When you look at your cute and playful 6 month old female kitten excitedly chasing a soft toy around the room, you may find it hard to believe that she is in fact sexually mature enough to become a mother to her own kittens.
What makes this all the more confusing for new cat owners is the fact that kittens continue to grow – and are still considered to be “a kitten” - until they are aged 9 -12 months old. Many cat food manufacturers also recommend that you do not treat your kitten as an adult cat for feeding purposes until they reach this age. Not only this, but most young adult cats continue to display kitten-like behaviour until they are several years old. My 4 year old cat Cleopatra still occasionally has what I call her “kitten” moments when she chases a small ball around the room and rolls on her back for a gentle tummy tickle! Add all this together and it is easy to see why many first time cat owners would quite simply not even consider the possibilities of their female kitten becoming a mother.
But appearances can be deceptive and the truth of the matter is that all kittens – both male and female become sexually mature - and start to become sexually active - from the age of around 6 months old (sometimes slightly younger). It may not be advisable or particularly safe for a female cat to become pregnant before the age of 12 months, but it is most certainly possible. Any female kitten that remains un-spayed beyond the age of 6 months onwards will in effect remain “in season” for most of the year until she either falls pregnant or is spayed. And the cycle does not stop once the female cat has given birth either. Some queens have been known to give birth as many as three times in a year.
How do you know when a female cat is in heat?
Probably the most noticeable sign a female cat is in heat is that you will hear her making a strange and very high pitched meowing noise known as her mating call. You will recognize it straight away as being a totally different type of sound to her usual meow - it is quite piercing and distinctive.
She may also become much more affectionate than normal, repeatedly weaving herself in and out around your legs and rolling on the floor. When you rub her back she may adopt the mating position, by raising her back legs and treading.
You will notice she is no longer content to stay indoors all day and she will develop an overwhelming urge to “escape” outside to fulfill her natural urges. The older and more independent she becomes, the harder it will be for you to stop her from bolting outside the second you open your front door!
So in conclusion, if you want to avoid running the risk of any unwanted pregnancies, you would be well advised to arrange for your kitten to be spayed once she reaches 4-5 months old, before she goes into heat. If your kitten is older than this and has started to display some of the behaviour outlined above, then take it as a warning. Un-spayed female cats are quite literally a magnet for all the un-neutered toms roaming around out there and it is more of a certainty than a likelihood that your female cat will end up pregnant if she is allowed outdoors unsupervised.