A cat's puberty can be a tough time for it's owner. As a male cat hits puberty, a mild-tempered, affectionate kitten can turn, seemingly overnight, into a wandering, spraying, brawling, yowling tomcat. Many of these challenges can be avoided by knowing when puberty is about to begin and taking the appropriate steps.
When puberty occurs
For most male cats, puberty begins at around the age of six months. The exact onset can vary by breed. For instance, Siamese cats usually enter puberty quite early, around five months, while Persian cats tend to reach puberty somewhat later, sometimes as late as ten months. Some kitten owners may not know precisely how old their cat is, but a vet should be able to give an estimate of age based on factors such as tooth development.
The onset of puberty in male cats is hard to miss; it manifests through several major behavioural changes. Male cats will begin to mark their territory by spraying, sending warning signals to rival males and hoping to attract females in heat. Sexually mature male cats are intensely territorial and aggressive, so fights with other cats could be a problem. Some physical changes also occur; the face will become fuller and the testicles may become more prominent.
Coping with puberty
Neutering a male cat will not only deal with the aggression, frequent attempts to escape and spraying, but will also prevent the tom from impregnating fertile female cats, potentially creating litters of strays. Cats can be neutered from around eight weeks of age, but four to six months is the most common time. Neutering also reduces the risk of certain types of infection, making it an absolute necessity for responsible cat owners.
Puberty brings with it a number of possible health problems. Cryptorchidism is a genetic condition in which one or both testicles fail to descend. Neutering a cat with cryptorchidism is a longer and more complicated surgery than neutering a typical cat, and the cat will require longer to recover. Neutered cats will also tend to gain weight, as the loss of the testicles decreases both their metabolism and their urge to roam. Owners need to put in the effort to help neutered cats remain active and healthy.