Mountain Lions, Mating, Reproduction, Babies, and More

The mountain lion is a large, wild cat species indigenous to North, Central, and South America. They are not only known for having a lot of names but also for their well-adapted skills of capturing their prey.

Mother mountain lions are known to use these skills to protect and hunt food for their young. They are also responsible for teaching their young the skills necessary as they mature.

Let’s explore how the unique way adult mountain lions nurture their babies enhances their hunting skills and survivability, as well as how mountain lions mate and reproduce.

How Do Mountain Lions Find A Mate?

Mountain lions start trying to attract a mate by letting everyone else know that they’re on the market. They do this by leaving their calling card.

To advertise to a new, potential mate, the male mountain lion creates a mound of dirt by scratching the ground and afterward urinating on it to signify their superiority over rivals and indicate their existence to potential mates who are also on the search. They are leaving a scent mark by doing this. 

Similarly, a female mountain lion who can smell the scent will also urinate on the top of the mound to demonstrate her openness and attract the attention of the dominant male mountain lion in the region.

However, wildlands are considerably large. This makes it difficult for mountain lions to locate each other just by scent. This is why female mountain lions use a special sound called caterwauling. Caterwauling is a loud resonant cry that can be heard up to five miles away, and it’s used to attract males

Male mountain lions reportedly find the cry attractive! Males are likewise capable of making a comparable scream. They use it to frighten rivals, while females use it to signal the start of their heat cycle. 

Male mountain lions frequently battle with other males who try to approach their mating partners until their estrus cycle is complete. When undefended, females frequently mate with other males while they’re still in heat.

Are Mountain Lions Monogamous?

Mountain lions are polygamous, which means they have multiple mating relationships. 90 days pass during a female’s pregnancy from mating to when she gives birth to one to four kittens. Male mountain lions can mate with many females and procreate all year long.

Mountain lions spend up to two weeks in courtship. After that, and after successfully having mated, the male will leave the female’s territory. Although polygamy may be more prevalent, it is occasionally stated that females can be monogamous.

When Is The Mountain Lion’s Mating Season?

Mountain lions don’t have a specific time frame for mating. This means that there is no real “mountain lion mating season”. Mating can take place any time throughout the year. 

Nonetheless, the months between December and March are the most common time for mating. During courtship and mating, male and female mountain lions will stay together for 4–10 days before they separate.

The abundance of food affects the timing of breeding for these animals. Winter is their most active time of year for mating because they can outrun their prey and hunt more efficiently during this time. 

Their huge paws are used to easily navigate in winter, taking advantage of other animals’ weaknesses in the cold weather. The cat can move quickly while deer and many other animals struggle in the snow. This is why winter is considered their seasonal peak for both food and mating.

How Do Mountain Lions Mate?

Female mountain lions signal to nearby dominant males that they are prepared to mate by making noises and spreading their scent by rubbing against trees, rocks, and other landscape features. Males can detect a female’s heat by sniffing her urine and things that she has been in contact with. 

The male mountain lion will pursue and approach a female in her territory. The male mountain lion will try to chase the female, traveling around the area together and running in circles. This courtship will last for a few days. Even though they aren’t particularly friendly due to their solitary nature, the pair is willing to put up with one another throughout the mating period. 

The male mountain lion mounts the female lion during mating and bites her neck to make her submissive. Moreover, female mountain lions scream during mating because a male’s spiky reproductive organs hurt them intensely. 

In reaction to the female mountain lion’s noises, males may likewise cry. The loudness is a typical response to the stimulation required for ovulation and becoming pregnant. Mountain Lions typically mate for  5- to 20-minutes at a time, and they can mate during both day and night.

How Often Do Mountain Lions Reproduce?

Mating occurs when the female is in estrus, which happens multiple times throughout the year. The average female mountain lion reproduces every other year, starting around the age of 2 and half years old.

Male mountain lions will wait for a certain time until they have claimed their own territory before attempting to reproduce. 

How Long Are Mountain Lion Moms Pregnant?

