Cat In Heat: Signs, Symptoms, & What To Do If Your Cat Is In Heat

What Is A Cat In Heat?

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Female cats who have not been spayed will go into heat in a cyclical fashion. Cats in heat can mean a lot of work for an owner, especially if the owner is not keeping the cat in tact specifically for breeding. If your cat is not spayed and she is acting strangely, there is a chance she is in heat.

A cat is in heat, or enters her estrus cycle, when she is fertile and ready to mate. Female cats that are ready to breed and in heat are known as queens. Estrus is normally seasonal, as queens go into heat in the spring and in the fall. Certain factors like your queen’s age, how many intact male cats are in the area, and your cat’s overall health can also affect when she goes into heat.

When Do Female Cats Go In Heat?

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Non-spayed female cats can start going into heat, or estrus, as early as four months of age. A cat’s first heat usually occurs during puberty, which is between 6-10 months for a kitten. While a cat in heat technically means that the cat is ready for mating, it is not advised to breed a kitten during her first heat. Her body is still growing and becoming pregnant could lead to health issues.

Estrus lasts approximately 4-5 days. If a female cat does not become pregnant during this time, she will re-enter heat in roughly two to three weeks. It is for this reason that if you are not planning on breeding your cat, you should have her spayed to avoid this cycle.

How Often Do Cats Go Into Heat?

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Cats are polyestrus breeders, which means they can go through several heat periods in a year. Cats are able to have as many as five litters in a calendar year. Cats are known as induced-ovulators, which means the actual act of mating induces ovulation, or causes the egg to go to the uterus. Every time a queen copulates during her heat cycle, an egg is traveling to her uterus to meet the male cat’s sperm. This means that one litter can have more than one father! 

What Are The Signs Of A Cat In Heat?

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If your female cat is not spayed and seems to be acting a bit strange, she could be in heat. Here are common signs that female cats are in heat: 

  • Excessive vocalizing. If your cat is normally quiet and will not stop yowling to save her life, chances are she is calling out for a mate.
  • Super affectionate. If your female cat’s affection level has risen, it could be a sign that she is in heat. Cats in heat will rub up against any surface – including you – to spread her individual scent. Cats scents change when they are in heat, and she is letting every tomcat know she is looking for a sire.
  • She wants out of the house. Indoor female cats that all of a sudden are incredibly determined to get outside may be in heat. She may smell a possible mate outside, or she wants to continue spreading her scent to advertise her availability. If you have an outdoor cat, she may not return as frequently.
  • Excessive licking of the genitals. Cats who are in heat may have a swollen vulva or a slight discharge. If your female cat is spayed, this could be a sign of an infection.
  • She assumes the position. Cats in heat will present themselves for potential mates by flattening the front of her body on the ground and sticking out her rear end. This makes it easier for the male to enter her.

Can I Spay My Cat While She Is In Heat?

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Yes, you can have your cat spayed while she is in heat, but many veterinarians will advise waiting until her heat cycle is over. During a cat’s heat cycle, her reproductive organs become engorged with blood. This makes spaying a more time-consuming operation, and depending on the facility, may cost more than a spay done when a cat is not in heat. If your number one priority is to not have a pregnant cat, you should get your cat spayed as soon as possible, even if she is in heat.

A cat in heat can be a handful, to say at the least. Spaying your female cat will not only prevent her from going into heat in the future, but also from getting pregnant or escaping while she is in heat. Has your cat gone into heat before? How did you handle it? Let us know in the comments.