Practical feline behaviour understanding cat behaviour and improving welfare

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Kitten to Cat 61

Table 5.1. Stages and associated behavioural signs of the feline oestrus cycle.

Stage Duration

Hormonal and
physiological changes Behavioural signs

Pro-oestrus 1–2 days The follicles containing the
eggs develop under the
influence of luteinizing
hormone (LH) and follicle
stimulating hormone
(FSH) causing the
secretion of oestrogen
from the ovarian follicles

May show no change
in behaviour, or may
start to demonstrate
behaviour associated
with oestrus
Males may be interested
in the female but
she will not yet be
receptive to mating

Oestrus 2–19 days Plasma oestrogen
increases. Female
becomes receptive to

Calling: distinctive,
persistent and loud
Increased rubbing on
inanimate objects to
deposit scent from
facial glands
Urine marking
Rolling and purring
Lateral deviation
of the tail
Lordosis: downward
arching of the back
with hindquarters
The last three behaviours
are more likely to be
seen when in the
presence of the male

Interoestrus 2–17 days.
Average 7–9
days before
returning to

A period of reproductive
inactivity that occurs if
ovulation has not taken
place during oestrus

Returns to normal
behaviour. Does not
attract males


periods can
vary between
breeds but is
on average
65–67 days

Individual variation in
behaviour – some
queens become
more docile and
affectionate. Some
breeders also
anecdotally report an
occasional increase in
agitated, anxious and
aggressive behaviour
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