A female mountain lion pregnancy lasts from  82 to 96 days or around 3 months from the sexual interaction with a male. Although females typically have two kittens, they have been known to have litters up to six. Parenting is exclusively a female responsibility. 

To defend their kittens, female mountain lions have been known to engage in combat with various predators successfully. The primary cause of kitten mortality in the wild is cruelty by other male mountain lions, which most likely happens randomly.

When Do Mountain Lions Give Birth?

In North America, most mountain lion births occur between May and October. Female mountain lions give birth at different times depending on their age, how many litters they have birthed in the past, as well as how they’re doing health-wise.

Where Do Mountain Lions Keep Their Kittens?

In order to shield kittens from dangers such as predators or humans, the mother often keeps them in areas such as rock fissures, pits, canopies, and even low shrubbery. 

Geographical features that are naturally protected, like caves and other narrow alleys are often used. The babies are initially reliant on their mothers and start to wean at three months of age. They start to venture out with their mother on forays as they age.

How Many Babies Are In A Mountain Lion Litter?

There are typically 2 to 6 kittens per litter of mountain lions. The number of kittens in a litter depends on the weight of the kittens together. The heavier the kittens in the womb, the smaller the quantity of the kittens in the litter. Smaller but more kittens indicate that the littermates need to be competing for food and nutrients with each other.

Mountain lion kittens are born weighing between 400 and 500 grams, or roughly a pound. All the way through their lives, males remain heavier than females.

What Are Mountain Lion Babies Called?

Though people interchangeably use the words “kittens” and “cubs” for mountain lion babies, it is most appropriate to address them as kittens. Mountain lions’ size is almost comparable to big cats, which is why people confuse their babies with cubs, such as tiger cubs or lion cubs.

Technically, baby cougars are called kits or kittens. Mountain lions are considered one of the “small cats”, despite being one of the biggest species in that category.  They are one of the biggest cats that can purr but cannot roar. Cubs are used for the juveniles of big cats (lions, tigers, jaguars, and leopards), which, in turn, can roar.

What Do Mountain Lion Kittens Look Like?

Mountain lion kittens are born with a coat pattern that has heavy spotting. This pattern eventually fades away as they mature into a uniform tawny color. Newborn kittens are usually a foot in length and weigh from 400 to 500 grams (approximately 1 pound).  

Their eyes are closed when they are born and will open after 5 to 19 days from birth. Due to low pigmentation, their eye colors are blue, but they eventually turn brown or yellow as they mature. They also have cute paws, rounded ears, and whiskers that look very similar to domestic kittens!

Why Do Mountain Lion Kittens Have Spots?

Kittens are prone to danger and their spots can help them blend in with vegetation. They use these spots to hide from predators and stay safe efficiently. Juvenile mountain lions need to be able to stay hidden because they are fragile and can’t protect themselves.

Mountain lion kits are also at risk from several potential predators across their habitat, from golden eagles to fellow carnivores such as bears, gray wolves, and coyotes. In many areas, the biggest concern to young cougars is other adult male mountain lions.

Their fur spots are great adaptations that help them camouflage and hide while their mothers hunt for food. Mountain lion kits will eventually lose these spots as they reach 9 months of age.

What Do Mountain Lion Kittens Eat?

Like other mammals, mountain lion kittens get nutrition by drinking their mother’s milk. 

After seven weeks, they will begin to eat solid food and start their carnivorous diet. Their mother will provide meat to the litter during their weaning phase. Gradually,  the mother will start bringing the kittens along with her as she hunts for food. This training-like routine will continue until the kittens can hunt on their own.

Once they reach four to six months old, they can hunt their first prey alone. At this point, they will be fully weaned and can hunt rabbits and skunks all by themselves. In time, they will be able to easily hunt and take down deer, elk, and other common prey species.

Are Mountain Lion Kittens Playful?

Mountain lion kittens are surprisingly playful and bond intimately with their litter mates. Kittens like to engage in rough and active play, such as biting, attacking, and scratching each other like every other feline. 

