Pet Articles

Cats in Heat

In cats, the term “in heat” is the more common way of referring to the estrous cycle, or the period of time when your cat is fertile and able to become pregnant. Note that this can only occur in intact females (those that are not spayed). While not necessarily as dramatic as heat cycles in dogs, heat cycles in cats come with their own set of difficulties to owners, and for this reason it is important to understand what is going on, especially if you have an intact female cat.

Cats are considered seasonally polyestrous breeders, which means that they will have multiple estrous cycles (or heat cycles) only during a certain portion of the year. Typically, this will begin in the winter and continue until early autumn, and most females will give birth to kittens the following winter and spring.

A typical heat can last anywhere from 3-16 days, with an average of about 7 days. During this period of time, the female cat will exhibit various behavioural changes, including:

  • rubbing up against couches, other pieces of furniture, and people
  • increased vocalizing
  • lordotic posture: the cat will lower the front half of her body close the floor, and raise her hind end in the air (it almost looks as though the cat is bowing). Often, the cat’s tail will be elevated as well.

Many people will describe their cats during this period of time to be uncomfortable, as the cats will appear agitated and unable to settle.

It is during this period of time that the cat is able to be bred. If this occurs successfully, the cat will become pregnant and give birth approximately 63 days later. If the cat is not bred (and this is important) – she will go through a period called “interestrus”, which is the interval of time between estrous periods. What this means is that if the cat is not bred, she will go into repeated estrous cycles or heats every 12-30 days; it is because of this reason that people often say that cats always seem to be in heat.

It is important to note that unlike dogs, cats do not experience any bloody discharge (that is, cats do not bleed during their heat cycle). For this reason, some people might assume that heat cycles in cats are milder than they are in dogs, because owners don’t have to worry about keeping their houses clean from the bloody discharge that occurs. However, the vocalizing that happens when a cat is in heat can be very loud and constant, and many people will find this just as, if not more aggravating, than bloody discharge.

The easiest way to deal with unwanted estrous behaviour is to spay your cat. A spay (or ovariohysterectomy) is the removal of the uterus and the ovaries, and this procedure will completely eliminate estrous or heat cycles. If you choose not to have your cat spayed, then be prepared to experience the above behavioural signs every two or three weeks during the time of the year when your cat is able to be bred. Unfortunately, there is not much that can be done to soothe your cat while she is in heat; some people say that giving your cat lots of extra attention during this time will help reduce the amount of vocalizing that occurs, but the success level of this “treatment” seems to vary greatly depending on the individual cat. Regardless of how you choose to handle your cat while she is in heat, it is strongly suggested that you keep her indoors so as to prevent the birth of any unwanted kittens.
By Kyla Townsend – writer

10 Responses to this Article, So Far

  1. Avatar alona says:

    My cat is in her heat season! My question is if she should be taken to the male and his territory or should the male cat be brought to her?

    • Avatar Marko says:

      Imo, there are already way way way way too many unwanted kittens that end up having kittens that have kittens. Hundreds of thousands of cats/kittens are put to sleep every year because the shelters are too full. The responsible thing to do in my opinion is to NOT let your female cat mate and have it spayed. I don’t know the actual answer to your question.

  2. Avatar Vicki says:

    I have 2 female cats not spayed but one of them will spray on everything and anything at that time. Could you please tell me what or if there is something I can do about this, she is almost 5 yrs old. Thank you so very much.

  3. Avatar brevecat says:

    My baby girl Stoli is in heat again, and we are all miserable,her,me,the other cats,the dog, and my fianc’ee.
    Sadly, it is a great risk to spay her. She has underdeveloped lungs and anesthesia is very dangerous for her.
    We have had her since she was 2 days old.Our friend a contractor found her and her sisters under a building next to a dead mother. We bottle fed them and her sisters live with our friend.Stoli was the runt and was half the size of her sisters,she has recurrent respiratory infections but is otherwise healthy.Vet says she has under developed lungs.
    Her heats have become louder and louder.Does anyone know some way to make this easier on her …and the rest of us?

    • Avatar Marko says:

      Cats will go into heat again and again and again. This is a key reason for the pet overpopulation problem in all major cities. Spay your cat and this problem will be over.
      Good luck! Marko

  4. Avatar kratos says: is in heat is there anything I can do to calm her. I got a appointment to.get her fixed the 23rd of May. I can’t wait she is.driving me.crazy but i love her to death and my wife hates her cause she is keeping her up at night from the howling.

  5. Avatar Melanie says:

    I live in China and most of the vets here believe in ‘late spaying’. My kitten is almost five months now and is going through her second heat session already. My vet said I need to wait until she’s bigger/older because right now the surgery will be risky (although she weights 4 1/2 pounds!) and recommends waiting until she’s 8 months old. That’s four months of her going through heat and possibly escaping from my apartment. And the area where I live is already full of stray cats!

    Any recommendations to make her heat sessions less frequent or severe?

  6. Avatar Valoria says:

    I have two 6 month old girls; one is the runt of the litter, the other started her first estrous cycle 4 days ago. How likely is it that the runt will be right behind her? Their surgery is scheduled for friday, and I am desperately hoping she’ll hold out that long. I am looking forward to some sleep, soon anyway. :)

Leave a Comment

(Additional questions? Ask them for free in our dog - cat - pet forum)