As cats transition from kittenhood to adulthood, they undergo physiological and behavioural changes. This phase of sexual maturation is akin to “puberty” or “adolescence” in humans.

What is the sexual maturation phase in cats?

Sexual maturation marks the maturing of a cat’s reproductive system, which means they can reproduce.

When do cats reach sexual maturity?

The timing of this phase varies based on factors like breed, genetics, and environmental conditions. On average:

  • Male cats (toms) reach sexual maturity between six and nine months of age.
  • Female cats (queens) reach sexual maturity between five and nine months of age.

Signs of sexual maturity in male cats

Territorial marking (urine spraying)

Male cats become territorial and will often start scent-marking (urine spraying) or urinating outside their litter boxes, especially in areas they consider their territory. Cats normally urinate by squatting onto a horizontal surface, whereas spraying typically involves urinating on a vertical surface while standing up.

Intact male cats often have a very strong-smelling urine to help mark their territory.

Interest in female cats

Male cats often become more vocal and restless. If they’re allowed outdoors, they will start roaming further away from home seeking opportunities to mate.

To secure mating rights and protect their territory, toms will often exhibit aggression towards other cats and animals. This can result in injuries and infections.

Physical Changes

Increased testosterone levels lead to physical changes, including:

  • Enlarged testicles: As the tom matures, testicular size will increase as body weight increases (potentially until about 2–3 years of age).
  • Spines on the penis: multiple small spines protrude out from the sides of the penis and are crucial for successful reproduction in cats.
  • Tomcat jowls: rounder, thicker-skinned, fleshy cheeks provide protection in fights.

Signs of sexual maturity in female cats

Queens experience an oestrus cycle, commonly known as being “in heat.” Signs of heat in cats include:

  • Vocalization and behaviour changes: Queens may become more vocal, affectionate, and restless. If they’re confined to an indoor lifestyle, they may try harder to leave the home.
  • Distinctive mating call (“calling”): Queens produce unique vocalisations to announce they are ready for mating. This can be a louder version of their usual meow or have a deeper tone.
  • Posturing: Queens will often position themselves in a “mating pose”. This posture involves lying on their bellies, with their back feet in a crouch, holding their tail off to the side to expose their behind.
  • Physical changes: A swollen/enlarged vulva is sometimes seen.

Coping with changes during your cat’s sexual maturation phase

There are a few ways you can support your cat during this potentially difficult phase of sexual maturation.

Desex your cat

In some Australian states, it is mandatory to desex your cat (unless you have a breeding permit). Desexing prevents unwanted pregnancies, reduces the risk for other health issues, and reduces behavioural issues.

Many vets will recommend desexing male and female cats by six months of age. If they are desexed by this age, they will rarely go through any of the physical and behavioural changes mentioned above.


Provide enrichment

Keep your cat mentally stimulated with toys, scratching posts, and playtime to help distract them and reduce any stress or anxiety associated with this phase.

Be patient and understanding

Be patient with mood swings and behavioural changes as these will be temporary. Offer comfort and reassurance.