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Animal Sex: Part Two- From Sweet Kitten to Wild Cat

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When female cats come into heat, there’s no living with them. They tear about the house, writhe, howl, refuse to play or eat, and leave their scent everywhere in the hope that a male cat might creep in. An otherwise content, indoor kitty will bolt out any cracked door or open window. Her piteous lament transforms a peaceful home into a place of frayed nerves and sleepless nights as she roams the halls pining for any neighborhood tom. It’s so unseemly, so unlike the behavior of our dignified furry feline, that all we can do is bear witness to nature’s power over the domestic as our sweet kitty becomes wild cat. 

All’s well that ends well

My brother came home from college one weekend and presented my mother with a tiny, rescued, grey-haired beauty who I immediately named Smokey. My mother never had a cat, never wanted one. However, I was over the moon. I’d been asking for a kitty ever since I could actually say the word, and finally, at the age of eight, I got my wish.

After several happy months, Smokey began behaving bizarrely, alarming me and driving my mother crazy. This led to Smokey achieving her own heart’s desire— Let the damn cat out!” my mother screamed.

Of course, my mother hadn’t anticipated the caterwauling that would ensue as every neighborhood Tom, Dick and Harry came courting. She also hadn’t anticipated the kittens that Smokey would birth nine weeks later, much to my delight and to her horror. That was Smokey’s last litter. My mother learned the value of having your cat spayed and Smokey returned to being the cat I knew and loved.

Good advice

Since female cats can sexually mature as early as four months old, and pretty much go in and out of heat continuously until they mate, getting them spayed (unless you’re a breeder) is the best thing you can do for your cat.

Let’s talk about males

Unaltered males are just as difficult to live with during the mating season. They will spray their odoriferous scent on doors, walls, corners, inside closets, in the basement—in short, the whole house. It is not an odor that goes away.

Once released, the tom goes in search of females. Gardens and roofs are preferred places where (as Henry Wendt puts it in “The Sex Life of the Animals”) “females utter their wild, banshee cries to the toms; and the toms respond with hoarse, howling concerts to impress the females. These catcalls are a reminiscence of the nocturnal love life of wildcats in the forests.” The cat’s sharpest sense is hearing, and those harrowing cries not only enable the sexes to find each other, but also stimulate sexual desire.

The sex act

Females signal their willingness to mate by lowering their head, bending their front legs and raising their rear quarters; their tail is held up and to the side of their body. They move their back legs rhythmically, as if walking in place.

There is no subtlety here. This position and behavior definitely get the male’s attention. A male mounts the female from behind and grips the nape of her neck with his teeth, giving her a “love bite” to control her movements. When the male ejaculates his bite can result in a scar that remains visible a long time after. And that scream from the female as the male withdraws (pain or pleasure?) may have something to do with the male’s barbed penises (think of a fishhook). It’s believed that the purpose of the barb is to stimulate ovulation. Let’s hope for the sake of the female that it also stimulates pleasure.

Unlike dogs, intercourse for cats is quick, lasting only moments. As soon as it’s over, the male leaps away to evade the vigorous blows from the females paws. That’s the thanks he gets for making her pregnant.

“Many females,” writes Wendt, “writhe violently and roll convulsively after the tomcat has released them. They repeatedly lick their vulva and refuse to accept the tom’s advances until the post-coital excitement has died down.”

Wow. Was it good for you?

Nature’s gift

Our animal companions are ruled by passions so independent from the life we live with them, and largely so unknown to us, that to discover the beast within is to see these creatures in all their complexity. It honors us that we have their trust and company. We marvel at interspecies friendships between an elephant and a dog, or a gorilla and a cat, but our attachments, if we step back from their familiarity, are just as amazing and marvelous.  Sex gives us a glimpse into their ancestral selves and lives. There is something awesome in knowing that we have been partners for thousands of generations, and have bred cats and dogs to our human tastes and needs, and yet their essential nature remains unchanged.

Coming Attractions

“Don’t bite my head off!”—deadly mating habits, on the next installment of “Birds do it, Bees do it.” Yes, we're talking animal sex.

Credit: Reviewed by Dr. Amy I. Attas 
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