Cats & Puberty, What to Expect? Challenges of Adolescent Cats

If you have children, you’ll know that puberty is a time filled with slamming doors, arguments, and an unwillingness to talk in full sentences. But what should you expect when your cat hits puberty? A kitten isn’t likely to slam a door in your face (unless they are particularly skilled!) but just like humans, cats go through a puberty phase that can cause behavioral changes and even the odd mood swing.

When do cats hit puberty?

Female cats reach sexual maturity anywhere between 4 and 6 months of age. Males are a little slower to develop, hitting puberty around 9-12 months of age. However, this time frame can vary between individuals of different breeds. For example, larger cat breeds such as Maine Coons 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.

What to expect during adolescence

Just like human teenagers, kittens tend to push the limits to the extreme when they hit puberty. While this may be frustrating, it’s important to be patient during this time. Remember, your little furball can’t help it! Progesterone, oestrogen, and testosterone all increase significantly as your kitten hits sexual maturity. This results in frustration and behavioral changes, which can manifest as destructive scratching, inappropriate urination, and the development of a naughty adventurous streak.

Symptoms of ‘a readiness to mate’ will differ between males and females. Females may become more vocal and restless, whereas males tend to increase the frequency of urine marking. They may also roam further away from home in search of a mate (if they are allowed outside of course!).

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.

When cats mate, the male will first bite the neck of the female and mount her. When penetration begins, the females will often cry out. This is because a males reproductive organ is covered with spiny barbs! 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!

How to handle an adolescent cat

Living with an adolescent cat can be challenging. They can get themselves into all sorts of trouble and ruin your furniture along the way! So, what can you do about it? The first thing, is that you should never scold a cat. Instead, focus on reward-based training whenever your kitten does something right. Hopefully, your rambunctious kitty will eventually realise that good behavior equals tasty treats.

Here are a few other ways to tame a feline teenager:

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.

Adolescent cats need plenty of stimulation so they can burn off some of that pent-up energy

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.

Be patient and loving

When cats hit puberty they can turn into little devils. However, 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 puberty last?

Puberty in cats generally lasts around 6 months, but this can vary between individuals. It usually occurs in bouts of 5-10 days every two weeks or so. However, it’s worth remembering that the adolescent phase in cats (also 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.

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. During puberty, the limbic system is more active than the prefrontal cortex. This all sounds a bit technical but basically, the limbic system is responsible for instant gratification. Whereas the prefrontal cortex is more about setting boundaries 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! This is why positive reinforcement works well with adolescent cats, as long as you are patient.

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.

Neutering 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.

References

https://www.cats.org.uk/cats-blog/what-happens-to-cats-in-puberty
https://veteriankey.com/male-feline-sexual-behavior/
https://blog.feliway.com/us/troublesome-teenage-kitties-is-my-cat-going-through-the-terrible-twos

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