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Is Your Cat In Heat? Here's How To Care For Them | Optimeal®

By Optimeal Team


You may have heard the term “a cat in heat,” but you might wonder what it means and if your furry friend is experiencing it. The term “in heat” refers to a cat that has reached the age of sexual maturity and has their first estrous cycle (sometimes spelled oestrus cycle). 

A feline’s reproductive or estrus cycle is sometimes called their heat cycle. When a cat is sexually receptive, they are referred to as being “in heat.” This article will closely examine a cat's heat cycle so that you can determine if your furry friend is in heat and properly care for them during this time.  

What Does It Mean if Your Cat Is in Heat?

Generally speaking, your cat is “in heat” if she is in the fertile period of her reproductive cycle. During this time, she will be looking to mate because she is receiving strong, biological signals from her body to find a mate. Cats in heat are referred to as queens.

Usually, heat begins when female cats reach puberty at around six months old. That said, cats can go into heat for the first time when they are anywhere from four to ten months old. This section will answer the most commonly asked questions about cats in heat. 

How Often Are Female Cats in Heat?

Felines are seasonally polyestrous, meaning they will go through many heat cycles during their breeding season. How often cats go into heat depends on where they live, their climate, and the number of daylight hours they are exposed to. 

Felines that live in the Northern Hemisphere usually begin their heat cycles in January or spring and end in the late fall. However, if you and your furry friend live in a tropical climate or somewhere with longer days, they may experience year-round heat cycles. Indoor cats who are not exposed to their external environment may also cycle all year round.  

How Long Are Cats in Heat?

Heat in cats can last anywhere from one to 21 days. That said, heat usually lasts for six to eight days. If a female cat does not mate and becomes pregnant during this time, she will go out of heat for about seven days. However, this period can range anywhere between one to six weeks. 

What Is the Feline Heat Cycle?

The entire feline heat cycle can last anywhere from one to six weeks. Usually, a heat cycle is about three weeks long. All unspayed female cats will go through the heat cycle unless they are pregnant. 

There are four distinct phases of the heat cycle that include:

  • Proestrus: This stage lasts one to two days and occurs before your cat is in heat. She may attract male mates but cannot get pregnant and will not display the signs of being in heat.

  • Estrus (Heat): During this time, your cat is in heat and will be actively looking for a male cat to mate with. Cats can mate several times during this period, so it is possible for a female cat to have a litter of kittens with different fathers.

  • Interestrus: This is the stage of the cycle between heats. If a female cat has not mated and becomes pregnant, she will enter this stage and not display any signs of being in heat.

  • Anestrus: During the heat cycle's final stage, your cat’s reproductive system will be dormant. Usually, this occurs during fall and winter in the Northern Hemisphere. 

Do Female Cats Have Periods?

Unlike female humans, cats do not have periods where they shed their uterine lining, even though they experience a monthly cycle. Instead, the old uterine lining is reabsorbed into their bodies. 

This means that your female cat should never bleed excessively, even when they are in heat. They may release a small amount of blood during the heat cycle, but if you notice your female cat bleeding a lot, bring them to the veterinarian as soon as possible. 

Can Spayed Cats Go Into Heat?

Remember that only unspayed cats go into heat. When you have your cat spayed, their entire reproductive tract is surgically removed. This means that spayed cats do not have ovaries, cannot produce estrogen, and never go into heat. 

Can Male Cats Go Into Heat?

No, male cats cannot go into heat. Female cats are the only cats that experience heat cycles. If you do not neuter your male cat, they will also reach sexual maturity between four and six months of age. 

What Are the Signs and Symptoms of a Cat in Heat?

There are several behavioral signs you can watch for that will tell you if your female feline is in heat. Your cat will become noticeably more affectionate when they are in heat. They may even seem to be demanding your attention by rubbing up against your legs and furniture and rolling on the floor. 

You may also notice that your cat lowers their front quarters and raises their rear quarters when you pet their back or spine. This is another sign that they are in heat. Cats in heat also tend to be more vocal. If your cat is yowling and vocalizing more than normal, it may be a sign that they are in heat. However, vocalizing can also indicate illness, so it is best to check with your vet. 

