Mating and breeding

Mating
Mating

Courtship and mating mostly occur from December to March, but pumas can breed year-round, but most births occur between April and July. Females generally begin mating at two to three years of age. Males remain reproductively active to at least an age of 20 years, and females to at least an age of 12 years. When the female is in estrous, she vocalizes freely and frequently rubs against nearby objects. The male responds with similar yowls and sniffs the female's genital area. The highest frequency of copulation was nine times in one hour. A single copulatory act lasts less than one minute. There is a 67% chance of conception per mated estrous. During a 14-day period of mating a male and female will break their normally solitary habits to hunt together and sleep next to each other. Mating is one of the few times adult lions come together.

After six cycles without mating, the female has a lull for two months before coming into estrous again. A puma (cougar, or mountain lion) in the wild will not mate until it has established a home territory.

After a gestation period of approximately 90 days, the female will give birth to 1 to 6 cubs with an average of 3 or 4. Birth weight is between 226 to 453 grams. The cubs open their eyes 10 days after birth. At the same time their ear pinnae unfolds, their first teeth erupt, and they begin play. The cubs are fully weaned at about 40 days of age.

Newborn kittens are about a foot long, weigh about one pound and their coats are covered with black and brown spots with rings around their tails.. Care of the kittens is the sole responsibility of the female. She will aggressively defend her young against male lions, who may kill them. Kittens remain with their mother for approximately 18 months. They learn hunting skills through play, exploration and by watching their mother. At six months, the kittens weigh over 30 pounds and have learned vital hunting skills. During the last months with their mother, the young will practice and improve these skills. Mother and cubs remain together for as long as 12 months. Males reach sexual maturity at about 3 years of age and females at 2 1/2 years.