Sexual & Maternal Behavior

Written by Sena

Sexual behavior

Males and females generally have two opposite behavioral strategies:

males tend to monopolize females, while females favor repeated mating with different males. Within groups of cats, even when a hierarchy of dominance can be established using the agonistic encounters observed between individuals, there is not necessarily a correlation between this hierarchy and privileged access to females. In addition, this hierarchy is not necessarily linear, and it has been reported in farm cats, the example of a dominant female vis-à-vis other males.

The female has heat periods of 4 to 8 days interspersed with periods of rest of 8 to 10 days. During the heat, the cat adopts a particular behavior, increasing its behavior of marking (by friction and deposit of urine), it then emits particular vocalises and puts itself in position of lordosis. It is also not uncommon to see the female rolling on her back, a behavior which she presents mainly in the presence of males, indicating her disposition to mate.

Guided by the vocalizations and the olfactory indices emitted by the female, several males can woo the same female. Fights between males can occur, but they can sometimes be content to wait for the good disposition of the female to them, or mate in turn, and especially since the density of cats is important. In general, the female does not choose the male, whether or not the winner of a possible fight, and favors multiple mating. From an evolutionary point of view, such an approach can improve the survival of the offspring thus obtained by promoting genetic diversity.

When mating, the male bites the female at the neck. If she is not ready for mating, she shies away, turning on her back or even becoming aggressive. Conversely, if she is willing to mate, she then adopts a special position, raising the perineal region and revealing her vulva by wearing the tail of bias. The male then climbs on his back. The intromission of the male’s penis is rapid, when the male withdraws, it is not uncommon for the female to scream and assault. If both partners are accustomed to each other, the female can devote herself directly to her toilet, and the male to deviate slightly, without receiving aggression. New preliminaries can begin then, females mating several times per cycle.

Maternal behavior

Farrowing occurs after 60 to 68 days of gestation. During the last third of gestation, the cat can change behavior, become more docile, as well as less active and have an increased appetite. As she approaches the calving, she will look for a suitable place, preferably dry and dark to make her nest there. The attitude towards the man (search or avoidance) in these moments is very variable from one individual to another.

Common nests have been described in the literature, it is possible that two females associate to raise their kittens. This association provides a benefit in terms of nutritional intake (if one of the two mothers has little or no milk), defense against predators (when a change of nest, one of the mothers can keep one of the nests while the other carries the kittens), speed of development (the kittens leave the nest approximately 10 days earlier) but it worsens the consequences of neonatal diseases, notably increasing the risk of contagion.

The birth itself is divided into phases: contraction, expulsion of the fetus and expulsion of the placenta. These phases are repeated as many times as there are kittens to be born.

In the first days after parturition, the cat spends most of her time with her kittens, licking them thoroughly. She is generally placed in supine position, her feet on either side of the kittens, giving them easy access to the breasts. By licking the anogenital zone, it stimulates the elimination behaviors (the kittens are not yet autonomous on this point until the 37th day approximately). By ingesting the waste thus produced it helps to keep the nest clean.

If a kitten goes astray, the mother will bring it back to the nest in response to vocalizations it emits [8] If the nest is too dirty or if the mother is disturbed, she may decide to move the whole litter, kitten by kitten, to a new, more appropriate place. The first displacement occurs around 3 to 4 weeks.

Throughout this period of breeding kittens, the mother will defend intrusions, including males on its territory. It will also show increased predation behavior, necessary to cover the needs of lactation and then feed kittens during weaning, and allow them to learn to hunt.

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