16–19 Weeks: What to Expect From Your Kitten
How to Teach Your Kitten to Scratch His Post, Not Your Furniture :: Four Ingestible Hazards for Your Kitten :: Three Signs That Your Kitten Has Reached Puberty :: The Mechanics of Spaying and Neutering
Three Signs That Your Kitten Has Reached Puberty
It's almost inevitable: One day you'll wake up to find that your kitten is acting just plain weird! Your mellow kitten suddenly starts climbing the walls and trying to escape every time a door opens. Your quiet kitten now engages in moaning arias all night and day. Male cats may start flocking to your yard to call on your sweet girl. Or, to your shock and dismay, perhaps you'll see little Percival backing up against a wall and spraying it with urine!
All these and more are signs that your little kitten is growing up:
An unspayed female cat typically reaches sexual maturity at around six months of age, although Oriental breeds such as Siamese cats can have their first heat as early as 5 months, while Persians may be 10 months old before they become sexually mature. Male cats begin producing sperm at an average age of around 9 months.
A female cat in heat – ready to mate with a male – displays an array of odd behaviors. She starts getting very vocal, and as the urge to mate becomes more pronounced, her meows can even start sounding like cries of pain. She becomes much more affectionate toward people, weaving around between their legs, rubbing against them, and rolling on the floor. If you pet her near her hips, she will assume the mating position: on the floor with her back legs raised slightly to put herself into a swaybacked position and her tail moved to the side. Because she's overwhelmed by the urge to mate, your kitten will try to get out of your house at every possible opportunity. If you haven't had her spayed yet, the first heat should be all the incentive you need!
Male cats show sexual maturity by spraying an extremely pungent urine on upright surfaces. This is a form of territorial marking which serves to fend off other male cats and attract females in heat. They become escape artists, and their outdoor adventures can lead to very serious fights with other tomcats. Males also begin to develop thick, fleshy pads on their cheeks as a protection against bite wounds from other male cats. If the stinky spray doesn't inspire you to get your kitten neutered, the vet bills he racks up from fighting with other cats almost certainly will.
Of course, if you've had your kitten spayed or neutered before the age of 6 months, you won't have to deal with any of these problems. Spaying and neutering drastically reduce the risk of disease and injury, and unless you're a professional breeder, please consider having your kitten “fixed.”