Dear Most Esteemed and Knowledgeable Kitties:
I really hope you can help. Basically, we’ve just got a male cat (2 years old) from a shelter and he is really affectionate and loves human contact. He constantly purrs when he’s with us.
But the problem is, when he sits on my lap or lies on the bed with me, his genitals pop out. Then he jumps off and licks them. He really purrs loudly and kneads with his paws loads (he’s been declawed – not by us!).
Is there any reason for this? It’s a bit disturbing really as it’s now making me afraid of showing him affection as he seems to get ‘aroused’ each time. And one time, his legs were twitching so much that I was scared he would spurt on the bed as well.
We are only petting him like we do with other cats — head, back, etc.
Do males cats do this? Is there anything which causes it? Is he insecure or has he been mistreated? I’m confused and it’s making us reconsider looking after him. Please help.
Siouxsie: Jo, we’ve decided to answer your letter in the column rather than as a personal reply, because we know you’re not the only person who has had this issue with a cat. And probably, very few people actually talk about it. We know a lot of humans tend to be uptight about issues around sexual behavior.
Thomas: Speaking as a male cat, I can say with great certainty that it’s not normal for neutered male cats to have frequent erections. You don’t say whether or not your kitty has been neutered, but I suspect that since you got him from a shelter and he’s declawed, he probably is “fixed.”
Dahlia: Male cats that haven’t been neutered will respond to sexual stimuli. Also, if your cat was neutered less than a month or so ago, he may still have some testosterone (the hormone responsible for male development and sexual response) in his system. It takes a while for the hormones to disappear completely, even after neutering.
Siouxsie: It’s entirely possible that your cat could have a foreign object such as a pebble of cat litter or something of that nature stuck in the skin that covers his penis which is causing him discomfort and stimulation. We’d definitely suggest that you talk to your veterinarian about this, especially since it’s interfering with your relationship.
Thomas: We cats often respond to consuming catnip with sexual behavior. This can include spontaneous erections and “love biting” in male cats. I’ve never had that particular response to the “catnip parties” Mama gives us. But then again, I was neutered as a very young kitten.
Dahlia: We did some checking on the Internet, and we have found some abstracts (summaries) from veterinary journals that suggest the possibility of brain lesions or other neurological problems causing spontaneous erections in cats. This, of course, is extremely rare, and there are probably much less obscure and frightening causes for your kitty’s over-the-top sexual responses.
Siouxsie: If this behavior is a new development in your kitty’s life, it’s particularly important to talk to your vet. Any time your cat’s behavior changes, in any way, it’s a good reason to call the veterinarian. Cats don’t show signs of being ill or in pain in the way that dogs and humans do. Sometimes the only way you’ll know your cat is sick is by a change in his mood or activities.
Thomas: Genital licking can be a sign of urinary tract infections, too. Very often, a cat with a UTI will find that it’s very uncomfortable to urinate. You may see your cat squat in the litterbox with no results, or go back and forth frequently to the box in an attempt to void his bladder. You might also see your cat urinate in inappropriate places such as the bathtub or shower stall.
Dahlia:Whatever you do, please know that your cat is not trying to make you uncomfortable. He can’t help the fact that his body is responding to stimuli in the environment. He clearly loves you, and he can’t understand that his sexual behavior is making you uncomfortable.
Siouxsie: We cats don’t have the same kind of attitudes about sex or genitals as people do. Human attitudes, religious beliefs, family history and life experience tend to bring a lot of emotional baggage to sexual interactions. We’re not troubled by such things because for cats, sexual behavior is just something that happens (or doesn’t happen, in the case of spayed and neutered cats).
Thomas: So, Jo, please call your vet tomorrow morning and let him or her know that you’re concerned about your cat’s sexual behavior. If your cat isn’t neutered, that will probably be the first treatment your vet will suggest. There might be other diagnostic tools your vet will want to use in order to figure out what’s going on.
Dahlia: If your cat gets a clean bill of health, that’s wonderful. If not, your vet will be able to help solve whatever is making your kitty overstimulated to the point of sexual response to non-sexual stimuli.
Siouxsie: We hope this helps, Jo. And we hope that other readers dealing with similar problems in their cats will be able to cope with those problems and not allow their cats’ “horny” behavior to interfere in their relationship. Please let us know how things turn out!
Thomas: Hey, guess what! Dahlia’s “A-Day” is September 19. That’s the anniversary of the day Mama signed the adoption papers making Dahlia a part of our family. We can’t believe it’s been a whole year. I’m so glad Dahlia is my little sister and snuggle-buddy!
Dahlia: Awww, shucks. I love it here, and I’m glad I picked this family. I never imagined I’d have reasons to purr every single day of my life, especially after the rough start I got. And Mama says my brothers and sisters are all doing well and living in good homes, too. I’m so grateful to the folks at the Humane Society of Knox County and our “foster family” at the print shop, who helped us find great, loving “forever homes.” Speaking of the Humane Society of Knox County, they recently took in 43 cats from the home of a hoarder, and they really, REALLY need financial help to get these cats the care they need. If you want to give them a gift in celebration of my A-Day, I’d be absolutely delighted!