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cat in heat

The essentials

  • Female cats can get ready to reproduce as early as 4 months old — They go into heat every two to three weeks from spring to fall.
  • There are ways to calm your cat down while she’s in heat — Provide her with extra cuddles, hiding spots, toys, and catnip.
  • You should always spay your cats — This will help you avoid heat cycles, unwanted pregnancies, spraying, and other issues.

What is the heat cycle in cats?

The heat cycle is the commonly used name for the feline reproductive stages that female cats will go through if they remain unspayed. When female cats are in heat, they go through hormonal changes, which strongly affect their behavior. 

👉 Heat cycles don’t typically involve any vaginal bleeding, but you may notice slight discharge. If your female cat has noticeably bloody discharge, it can be a sign of pyometra, a life-threatening infection in the uterus. Contact your emergency vet immediately if this happens.

How often do cats go into heat?

Many cat owners don’t realize cats can begin going into heat as early as 4 months old and each cycle lasts about 4-7 days. On average, a female cat will go into heat approximately every two to three weeks during the breeding season — typically occurring in the spring and summer months, but domestic cats can experience heat cycles throughout the year.

What are the typical signs that your cat is in heat?

Here are some common behaviors to watch out for to tell if your kitty is in heat —

  • Loud and prolonged high-pitched meows
  • Showing lots of affection and asking for attention
  • Begging for the outdoors
  • Rolling and rubbing
  • Excessive energy and restlessness
  • Frequent urination and marking
  • Arched back and raised rear end
  • Decreased appetite
  • Swollen genitals

How can you support your cat when she’s in heat?

The heat cycle is an overwhelming time for your cat, but you can support her by creating a safe and comfortable atmosphere for managing those behavioral shifts.

Here are some tips for helping your cat when she’s in heat —

  • Provide a peaceful and secure environment This is not the best time to have frequent guests, throw loud parties, or introduce new pets into the family. Let your cat remain undisturbed for a while. 
  • Increase play and mental stimulation Help your cat channel that excess energy into exercise by getting her new interactive toys and puzzles. 
  • Maintain a consistent routine — Cats like it when things are predictable and regulated, so try to feed her and go to bed at the same time every day, whenever possible. 
  • Offer hiding spots — Create some safe spaces for your cat. She may like to have dark corners where she can relax alone whenever she feels like it. Make sure that she isn’t forced to share those spots with other pets. 
  • Keep her indoors — A female cat in heat will be desperate to go outside to mate. It’s very important to prevent her from escaping to avoid unexpected pregnancies. 
  • Minimize exposure to intact males — If you want your cat to have company, make sure that her playmates are female or neutered male cats. The mating process in cats usually lasts just a couple of minutes, so be extra mindful of any unneutered males. 
  • Consider pheromone products — Pheromone products mimic the natural chemical signals that cats use to communicate. They can have a calming effect on cats by creating a sense of familiarity and security.

How to prevent your cat from going into heat

The only safe and permanent solution to keep your cat from going into heat is to spay her as soon as she’s of age.

Along with avoiding unwanted pregnancies and the uncomfortable symptoms of the heat cycle, there are other reasons why spaying your kitty is a good idea —

  1. Pet safety. Cats in heat are at high risk of escaping, as it’s nearly impossible for a regular family to keep their doors and windows shut throughout from April to September.
  2. Animal overpopulation. The US is already experiencing a stray animal overpopulation crisis. Around 3.2 million cats enter shelters every year. If your reproductively active pet accidentally escapes, they’ll contribute to the problem.
  3. Managing future health risks. By spaying your female cat early enough, you can prevent mammary cancer , pyometra, vaginal hyperplasia, uterine prolapse, and other serious conditions and diseases.

In short, only professional and ethical breeders may need to keep their cats intact, but even then, the risks may outweigh the benefits, especially for the animals themselves.

Frequently asked questions

When do cats go into heat?

Female cats typically go into heat, or estrus, when they reach sexual maturity, which is usually around 5 to 9 months old. However, this can vary by breed and individual. Female cats can experience heat cycles every 2 to 3 weeks during the breeding season, which is influenced by factors like daylight duration.

How long does a cat stay in heat?

A cat’s heat cycle, or estrus, usually lasts about 4 to 10 days, but it can vary. During this time, a female cat is receptive to mating and may show behaviors like vocalizations, a raised rear end, and increased cuddliness. The cycle can repeat every 2 to 3 weeks during the breeding season. Spaying prevents heat cycles and related behaviors.

Do cats bleed when in heat?

Female cats in heat might experience a small amount of bloody vaginal discharge, but it’s not the same as the menstrual bleeding seen in some other animals. The discharge is typically light and might be noticed as small red spots or streaks. If you notice any significant bleeding or other concerning symptoms, consult your vet immediately.

What should I do if my cat is in heat?

Provide her with cozy places to hide, reduce new stimuli to a minimum, engage in play and distractions, and keep your doors and windows locked to prevent her from escaping. Spaying is the ultimate solution for the long-term prevention of heat cycles and related discomfort and health risks.