If you are the owner of a male cat, one of the most crucial decisions you will make is whether or not to have your cat neutered. Generally, it is recommended, and I would personally advise you to do so, as it prevents unwanted breeding and also has various health benefits. Nevertheless, may owners who make the decision are surprised when they bring their tom cat home and then see him continue to display sexual behaviours, including humping.
So do male cats still want to mate after being neutered? Depending on his age, it is possible your cat may still retain some sexual urges and, indeed, he may even act upon those urges. Crucially, however, he will be unable to successfully mate, meaning there is no risk of unwanted kittens.
With that being said, it is worth stressing that male cats do tend to lose their sexual urges after being neutered, at least for the most part, and other unwanted behaviours may subside too. As I will go on to explain, there are also some steps you can take after the procedure to try to discourage humping and other signs of sexual desire.
Sexual Urges After Neutering
One of the main reasons why cat owners opt to have their male cat neutered – aside from the obvious upside of preventing unwanted breeding – is to eliminate unwanted sexual behaviour more generally. Indeed, humping and other displays of your cat’s sexual urges can be problematic to deal with, and can be a source of real frustration. Yet, while neutering can help with this, it is not an entirely fool-proof solution to the issue.
Neutered male cats do tend to lose most of their sexual urges, but some tom cats may continue to display signs of sexual desire; ranging from humping inanimate objects, right through to mounting female cats. If your cat falls into this category, it can come as a major shock and you might even be questioning whether the procedure has worked. The good news is that the retention of sexual urges is fairly common and does not mean the neutering has failed.
So why do some cats retain their sexual urges, even after castration or neutering?
In the early stages, the most likely explanation is that your cat still has sex hormones in his body for a little while after the operation. In fact, it can take as long as 12 weeks for all of the hormones to fade. Therefore, if your cat has been neutered within the past 12 weeks, this is likely to be the reason for the behaviour. On the plus side, much of the behaviour should gradually decrease over the course of that three month period.
Furthermore, the age of your cat at the time of the neutering can also have a bearing and this is the most likely explanation for situations where sexual behaviour continues even beyond the first 12 weeks after the operation. In simple terms, the later the procedure is carried out in your cat’s life, the more likely your cat will retain some of his mating instincts. It becomes especially likely if you have your cat neutered after the age of one year.
The reasons for this are numerous. By the age of one, your cat has already reached sexual maturity and may even have a first-hand sexual experience. Meanwhile, some of the behaviours that are linked to sex hormones, such as humping, are harder to eliminate entirely, because they will have become learned behaviours by that point. Of course, the neutering process is still likely to reduce these behaviours, even if they are not fully eradicated.
In the most extreme circumstances, your cat may even retain enough of its sexual urges to actually attempt to mate with a female cat. Thankfully, as a result of the neutering, it will not be successful in producing offspring.
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Other Reasons For Continued Sexual Behaviour
Aside from the continued presence of sex hormones in the body in the immediate aftermath of neutering, and the continuation of established habits, there are a number of other reasons why your male cat may continue to display sexual behaviour after the procedure. It is understandable that you may see this as evidence that your cat still wants to mate, but in most cases, there is actually a much more innocent explanation.
Humping behaviour in male cats is sometimes linked to stress and, interestingly, it can even manifest in cats that have never previously displayed this behaviour, because they were neutered at a young age. This kind of stress-induced humping is fairly common when there is a major change in the household, such as the addition of a new pet.
Some experts have suggested this behaviour may be a form of attention-seeking, where your cat is looking for some kind of reassurance from you. However, it can also be a sign that he has excessive amounts of energy, perhaps due to excitement, or as a result of a lack of physical activity.
If you introduce a younger kitten into your household, there is a possibility that your older cat may pin the kitten down and perform a humping action. Again, some owners panic, thinking this is an indication that their cat still wants to mate, but this is actually a behaviour that teaches the younger kitten its place in the hierarchy. It may also be used to teach a younger kitten not to do something, although this is more common with female cats.
Moreover, urine spraying and roaming are also associated with the desire to mate. Although neutering helps, it is possible these behaviours may still continue, and it is not currently well understood why that is the case.
How to Stop Unwanted Sexual Behaviour
At this point, you might be asking: is there anything I can actually do about my male cat displaying unwanted sexual behaviour? While it is often normal and nothing to worry about, it can be embarrassing if you have guests or young children in the house. Fortunately, in my experience, there are some things that can be done to help.
As previously stated, if your neutered male cat humps a younger kitten in the household, it is attempting to establish its dominant position in the social hierarchy. This is natural, but you can help to stop it by actually helping the older cat to feel more secure in its place within the hierarchy. To do this, you might feed the older cat first and if the two cats are competing for your attention, you might give the older cat priority.
Some owners feel uncomfortable about doing this, fearing that it establishes the older cat as the ‘favourite’. Yet, in reality, cats form hierarchies and younger cats tend to accept their place very quickly and willingly. Remember, as the owner, your role is not to overrule the natural way cats build relationships with each other.
Reinforcing the natural hierarchy can also sometimes help with stress-induced humping. So too can paying your male cat more attention generally, playing with him and allowing him to be as active as possible.
It is essential that you avoid dishing out punishment for the humping behaviour, even if this is your instinctive reaction. Some owners make the mistake of using disciplinary methods like squirting water at their cat, but this is only likely to add to the stress it feels, which can actually exacerbate the problem. Instead, if your cat starts humping, try to distract him with a toy and then use positive reinforcement to reward him for stopping.
Additional Benefits of Neutering Your Male Cat
Finally, given that you now know that some sexual urges may continue after neutering, you may be seeking reassurances that the procedure is still worthwhile for your male cat. Aside from the major advantages associated with preventing unwanted kittens being born and helping with cat population control, there are a number of additional benefits that neutering can offer, and some of these are especially worth knowing about.
For example, neutering male cats can provide a number of important health benefits, such as reduced instances of certain serious illnesses and diseases. The procedure eliminates the risk of testicular cancer completely, and can also significantly reduce the likelihood of your cat ever developing prostate cancer as well.
One of the major advantages of having your male cat fixed is a calming of territorial behaviour. This means that your cat is less likely to engage in behaviour like urine spraying, but also means your cat may become less aggressive and less likely to engage in fights with other cats – either in or out of the household. The overall result of this calming influence is that your cat becomes a more affectionate and dependable companion.
Finally, one of the less obvious behavioural benefits linked to neutering is a reduction in your cat’s tendency to roam. Male cats have a natural instinct to look for mating partners, and this can sometimes cause them to explore areas far from home, potentially putting them at greater risk of being hit by a car, or getting lost. Studies show that this roaming instinct usually subsides after neutering, meaning your cat will stay much closer to home.
Article by Barbara Read
Barbara Read is the heart and soul behind CatBeep.com. From her early love for cats to her current trio of feline companions, Barbara's experiences shape her site's tales and tips. While not a vet, her work with shelters offers a unique perspective on cat care and adoption.