Panthers are polygamous: they mate with more than one partner. Males will try to prevent other males from mating with females within their ranges but they are not always successful. Mating pairs may remain together for up to a week, sleeping and hunting together.
Female panthers reach $exual maturity at about 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 years of age, and males at about 3 years of age.
Panthers, like all other cats with the possible exception of lions, are induced ovulators. This means that the stimulus of copulation triggers the release of the egg by the ovary. Induced ovulation is an adaptation for solitary cats to increase the probability that the egg will be fertilized (Mellen 1991). Humans and other more social species are spontaneous ovulators: they release eggs even in the absence of males.
A female will signify her $exual availability by the scent of her urine and by caterwauling, a yowl some people think sounds like the scream of a human female and which gave the panther the name screamer.
The gestation period for panthers kittens is 92 to 96 days and litters consist of from 1 to 4 kittens. Births can occur at any time of year but are most common in the late spring. Late spring in southwest Florida is also the time when deer have their fawns. So when female panthers have very young and vulnerable kittens and their home range is restricted greatly by their need to protect and to nurse their kittens, prey resources are at their greatest (McCown: personal communication).
Before giving birth, the female panther will choose a den site, usually in a palmetto thicket. Panthers don’t go to any effort to prepare a den but an opening is created in the dense vegetation simply by resting and nursing kittens for several days in the same location. Kittens weigh about 500 grams (1.1 lbs) at birth. Their eyes are closed and they have grayish-brown fur with dark spots.
Females will not breed again until their kittens are 1 1/2 to 2 years of age and able to survive on their own. If they lose their kittens for any reason, they will again become $exually receptive and will mate.