to not spay your cat when she is in heat because she can lose too much blood during that time.
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.