It’s not just the drop in temperatures that define October. Heat cycles and pregnancy also drop for about half of Haywood County’s unspayed cats, a biological vacation that lasts through January. Having a few months off from the demands of mating and another litter makes me purr.
So while half of us are resting, the remaining females or ‘queens’ will secrete pheromone and hormones in her urine for a few days before Mating Week. The special musky purr-fume alerts potential mates from miles around: “it’s ON –- follow this aroma-mail to mission control!”
Mating is an aroma-radio broadcast like few others. The cat’s sensitive nose has 30 variants of the protein used to detect scents carried by the wind. Cats can vocalize 100 sounds, allowing a rich repertoire of endless “calling” to attract mates.
Queen vocals are painfully urgent and loud as she paces and calls in the troops. You’ll appreciate that cats hear five times better than humans, so few calls are missed. The 32 muscles in each cat ear allow them to swivel and rotate like a periscope to achieve a 15-20% sensitivity boost. Cats listen and sniff their way across roads and through private property to accomplish their quest.
Heat behavior in unspayed queens cannot be overlooked. Even novel cat owners know something’s up and ask Alexa or Google about what they’re seeing:
Q — do female cats spray?
A — yes, it’s a common heat behavior to attract males
Q – my cat tore through the screen last night. is she gone for good?
A – she’s likely to return when either pregnant or no longer in heat
As potential mates gather, the queen’s willingness to run the gauntlet signals an exciting week (3 to 16 days) of estrus frenzy, of sexual receptivity, wrestling, and marking. It can be brutal.
The “lordosis posture” describes its swayback silhouette: with her head down on bent forelegs, rear quarters raised and tail held to the side, rear legs rhythmically treading as if walking in place, uterus open to allow sperm to enter and fertilize the eggs released during coitus.
Cats are induced ovulators. Unlike humans, whose chance for conception is highest when Harry Meets Sally a few days before and on Ovulation Day, cats release her egg treasure only when chances are good to reproduce.
October 16th is National Feral Cat Day (#FeralCatDay). Ferals are community cats; they belong to us all. The way to stop unwanted litters is to spay the girls, neuter the boys, and eartip litters at four months to prevent first heat. Doing so will result in one less scary thing this Halloween!
This article by Head Cat Susan Kumpf first appeared in the October 2021 issue of Positively Haywood by Vicinitus.