There comes a time when every kitten becomes an adult and tests boundaries. The following article explains when puberty begins with cats and what this defiant phase means for you as a cat owner.
Cats during puberty: When cats become adults
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Mood swings are common in cats going through puberty.
When do cats enter puberty?
Puberty is the stage of life when your cat reaches sexual maturity. It begins as soon as your cat's body forms sexual hormones. Progesterone and oestrogen as well as testosterone come into play. This process generally begins during the third to fifth month of age.
If you have a female cat, she will start being in heat between the sixth and twelfth month of age. In contrast, males generally become sexually mature between five and seven months of age. However, both with males and females the exact timeframe depends on the breed and other factors.
Nevertheless, you can generally assume that your cat will go through puberty for around half a year.
What are premature cat breeds?
Premature cat breeds can become sexually mature between four and five months of age. These include in particular females from oriental cat breeds like Abyssinians, Birmans or Siamese cats.
What are late-maturing cat breeds?
Unlike premature cat breeds, sexual maturity only begins after around a year with late-maturing cats.
What signs do cats show in puberty?
Surely similar memories will come to mind when you think back to your own puberty. Mood swings and irritability are typical of this phase of life. Although puberty in cats is mostly milder than in humans, cats also show similar changes in behaviour during the aptly named defiant phase:
1. The tail moves
If you ever had the joy of playing with your cat, the mood can change from one moment to the next. Your cat suddenly hisses and hits the toy out of your hand with its paws. You can frequently observe mood swings like these with pubescent cats.
2. Pubescent cats mark a lot
If your cat becomes an adult, it will be interested in potential sexual partners and protect its territory from rivals. Hence, cats and in particular males regularly mark their environment with urine during puberty. Important scents (pheronomes) are found in urine, which attract cats and deter competitors.
3. Female cats come into heat
Sexual hormones in the body mean that your cat can now mate. In order to impress males, females roll on the floor miaowing and take every opportunity to cuddle. Cats in heat can thus be very affectionate.
4. Self-confidence increases
When kittens become cats, their self-confidence grows. You will notice this when your male cat climbs high trees or makes jumps that it would never have attempted as a kitten.
What you have to pay attention to during your cat's puberty
Cats are by nature very sensitive animals. Nevertheless, you have to be even more sympathetic to them during puberty. Always keep calm and be patient if your cat is acting volatile again or has marked your new carpet with urine.
On the other hand, this of course doesn't mean that you aren't allowed to set any boundaries for your cat. Cats in puberty need training too: reward your cat if it has done something right. With unwanted behaviour, you should immediately say “no” firmly but gently – for instance, if your cat jumps on to the kitchen worktop without permission. However, never scold your cat.
Should cats be castrated during puberty?
In Germany there are many municipalities where it is mandatory to have free-roaming cats castrated or neutered. The aim is to reduce uncontrolled breeding and with that the presence of stray cats.
Castrating or neutering cats is also justified from an animal welfare perspective, since less cats have to fight for their lives in the wild. But when is the right time for castration or neutering?
It makes sense to castrate males from roughly six months of age. This reduces the risk of the male getting injured in fights over territory when it is outdoors. At the same time, it marks objects and surfaces with urine less, keeping your home free on unpleasant odours.
If males are castrated before the growth plates of their bones have closed, they tend to become long-legged. This phenomenon is also known as eunuchoidism.
Free-roaming females should be neutered earlier, if possible before the age of five months.
This allows you to avoid sleepless nights during the heat cycle and the risk of your cat suffering from uterine infections (pyometra) or mammary tumours. However, it's even more important to reliably rule out unwanted offspring.
If you aren't sure whether and when you should get your cat neutered, you can always ask your vet for advice.