Do Cats Have Menopause?

Tabby cat yowling
Matthias Obermayer / EyeEm/ Getty Images
  • 01 of 03

    Do Cats Have Menopause?

    Dear Franny,

    "I have an odd question about my cat, and I hope you can help me. My cat Effie will be fourteen years old next month, and I'm curious to know if she might be going through menopause."

    QUESTION:  A reader wonders if cats go through menopause as humans do, and if so, at approximately what age. She has a fourteen year old indoor-only cat who has never been spayed, and wonders if Effie can become pregnant at her age. Since Effie is approximately seventy-two years old in human years, according to the cats age chart, it is unlikely, but not impossible, that she could give birth to kittens. But for the sake of drill, let's explore the facts.

    ANSWER: First, since cats do not experience menstruation, in the sense that women do, menopause is a moot point.

    While cats have a "heat cycle," also known as "estrus,"  similar to the menstrual cycle of humans, very little, if any blood is ever present.  Female cats may start their heat cycles at a very young age, and as polyestrus beings, are doomed to continue these heat cycles every two or three weeks until old enough to be considered a senior. Of course, the heat cycles will temporarily cease should the cat become pregnant. My hope is that the poor cat will be spayed long before she enters her senior years.

    Continue to 2 of 3 below.
  • 02 of 03

    How Can I Tell my Cat is in Heat?

    Tabby cat yowling
    Matthias Obermayer / EyeEm/ Getty Images

    Your queen (a whole female cat) may vocalize loudly - an almost unmistakable indication that she is in estrus. If you have no whole male cats in the house, she may "call" while looking out the window, or standing at the door. Why? Because she has an urgent desire to mate, and you can believe, there will be willing and able tomcats waiting nearby to vie for her attention.

    With the exception of one behavioral aspect, you can be pretty certain that your female cat is in heat by certain forms of body language. She may spray vertical surfaces inside the house - the front door is a given for this activity. While backing up to the door, with her tail raised high and to the side of her body (also her position while mating), she will let go with a very strong smelling stream of urine. The scent is unmistakable; you will never mistake it for pee again.

    She will demonstrate almost unmistakable "flirty behavior," rolling around in an almost "promiscuous" manner. You can search sites like Youtube for examples of this behavior.

    She will lick her genitals constantly. This is the behavioral exception mentioned above. Licking the genitals is also one of the symptoms of a urinary tract infection (FLUTD), a condition which, if ignored, can turn very serious, very quickly.

    Unless your own queen mates or is spayed, this pattern of symptoms will continue until well into her senior years.

    Continue to 3 of 3 below.
  • 03 of 03

    How Many Kittens Can a Queen Bear in Her Lifetime?

    Photo of a Litter of Kittens Nursing
    John P. Kelly/ Getty Images

    There is no finite answer to this question, as it will depend on a number of variables:

    • Whether the queen is allowed outdoors. Obviously, mating opportunity equals impregnation. Also, cats are induced ovulators, and do not release eggs until stimulated by a male cat's barbed penis, another factor which will have some bearing.
    • The overall health of the cat. A healthy cat will generally bear larger litters of healthier kittens.
    • Veterinary care during her term. The normal term of feline pregnancy averages from sixty to sixty-five days.  I routinely use sixty-three, because it is nine weeks, equating to the human pregnancy average of nine months. Again, the age of the queen, as well as her general health will contribute greatly to her term.

    Using these factors, and a few "guesstimates," I created my own formula and came up with an answer: Briefly, all other matters being equal, a cat could bear approximately twenty-five kittens during a one year period. Read a more complete answer in this article.

    However, all things are not necessarily equal when we are using theoretical mathematics. Based on my theory, and the fact that a reasonable number of cats live to fifteen or older, a 12 year old queen could give birth to 300 kittens. However, the facts are that cats are inclined to bear smaller litters as they age, therefore that number could be reduced accordingly.  According to this source, a Texas cat named Dusty produced 420 kittens, the last litter in 1952. It did not mention how old Dusty was with the last litter.

    According to several other sources, the oldest cat to give birth was Kitty, a cat who gave birth to two kittens at the age of thirty.

    Now that you understand a bit more about cats' mating, I hope my readers will strongly consider spaying their female cats. No matter how good an aging cat's health may appear, continual birthing can sap her strength and leave her debilitated. The other consideration is the huge cat overpopulation problems. Shelters overflowing with kittens have no room for homeless older cats, who likely will be euthanized as a result.

If you suspect your pet is sick, call your vet immediately. For health-related questions, always consult your veterinarian, as they have examined your pet, know the pet's health history, and can make the best recommendations for your pet.