If you’ve got a female cat as a pet, one of the things that you need to prepare yourself for is when your cat goes in heat. When this happens, your cat will show strange behaviors that can be irritating.
As a cat owner, it’s important that you’re aware of what you can do when your cat is in heat. We discuss your options, the symptoms your kitty will show, and why your cat goes into heat at all.
What Should You Do?
Here are some things you can do to provide care for your cat in heat:
- Isolate her from male cats
- Use catnip if it’s helped your cat in the past
- Clean her litter box
- Play with her and provide some distraction
- Let her go outside
- Consider long term options: look into spaying
If your cat is in heat, you might find its attention-seeking behavior very annoying. Spaying is the best way to eliminate those unwanted behaviors brought about by the estrus cycle. We discuss this later, so keep reading.
Spaying your cat also ensures that it won’t go in heat again and any unwanted behavior that goes with it will be prevented. The vet might suggest waiting until the current heat cycle of the cat is over before spaying in order to avoid surgical bleeding.
Understanding Your Cat’s Heat Cycle
A female cat that hasn’t been spayed is called the queen. It has reproductive organs that include the ovaries and uterus.
The female cat’s reproductive organs will undergo a normal cycle known as the estrous or heat cycle. This is to allow for reproduction to take place.
In most animals, an egg will be released from the ovaries during the heat cycle prior to breeding. Such occurrence is referred to as the ovulation.
For cats, however, since they’re considered “induced ovulators”, they won’t be releasing eggs during the estrous cycle until they start to breed. However, they still will go through hormonal fluctuations coupled with blood vessel engorgement. This is their body’s way of telling them that it’s already about time to breed.
At What Age Do Cats Go in Heat?
Female cats naturally go through their first cycle of heat at the age of 6 months. However, it could also occur somewhere around 4 to 12 months, depending on the breed of the cat, its health status, and the season.
This is usually linked to the cat’s puberty and your cat could get pregnant during any of the heat cycle period, even this first one.
But this isn’t really advisable because 6-month-old cats are not yet fully developed and could suffer from complications during pregnancy.
As induced ovulators, cats will only ovulate if they are mated. Otherwise, the estrus phase will immediately return. Sometimes, a cat mates several times with different partners during one estrus cycle. As such, a male could be a sire within a litter.
How Long Does the Heat Last?
Cats will usually stay in heat for around one week and if it won’t mate, it’ll eventually go out of the heat cycle.
Your cat will come back to being in heat again after about a week. This will take place all throughout the entire breeding season.
How Do I Know My Cat Is In Heat? Heat Symptoms
Unlike dogs, cats won’t show any obvious physical symptoms when they are in heat. Instead, they will show behavioral signs.
- Always begging to go outside
- Pushy or demanding
- Raising hind end towards the air
- Constantly rolling on the floor
- Rubbing face on things
- Urine spraying
- Shakes hind end excessively when the back spine is stroked
One of the most obvious signs that a cat is in heat is when it vocalizes excessively. You’ll hear an in-heat cat meowing, crying, and yowling very loudly. They do this to get the attention of male cats and get them to mate.
Aside from making noises, cats that are in heat constantly demand affection and attention from their owners and the people in the surroundings. They’ll love it when they are stroked, especially at the hindquarters and on their backs.
When you pet the cat, it will wiggle its hind end excessively and the tail will go high towards the air. You’ll also find the cat rubbing its face on the floor, furniture, wall, and even on its owner.
Understanding Your Cat In Heat: Estrous Cycle Stages in Cats
When your cat is in heat, this is referred to as the estrus cycle. During this cycle, your cat will be going through the following five stages:
During the Proestrus stage, the cat won’t be showing many signs or symptoms. At this stage, the female cat will appear attractive to the male but won’t be willing to mate.
This stage will last for about two days.
When the female cat is finally being receptive to the male cat, this is already the estrus stage. At this point, you’ll begin to notice some changes on your cat. But unlike the dogs where the vulva becomes swollen, the cats won’t display this.
Most of the signs that they will display at this stage are behavioral signs, such as rolling on the floor constantly, loud vocalizing, and a possible decrease in appetite. This should take up to 14 days.
Interestrus refers to the period between estruses. This stage takes an average of 9 days, although it can also take place anywhere from 4 to 22 days.
Diestrus refers to the period right after the cat has mated and ovulated but didn’t get pregnant. This stage can last for 35 to 49 days, but won’t lead to pregnancy.
However, if the cat gets pregnant, the pregnancy will last only for an average of 60-64 days.
Anestrus happens during a period of sexual or hormonal inactivity, which takes place during the low light months.
At what stage of the heat cycle can a cat get pregnant?
A cat could get pregnant at any stage. Since they’re induced ovulators, their ovulation will only be stimulated through mating.
Can a heat cycle be prevented?
As mentioned, the best way to keep the cat from going into heat is to have it spayed.
Can cats go through heat cycles all year round?
Yes, a cat could cycle in and out of heat for the entire year. This is usually common to cats from the tropical regions, as well as domesticated cats that are constantly exposed to artificial light.
How long will each heat cycle last?
In one breeding season, cats go through heat cycles continuously.
Every period of heat could last for several days having an average length of 6 days. During this time, the cat will display significant behavioral changes.
How many heat cycles does a cat go through in a breeding season?
Generally, a domesticated cat will undergo heat cycles a few times in one year. Since they enjoy safe confinement, with a healthy and clean environment, plus plenty of resources, they will naturally go in heat more often compared to feral cats.
Feral cats go in heat less frequently, which is usually around twice a year. Cats from the colder climates go in heat if the season changes to spring and fall. While for those in warmer climates, it usually takes place during the summer months.
How often do cats go in heat?
Cats are seasonally polyestrous and this means that they’ll undergo multiple heat cycles in one breeding season.
What is a “queen” cat?
A mature cat that’s not yet spayed is called a queen.
When do cats go into heat and at what age?
Kittens usually reach maturity upon reaching five months. After this, when they’re not yet spayed, they will start to go in heat.
Some kittens may also mature earlier than five months while there are others that mature a bit later.
When is the feline breeding season?
The breeding season is affected by certain factors and these include daylight hours and temperature, although generally speaking, the breeding season usually occurs during the longer days or on days that get up to ten hours of sunlight.
Depending on where you live, the breeding season could be somewhere between 6 and 9 months and even more!
Getting your cat spayed is the best way to prevent them from going into heat and eliminating any of those unwanted behaviors that come with it. This also helps to ensure that your feline friend will no longer go in heat ever again.
Depending on your vet’s advice, it may be best to wait until your cat’s current heat cycle is over before getting it spayed in order to minimize the risk of surgical bleeding.
This way you’ll have an easier time with your cat and you won’t have much maintenance to do besides giving it food and drink. Or the other option would be to just let yours get pregnant and fill your house with many more cats if you have the time to take care of them.