Being in heat is a normal part of a cat’s reproductive cycle, but at times it can feel like they have turned into a completely different creature! The yowling, the spraying, the need for attention – it can all get a bit much sometimes.
But what does it mean when we say that a cat is “in heat”? Why does this happen? And what (if anything) can we do about it?
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What does it mean when a cat is “in heat”?
Being “in heat” is the common term for the period of time in a cat’s reproductive cycle when they are fertile – that is, when she can become pregnant. During this time, she will try to find a male cat to mate with, so you may see her behave quite differently from normal.
How can I tell when my cat is in heat?
Cats will usually behave quite differently when they are in heat. The signs of a cat being in heat may include:
Cats will often cry or mew more when they are in heat. They may also “call” – making a loud miaowing or wailing sound, which is designed to attract nearby males. If they are indoor cats, they will often sit at the window to do this.
Being more affectionate
Cats will often rub up against you or snuggle you more when they are in heat.
Being more adventurous
Cats will try to roam to find a male cat to mate with. If they are indoor cats, they may try to escape more often; if they are outdoor cats, then they may roam further and be gone for longer than normal.
Female cats in heat will spray urine more often, to attract male cats.
Being “in heat” is the common term for the period of time in a cat’s reproductive cycle when they are fertile – that is, when she can become pregnant.
When will my cat come in heat for the first time?
Cats may go through puberty any time after the age of four months and will start coming into heat around the same time. They can become pregnant at this age, but this can be dangerous for kittens and young cats. This means you need to either have them neutered or separate them from entire (un-neutered) male cats at four months of age.
How often do cats come into heat?
Cats breed during the warmer summer months, so will not come into heat over the winter. Once spring arrives, they may come into heat as often as every ten days, though the average is every two to three weeks. This will continue until the days start to get darker and colder, and then they will stop again over the winter. Cats can become pregnant if they are mated at any time during one of these heats.
Cats will usually behave quite differently when they are in heat, they are noisier, more affectionate, more adventurous, and spray more.
How long will my cat be in heat?
A heat in cats usually lasts around a week, but can be as short as a couple of days, or as long as three weeks! They can become pregnant if they are mated at any time over this period.
Is it painful for my cat to be in heat?
No, being in heat is not painful for cats. However, some cats can become distressed during this time, particularly if they are unable to find a male cat to mate with.
Older cats are also prone to develop a pyometra after being in heat. Pyometras are life-threatening infections in the uterus which require urgent treatment – usually surgery – to save the cat’s life.
Older cats are also prone to develop a pyometra after being in heat.
Do male cats come into heat?
No. Male cats can breed at any time once they have gone through puberty, which can happen as young as 4 months. They do not have heat cycles in the same way that female cats do, and so will constantly be searching for mates. This is why un-neutered male cats are more likely to spray urine, and also to roam and be involved in accidents.
When will my cat come into heat after giving birth?
Cats can come into heat and become pregnant very quickly after giving birth – sometimes this will only take a week or two. Nursing kittens will not prevent cats from becoming pregnant again.
It is not healthy for cats to become pregnant soon after giving birth, so you should make sure that nursing queens are separated from entire (un-neutered) male cats.
Will my cat ever stop coming into heat naturally?
Cats do not go through menopause in the same way that humans do. This means that they will continue to come into heat for most of their lives, and can become pregnant at any time whilst they are still having heat.
Cats will continue to come into heat for most of their lives, and can become pregnant at any time whilst they are still having heat.
How do I get my cat out of heat?
The only way to stop a cat from being in heat is by mating her. Cats are “induced ovulators”, meaning that ovulation (the release of fertile eggs) is triggered by mating. Ovulation will end a heat cycle, but mating almost always leads to pregnancy in cats.
How do I stop my cat from coming into heat?
The easiest way to prevent your cat from coming to heat is to have them spayed. Spaying removes a cat’s ovaries, which takes away the hormones that cause a cat to become into heat. It will also prevent them from becoming pregnant, and from developing a pyometra – a life-threatening infection in the uterus.
Some hormone treatments can be used to prevent cats from coming into heat, but they are complex and expensive, and usually only used for cats intended for breeding. If you want to consider these, speak to a veterinary reproduction specialist for more information.
The easiest way to prevent your cat from coming to heat is to have them spayed.
Why is my cat still coming into heat after she has been spayed?
In rare cases, it is still possible for cats to still come into heat after they have been spayed. This happens because there is a small amount of tissue from the ovaries still present in the body.
There are two reasons why this can occur – either the ovaries were not completely removed during surgery, or the cat naturally had some tissue from the ovaries present elsewhere in their body (“ectopic ovarian tissue”). Your veterinarian may need to run some tests to determine if your cat still has ovarian tissue in their body, and then they will need a second surgery to remove it. However, if your cat’s uterus was also removed at the time of spaying, then she will not be able to become pregnant.
Female cats will naturally come into heat every few weeks during the warmer months. This is normal, but can sometimes be distressing, and may cause extra issues for us as owners, too. Cats can become pregnant at any time when they are in heat, even if they are very young or very old. Spaying will prevent cats from coming into heat, and will also prevent unwanted pregnancies and some life-threatening infections.