SEXUAL BEHAVIOR PROBLEMS IN CATS

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Male puberty occurs between 8 and 12 months and, although male kittens may demonstrate elements of sexual behavior in their play, true sexual behavior does not appear until after puberty. The male cat approaches the female, grasps her by the nape of her neck, mounts her, and breeds her. The male first mounts fairly far forward on the queen’s back so that his hind legs massage her sides. This massaging stimulates her to arch her back and hold her tail to the side. Eventually, while still maintaining his “neck bite,” the male positions himself so that he can penetrate her. Copulation takes place in less than 30 seconds. As he withdraws, the female usually shrieks. This is a reflex response to the spines on the tomcat’s penis. Intense and/ or repeated stimulation by the penis appears to be necessary to induce ovulation. The queen may even swipe at the tom with her claws. After copulation, she will roll repeatedly. In a large group of free-living cats, several males court the female. They remain near her without fighting among themselves, but they repel any other male. The queen sits for a few minutes, runs a few yards, then sits again. The males take turns mounting and mating her, and she may have a litter composed of kittens with several different fathers. Little aggression occurs among the males at that time; the typical caterwauling tomcat fight occurs when a strange and presumably unrelated male invades a territory.

Abnormal Sexual Behavior of Toms

Two general categories of sexual behavior problems exist: too much or too little. Excessive sexual behavior in cats usually is persistent sexual behavior in neutered males and is addressed below. Insufficient male sexual behavior may be the result of female dominance over the male or inexperience on the part of the male. He may have been deprived of socialization or play experience. Sometimes, especially in catteries, a young tomcat may be psychologically or physiologically castrated by older tomcats or their odors. Environmental problems such as distraction by observers or slippery floors may inhibit male sexual behavior. Pain or the memory of pain associated with mating also suppresses libido. Rarely does a hormone deficiency occur, but testosterone levels should be measured. Perhaps the most common reason for failure of copulatory behavior is that the , female is not in standing estrus (i.e., she is not receptive). The dog or cat is more cognizant of this than are humans. To treat insufficient male sexual behavior, make sure the female is in standing estrus. If the female is dominant, use other females to stimulate the male and switch at the last minute. Stimulate libido by using experienced, gentle females, varying females, and permitting the male to observe other breeding males. House and breed the young or subordinate animals away from older, dominant males. Any environmental problems should be corrected. Males should be on familiar territory. Any physical problems should be corrected. Blood testosterone concentration should be greater than 1 ng/mL. All potential breeders should have play experience with both sexes during socialization. Tomcats have been reported to kill kittens, but this is probably rare, and the kittens usually are not their own. The reason for this behavior is not clear. The female comes into estrus sooner if she is not lactating, so these two advantages-getting rid of any energy drain on the queen and allowing an earlier chance to breed-may explain infanticide. Another hypothesis is that the male mistakes kittens for crouching (and therefore receptive) females. His nape bite kills the kittens. This is less hard to believe when one considers the objects castrated males appear to recognize as sex objects. Spraying is a normal sexual behavior of noncastrated cats. Spraying can be managed when the owner wants to keep a tomcat for breeding, or when the cat cannot be treated with drugs for health reasons. A diaper can be fitted to the cat. These are cloth pants usually held together with velcro that allow the hind legs and tail to protrude, but have a slit into which disposable diaper material can be placed to catch and absorb any urine. Cats usually are not happy about wearing such garments, although the bold personality of dominant sprayers makes them more likely to adjust to a diaper. Another problem is that the cat may defecate into the diaper if it has to wear it for many hours per day. We recommend that the cat be kept in a protected environment for most of the day where he can spray with impunity; he should only be allowed out of that room while wearing the diaper. A good example is a cat who had been spraying for years in the home of his elderly owners. When the husband died and the widow moved into her daughter-in-law’s house, he continued to spray. The best solution in such a case would be to restrict the cat to the widow’s room for most of the day and release him only when diapered. The newest and most interesting approach to treatment of spraying has been suggested by Patrick Pageat of France.16a Cats can mark in several ways, with urine, with the secretions of their dorsal tail gland, with their claws or foot pads, or by rubbing with their cheek glands. This behavior, termed bunting or simply rubbing, presumably applies the secretions of the glands in the eat’s cheeks to the object rubbed. These secretions have been isolated and are being commercially tested in Europe as a deterrent to spraying, apparently with some success. The hypothesis is that if an area is marked with the pheromone in the cheek gland secretion, it will not be sprayed.