Ah, the terrible twos! If you have grown-up children, you’ll know that puberty is a tumultuous time filled with slamming doors, arguments, and an unwillingness to talk in full sentences. Cats have a puberty phase too, and we will be taking a look at what can you expect once your cat hits adolescense.
When do cats hit puberty?
Female cats generally reach sexual maturity anywhere between 4 and 12 months of age, with the average at 8 to 10 months. Males are slightly slower to develop, usually hitting puberty around 9-12 months of age.
This time frame can vary between individuals of different breeds. For example, larger cat breeds such as Maine Coons will easily take up to a year to reach puberty. On the other hand, ‘precocious’ breeds such as Abyssinians and Siamese can hit puberty as young as 4 months old.
You have probably seen or heard of a kitten getting stuck up a tree, right? Well, many of these incidents can be attributed to the brain changes that happen during adolescence. In this phase, the limbic system is more active than the prefrontal cortex.
This all sounds very technical but in essence the limbic system is responsible for instant gratification. Whereas the prefrontal cortex is more about boundary setting and controlling impulsive behaviors. In simple terms, a teenage kitten will have the desire to explore and show off, but they won’t necessarily think it through properly!
Teenage cat behavior
Much like the typical human teenager, kittens will push the limits to the extreme once they hit puberty. A kitten isn’t likely to slam a door in your face, but just like humans, cats go through a turbulent phase that is marked by behavioral changes and even the odd mood swing.
Progesterone, oestrogen, and testosterone are a few examples of hormones that the brain starts to produce more of during puberty. This can manifest as destructive scratching, inappropriate urination, incessant howling at night and the development of a naughty adventurous streak.
Sexual activity in males & females
Another key feature of puberty is the occurence of sexual behaviours. Symptoms of ‘a readiness to mate’ will differ between males and females.
Females in heat may become extremely vocal and restless, leaving their owners unable to sleep at night. You may also notice your cat becoming unusually affectionate.
Males will also become more vocal and tend to increase the frequency of urine marking, which can get quite problematic. Males may also roam further away from home in search of a mate if they are allowed outside.
If you own more than one cat, you might notice you rambunctious teenage kitten attempting to mount and bite his playmates – basically, they are practicing for the real act!
If you only own one cat, expect your little one to even attempt to perform the ‘act’ on you too! Biting is a vital part of mating in cats but it can be incredibly irritating for owners.
Luckily, mating only lasts for 1-4 minutes. This is good for the female but not so good for owners who can easily miss the signs and suddenly find themselves with a litter of kittens to look after. Remember that one unneutered female can have up to 18 kittens every year!
Catpointers’ tips for surviving a feline teenager
Living through your cat’s terrible twos can be quite a challenge. They can get themselves into all sorts of trouble, keep you up at night, and ruin your furniture along the way. So, what can you do about it?
1. Provide an energy outlet
All that extra energy and curiosity has to go somewhere. So, mental and physical stimulation should be a top priority when your cat hits puberty. Buy your kitty a cat tree or puzzle toy. You can even consider making some DIY toys to keep them busy. Wand toys are also a great option as they will stimulate your cats natural hunting instincts. This is particularly important for indoor cats that may lack the variety of stimulation experienced by outdoor cats.
2. Calm your kitty with happy cat hormones
Just like human teenagers, adolescent cats can feel overwhelmed with the onslaught of hormones that happen during puberty. This can lead to anxiety and stress, particularly if your kitten was hand-raised. If you notice your feline companion is acting out of sorts or meowing excessively, consider buying a pheromone diffuser such as the Feliway Classic Diffuser. This product releases synthetic hormones that mimic the natural calming pheromones given off by mother cats. So, they can go a long way toward calming an overzealous kitten.
3. Be patient and loving
When cats go through puberty they can turn into little devils. It’s important to remember that they’re only acting out in response to the conflict that’s going on inside their bodies. Puberty is a perfectly normal symptom of growing up. So, you just need to be patient and offer reassurance regularly throughout this stage. Remember, it won’t last forever…
How long does cat puberty last?
Puberty in cats generally lasts around 6 months, but the exact timeframe can vary a lot between individuals. It usually occurs in bouts of 5-10 days every two weeks or so. It’s worth considering that the adolescent phase in cats (informally known as ‘the terrible two’s) can last for up to 3 years. Cats in this phase will likely become more demanding as they require more mental and physical stimulation, which can often get them into trouble.
A few words on neutering & spaying
As soon as cats hit puberty, they are physically able to reproduce, but that doesn’t mean they should. Young females often lack the emotional and mental capacity to successfully raise a litter of kittens. They may also suffer from long-term health issues by carrying a litter too young.
Desexing eliminates the risk of unwanted kittens, reduces the frequency of puberty-related behaviors, and even has health benefits. Neutering and spaying can be performed from 5-6 months of age, which reduces the likelihood of female cats developing a range of serious health conditions including:
- Mammary cancer
- Ovarian and uterine cancers
- Pyometra (fatal uterine infections)
For males, neutering can significantly decrease the risk of testicular cancer. It also reduces the likelihood of your cat contracting Feline AIDS and Leukemia, which are often transferred through cat bites and scratches when males are fighting for access to females.
While the terrible twos can be quite frustrating for the owner, it’s important to be patient during this time. Remember, your little furball can’t help it!