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One question alone is at the root of modern science: Do dogs and cats have sex lives, and are they having more sex than us?
Somewhat disappointingly, the research points to a resounding “no.” Sexually speaking, pets are a much different population than wild animals. Mikel Delgado, a Certified Cat Behavior Consultant, told me that because we often spay or neuter our pets, we take away most of the hormones that drive their reproductive behavior. Plus, most of our pets live in relative isolation from other pets - even if they wanted to have sex with others of their same species, they probably don’t have access to them.
If you’ve ever owned or been around dogs, you’ve probably witnessed dogs humping each other. Or a blanket. Or a person’s leg. Or...anything. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) says dogs do this for a pretty simple reason: it feels good (though it can also be a display of dominance in some cases).
Like humans, dogs like to put their genitals against various stuff. Also like humans, another reason for a dog’s humping may be excitement or stress. Unlike humans, your pet dog is probably spayed or neutered. While they may have learned to hump prior to spaying or neutering, their post-operation humping, obviously, won’t lead to reproduction.
“Intact,” meaning unspayed, female dogs only mate when they’re in estrus, commonly referred to as being “in heat.” A dog’s estrus cycle will vary depending on breed, but most dogs come into heat twice a year.
Small breeds may have estrus cycles up to three times a year. On average, estrus lasts two to three weeks. Humans, on the other hands, experience menstruation cycles, not estrus cycles, and we’re (generally) down to have sex at any point in our cycle. Humans have sex more often than wild dogs, and a lot more sex than our pet dogs. Unless you count blanket humping as sex, which most experts do not.
Delgado says cats have two "heat seasons" a year that are partially influenced by the daylight, season, and temperature. But, she says, “within each season they may cycle in and out of being in estrus, or receptive to mating.” So female cats’ receptivity to mating is less predictable than dogs.
“When a cat is spayed, her ovaries and uterus are removed, and cats who are spayed do not go into heat. Cats who are spayed and neutered will sometimes still masturbate, humping objects like stuffed animals or blankets...this behavior is not very common. Occasionally you will see one cat ‘mount’ the other -- this may be a misdirected sexual behavior, or an aggressive encounter...we're not always sure without knowing more [about that particular cat].”
If you have an intact female cat, you can look for several signs that she’s in heat. She may yowl loudly, have increased affection toward both humans and other cats, have a reduced appetite, or spray urine on your walls (ew). Some cats, though, show no signs when they’re in heat.
Like our dogs, our cats also face the problem of isolation, probably more so than their canine counterparts. At least dogs have dog parks for humping opportunities. I’m not aware of any cat parks, although I would love to attend one.
“Indoor” cats likely don’t have access to any potential mates, although cats with outdoor privileges may occasionally get lucky (so to speak) and come across a good match in their travels.
All in all, pets’ sex lives are boring at best, nonexistent at worst. So if you were worried that your pet had a cooler sex life than you, you can rest easy.