In addition to that, kittens also like to play tag, wrestle, and groom together. During play fighting, they are seen chasing, rolling, and striking each other with their paws. 

The lack of noise, mild biting, and retracted claws indicates that this is playful and normal behavior and causes no harm. On the contrary, it helps define their muscles and strengthen their hunting instincts which will come in useful as they mature.

Are Mountain Lions Good Mothers?

Yes, mother cougars are very protective of their young. They will dedicate 18 to 24 months to take care of a single litter until her kits can get by on their own. She will patiently tend a litter until they reach maturity. 

Mother cougars are responsible for providing milk to newborn kittens as well as food during weaning. She will also teach them how to survive and hunt for food. For the majority of their lives (75%), female mountain lions are either pregnant or caring for a litter of kittens. 

They dutifully relocate from one place to another every few weeks to protect their kittens from stray male mountain lions and wolves. They will either carry or guide their kids patiently until they reach their new home. 

Do Mountain Lion Kittens Ever See Their Father?

No. A group of mountain lions only consists of the mother cougar and her kittens. Mountain lions are polygamous so they mate with several others. 

They have a short-lived bond of 3 to 10 days after mating, then they will go their separate ways. Only the female cougar is going to be responsible for raising their young.

When Do Mountain Lion Kittens Leave Their Mom?

A mountain lion kitten usually leaves its mother’s side at an average age of 15 months—ranging from 10 to 24 months. Male kittens leave the group earlier, at around 12 to 18 months of age.

At the age of 1 year old, mountain lions start to break down family associations and spend more time alone. There are instances where littermates only stay with their mother for a few months. 

When they are fully independent, they will leave their mother and siblings. The kittens, from now on, a grown cat, will leave their mother in a quest to claim their own territory. Female cougars tend to claim territory near their mom’s while males travel farther—often more than a hundred mile distance.

Mountain lions who migrate the farthest from their mother’s territory tend to survive less due to confrontations with other cougars.

Do Mountain Lion Moms Sometimes Leave Her Kittens Prematurely?

Mothers leave their young to hunt for food. Unlike bears and many other wild animals, cougars do not have dens. The mother will find a safe place to keep the kittens while they are small and immobile and leaves to go hunt for food. 

This is to ensure that she has enough nutrients to supply the litter. When the kittens are old enough to walk, they will move and make “daybeds” as they go. 

Daybeds aren’t exactly elaborated dens, but simply temporary shelters that mountain lions improvise when they need to relax.

Daybeds are established near their hunting grounds, in rough terrains. In less mountainous settings, daybeds are more commonly found in forested settings, thickets, or beneath big roots or fallen trees.

The daybed is used for them to rest and protect the kits from strong harsh weather while the mother hunts. She will also raise her kits here as she teaches them survival skills. 

Sometimes, a mother will leave her kitten in a dangerous area and not return to encourage the young to be independent. 

And finally, in some cases, mothers will abandon their weak and disabled kittens for better reproductive chances instead of focusing on young kittens with low chances of survival. This doesn’t happen often, though!

When Are Mountain Lions Fully Grown?

Mountain lions are considered fully grown and mature when they leave their mother’s care and independently hunt their food. This happens around the time they reach 2 years of age.

When juvenile mountain lions reach maturity, the spots from their juvenile stage start to disappear. Their eyes will gain pigments and turn yellow or brown, and their limbs become stronger, and they grow massive and long carnassial teeth. 

At this point, their muscles have strengthened enough to support their agile climbing. They are now skilled enough to take down huge prey like deer and chase small agile animals like rabbits and mice. 

From nose to tail, an adult male mountain lion can weigh between 130 and 150 pounds with a length of 8 ft. long. Mature females can grow up to 7 ft. long and weigh 65 to 90 pounds.

At the age of 2 ½ years old, a female mountain lion will sexually mature, while it will start at 3 years old in males. They will find their mate and the circle of life will repeat!

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