Tom and Queen Behaviour During Mating
Like lions, once a female is ready to mate, she will often do so, with more then one male. Outside, fights between males my occur, because a female in heat very likely makes Toms violate each others terretory. Although it has been reported that in city areas with a dens cat population, no such fights occur because Toms don't claim terretories. It is very common for a female to act agressivly during mating. Only if she does mate with a very familar male, like one from the same household, it has been seen that mating proceeds without any agrassion, even with licking each other before and after coupling. The fighting among the males however, has no impact one wich male is alowed to mate.
The queen choses the male by presenting herself to him in mating position. She is laying down, but holding her hindquaters up, possibly trippeling with her hindlegs and with the tail aside. The male will approche her from behind, graping her neck to make her hold still. Now the male will be pushing the female into position using his fore and espasially hindlegs. This also is to keep the females hindquaters up. Some females, espacially unexpiriend are likly to lower their hindquaters again, so it's difficult for the male to penetrate. In such situation, he will start trusting to find his belongings. If the Tom is unexpirienced, too, that can last a while. Once the position is correct, the male is most likely to ensure he has a good lovebite of the females neck before he penetrates. In many cases he will ejaculate immidiatly or rest for a few seconds without trusting. It is believed that the cat's anterior vagina will contract strongly, once stimulated. Maybe because of the barbs causing pain to the female, humping is not so commen among housecats. Although it seems to be neccessary for the Tom if he is to deliver a second, third or even fourth load. Very much unlike lions housecats do not have that kind of stamina. It would be unusual for a tom to mate more then two to four times a day. But the female surely will, if there are enough males present. In fact, the kittens of any resulting litter may well have diverent fathers.
When a queen is bred, the tom's penis stimulates the anterior vagina and causes changes in brain chemistry via neurological and hormonal reflexes. A surge of luteinizing hormone (LH), produced by the pituitary gland in the brain, occurs within 15 minutes of each breeding. The maximum LH levels are reached after eight to 12 breedings. There is a minimum amount of stimulation needed to induce LH release, and this threshold level varies from cat to cat. Only about 50% of queens will ovulate after one breeding; however, most will ovulate after at least four breedings. By one day later, the LH level has returned to normal. The more times the queen is bred, the higher the level of LH, and a sufficient increase in LH is necessary to cause ovulation.
Ovulation typically occurs 30-50 hours after copulation. The eggs are viable for only about 25 hours after ovulation. Some queens do not release adequate levels of LH despite repeated breedings with fertile tomcats, but mating the queen several days later during the same estrus may result in ovulation. So the timing of breeding in the estrus cycle is important to achieve ovulation; either too early or too late may not achieve ovulation and fertilization (the best days to breed are days two to five of estrus). Following ovulation, progesterone levels rise within 24 hours, reaching 20 ng/ml at the end of estrus and a high of 40 to 50 ng/ml by 15 to 25 days post-ovulation. If the breeding is infertile, progesterone declines to under 2 ng/ml by day 40 to 50. Throughout a pregnancy, progesterone is maintained at levels over 40 ng/ml until approximately day 50, when the level drops back to under 1 ng/ml by term. Progesterone is not needed during the last 10 days or so of a pregnancy. As for other induced ovulators, the CL is the primary source of progesterone throughout pregnancy in the cat. The placenta produces little or no progesterone.
Fertilization occurs in the oviduct and then the fertilized eggs pass into a uterine horn by day four or five. Implantation in the uterine lining occurs 10 to 12 days after ovulation. Before they implant, the embryos space themselves out along the uterine horns so the developing fetuses will not be crowded. They may migrate from one horn to the other. In this process, some embryos are lost. The rate of implantation varies from 50% to over 90%, depending on how many eggs are ovulated. The average litter size is reported to be 4 to 4.5 kittens, but this is highly variable. The largest litters come from queens with the most ovulations.
Queens who are timid or low on the social scale of the cattery may have the hormonal events of estrous cycles in a normal fashion, but may not display estrus behavior. The same effect may occur in queens living in crowded conditions. One way to detect these cats is to use vaginal cytology. Also, blood samples may be analyzed every seven days for estradiol levels. A low estradiol level (under 15 pg/ml) indicates no hormonal estrus, therefore no silent heat exists; however, the estradiol level only stays high for a few days during estrus, so several blood samples may need to be taken over time to evaluate the hormonal events properly. If a queen is experiencing silent heats, it may help to remove her from the group of cats with which she has been living and house her separately or in a much smaller group to elevate her social status. Using a regime of 14 hours of daylight and 10 hours of darkness is also helpful. Conversely, the queen who is housed alone (such as a family pet) may not show estrus behavior until she is exposed to other queens in estrus. Exposure to a tomcat may also increase the chances she will display estrus behavior.
Queens have a lower chance of ovulation if they are bred too few times. Observing the behavior of the queen and the tom is also important. All the stages of mating should be observed - did the tom mount the queen successfully, did the queen give a coital cry and show the typical post-coital behaviors? If the coital cry and post-coital behavior did not occur, then a mating did not take place; however, some queens will display the typical post-coital behavior even if ejaculation did not occur. A vaginal swab or flush can be examined for the presence of sperm in order to verify intromission and ejaculation. It is important to know whether the queen appeared to be successfully bred or not, as different conditions apply to each situation. If it is difficult to observe breedings (some cats will not breed if they are observed), it can be very helpful to set up a videocamera for surveillance.
If the queen returns to estrus about 35-45 days after breeding, then a pseudopregnancy should be suspected - the queen ovulated but did not conceive. Pseudopregnancy can be confirmed by checking the queen's serum progesterone one to three weeks after breeding. Canine ELISA kits for serum progesterone (ICG Status-Pro®, Canine Ovulation Timing Test, Synbiotics) have been validated for use in the cat. Queens who ovulated but did not conceive should be suspected of having cystic endometrial hyperplasia. The fertility of the tomcat should be examined, however, if several queens he breeds are experiencing pseudopregnancies. If the queen does not return to estrus for 60 days after the breeding, ovulation and fertilization likely occurred; however, the embryos or fetuses may have been resorbed, and all the causes of abortion and resorption must be considered.