I recently came across a question in a pet forum from someone looking to get a female cat. She asked “Is it true that, if I get a female cat, there will be many male cats in my rooftop?” I don’t know about you, but the visual image I get of that happening is pretty funny! In all seriousness, pheromones are no joke, and they can cause male cats to do some serious prowling.
Pheremone Facts: How they work in female cats
What are pheromones?
Medicalnewstoday.com tells us that a pheromone is “a chemical an animal produces which changes the behavior of another animal of the same species.” The article goes on to say that pheromones are not only linked to sexual arousal – they also trigger behaviors like alarm, respect of territory, and bonding between mother and baby.
How do pheromones apply to cats?
Cats have an incredible sense of smell and pheromones are like their road map. Both male and female cats’ urine contains pheromones, and this is what helps them mark territory (and part of the reason cat urine is so pungent!). Mother cats’ pheromones help their kittens know where they are, and female cats in heat emit such strong pheromones that a male cat can smell them up to a mile away!
Cats in heat.
Female cats reach maturity around 6 months (varies from cat to cat), and at this point, their “heat” or estrus cycles begin. During each breeding season (which varies according to geography and environment – an indoor cat’s breeding cycle could be year-round!), a cat goes into estrus several times. They are “in heat” for 1-7 days, and if mating doesn’t occur, they will go “out of heat” for 1-2 weeks before the cycle begins again. During this time, male cats will likely show up at your house and try to get in to the female.
How can you avoid male cats on your roof?
The only surefire way to avoid male cats coming around during a female cat’s heat cycle is to have a vet perform a spay surgery. During my mother’s childhood, they had a cat who always managed to sneak out and get pregnant while she was in heat, and over the course of the cat’s life, she had hundreds of kittens that my grandparents had to find homes for. That seems like an awful lot of work! Keeping a cat in heat away from other cats is not easy, and the only certain way to avoid pregnancy is surgical sterilization.
Now that you have some background on how pheromones affect behavior in cats, do some of the things they do make a little more sense? If you have an unaltered female cat, do you notice neighborhood tomcats coming around when she’s in heat? What ways have you found to deter them? We’d love to hear about it!