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

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Female cats who haven’t 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 keeping the cat intact 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’s fertile and ready to mate. Female cats who are ready to breed and are 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 cat’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.

Here’s what you should know about female cats going into heat and what you can do about it.

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 six and ten months for a kitten.

While a cat in heat technically means that the cat is ready for mating, it’s not advised to allow breed or allow a kitten to get pregnant during her first heat. Her body is still growing, and becoming pregnant could lead to health issues.

Estrus lasts approximately four to five days. If a female cat doesn’t become pregnant during this time, she will re-enter heat in roughly two to three weeks.

This is one of many reasons 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. They’re 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 of kittens 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, chances are she’s calling out for a mate.
  • Super affectionate. If your female cat’s affection level has risen, it could be a sign that she’s in heat. Cats in heat will rub up against any surface, including you, to spread their individual scents. Cats scents change when they’re in heat. Kitty is letting every tomcat know she’s looking for a sire.
  • She wants out of the house. Indoor female cats who 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 their bodies on the ground and sticking out their rear ends. This makes it easier for male cats to mate with them.

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 vets 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.

How Can I Keep My Cat Calm While She’s In Heat?

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While your cat is in heat, she may experience some added stress and anxiety. It’s important to keep your cat calm and comfortable during this time.

Each cat is an individual, so your approach will have to depend on your own unique cat.

Some cats may prefer extra petting, brushings, and attention to relax. Extra exercise can help burn off some energy and reduce stress, too, so you may wish to try some active games that get your cat moving.

Other cats prefer to be left alone and hide when they feel anxious. If your cat feels more relaxed when they’re on their own, try providing them with a safe, quiet space where they can retreat. A carrier, cat bed, or enclosed area–even a box with blankets–might give them a nice place to calm down.

A heating pad might also help your cat relax and stay warm. Many cats find catnip or pheromone products to be relaxing. You should only use these products if they help your cat stay calm when they aren’t in heat. Some cats get too excited by these products, and you won’t be helping by providing them during a heat cycle.

What Else Should I Do For My Cat While She’s In Heat?

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One thing you must do, regardless of how you manage your cat’s stress, is secure your feline’s home and environment. It’s best that you do not allow your cat outside during her heat cycle, and you certainly don’t want male cats prowling around your property.

Keep windows and doors closed when possible, and make sure there are no holes in screens or crevices where you cat can get out or where male cats can slip into your home. Cats can easily fit through very small spaces, and male cats will be especially motivated if they sense a female in heat.

Clean your female cat’s litter box regularly. A clean litter box will encourage her to use that space to go potty and may reduce spraying around the home.

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 it will also prevent her from getting pregnant or trying to escape while she’s in heat.

Has your cat gone into heat before? How did you handle it? Let us know in the comments below!