Recognising Puberty

2006 | Reproduction | Cat Breeding Guide, Royal Canin SAS

It is often hard to tell when a cat has reached puberty and is ready to reproduce.
Below is a useful guide for cat breeders who want to be able to recognise when their females or tomcats reach puberty. Puberty is defined as the onset of the ability to reproduce.

Queens

In queens, puberty is characterised by the onset of oestrus. The age at which this occurs depends on a number of factors:
  • Weight: In general, the queen needs to reach at least 65-80% of her adult weight. For example, she has to be at least 2.5 kg to reach puberty if her adult weight is 3-3.5 kg.
  • Social Interaction: An isolated queen that has no contact with other cats will go on heat later than a queen in a stimulating environment.
  • Date of Birth: As sexual activity is seasonal and dependent on day length in cats, the onset of puberty in a developing queen will also depend on the time of year. Therefore the month in the year a potential queen is born will affect the onset of puberty. See below for examples:
    • If she is born in March, she will be of sufficient weight to enter puberty in November, when the days are long, and she will immediately begin oestrous cycles.
    • If she is born in June, she will be eight months old in February, the end of the reproductive season. This queen therefore runs the risk of not entering puberty until the following year, at the end of the winter, when she will be 14 months old.
    • If she is born in September, she will be eight months old in May and she will not enter puberty until the following spring, when she will be at least 10 months old.
  • Breed: The breed has a considerable effect on the onset of puberty. Some queens will enter puberty as early as four months of age (most often house cats or Oriental breeds), while Persians and related breeds need 12-18 months or even up to two years to reach puberty.

Toms

In toms, puberty begins with the appearance of the first spermatozoa in the testicles and then the epididymis, around five or six months of age. The age of puberty depends on:
  • Testosterone: The testosterone level (testosterone is the male hormone) reaches adult levels around 10 months of age. Nevertheless, to be truly fertile, a tomcat must be able to mate a queen. The first attempts to copulate with queens occur at a wide variety of ages, depending on the individual.
  • Breed: It is not rare for a six month old, non-pedigreed tomcat to be able to mate a queen, or a seven-month old Siamese to sire a litter. Other breeds (including Maine Coons, Persians) may not be able to mate a queen until they are around two years old.

Key Points:

Many factors influence puberty for both queen and tom cat.

Factors influencing puberty for queens include:
  • Weight
  • Growth
  • Social Interaction
  • Date of birth
  • Breed.
Factors influencing puberty for toms include:
  • Level of testosterone
  • Breed.

Related Articles

Artificial insemination in cats
Feline reproduction