Another unfortunate sign of a cat in heat is spraying (urinating on objects around the house to mark their territory). When a feline in heat sprays, their urine contains pheromones and hormones, which signal to other cats that they are in heat and attract Tomcats (unneutered male cats that have reached puberty). 

Other signs of a cat in heat include:

  • Restlessness and pacing 
  • Crawling low to the ground
  • Attempts to escape outside 
  • Excessive grooming
  • Loss of appetite 

How Can You Care for Your Cat in Heat?

Although heat is not necessarily painful for your furry friend, it can be an uncomfortable and frustrating time. That said, you may wonder how to care for your cat in heat. This section will provide you with all the information you need to keep your queen happy and healthy while they are in heat. 

Be Patient

The most helpful thing you can do for your kitty while in heat is be patient with her. You will likely hear her yowling, which may sound like she’s in pain. Cats in heat tend to sound desperate when they yowl. 

Although the pet parent in you will likely want to get her help as soon as possible, remember that this is a normal, natural part of her heat cycle. That said, only ignore your furry friend’s yowling if you are sure it is a result of heat. 

Give Your Cat the Royal Treatment

As much as possible, try to give your furry friend the royal treatment while they are in heat. This may look like cuddling them extra if they want more affection. Try and think of anything you can do to help soothe your furry friend during this time. 

If it is warm outside and your cat is in heat, brushing their crush to remove any extra fur may feel amazing. When your cat is in heat during the cooler months, they may be comforted by extra time on your lap. 

Let Her Have Her Space

Just as important as extra cuddles and pets is giving your queen her space while she is in heat. Some cats become more affectionate and attention-seeking while in heat, whereas others want absolutely nothing to do with humans. 

You may notice that your furry friend seems less enthusiastic about playing with you while they are in heat. This is a natural response; you should give her space if your cat seems more private while in heat.

It may also be beneficial to set up a safe, quiet hiding spot for your cat to escape while in heat. Although she will likely have more energy than normal, your cat must rest. Providing her with a safe spot to relax while her body goes through the cycles is crucial. 

Encourage Her To Play

While your cat is in heat, try anything you can to distract her. Engaging your furry friend’s hunting instinct is a good way to get her mind off what her body is going through. Bring out her favorite toys and maybe even consider getting a few new games to play. 

Lock Your Windows and Doors

Regardless of if your cat is an indoor or outdoor cat, it may be wise to lock your windows and doors while she is in heat. Your feline’s natural mating instinct will be so strong that she will try everything she can to escape your home and find a mate while in heat. Unless you want to have a litter of kittens, the only way to ensure she does not get pregnant is to keep her inside. 

Remember that cats are curious and intelligent. If you put screens in your windows, you may want to take them out while your cat is in heat. Your cat may try to scratch and break through the screen to get outside. 

Keep Her Away from Tomcats

You’ll also want to keep your queen away from any tomcats while she is in heat. If your cat is yowling loudly, she will likely attract any tomcats in the area. You may even notice that more cats than normal start to hang around your house. 

Clean Her Litter Box As Often As Possible

As previously mentioned, one of the signs of heat is spraying. She will want to mark everything in your home as her territory. One way to discourage your cat from spraying is to clean her litter box. She may be less likely to spray in your home if she feels like she is constantly marking new territory in her litter box. 

Soothing Treats

Some cats enjoy the taste of catnip, which has a soothing effect on them. If your cat responds well to catnip, you can give them some while in heat. However, don’t give her too much and avoid trying tons of new treats and products during this time. 

How Can You Prevent Unwanted Pregnancy When Your Cat Is in Heat?

When cats are in heat, they will put almost all their effort into mating. However, if you do not want your feline to get pregnant, there are a few things you can do to prevent unwanted pregnancies. 

Most importantly, separate your female and male cats. If you have unneutered and unspayed cats at home, ensure they do not spend time together while your cat is in heat. It only takes cats two minutes to mate, so your cats mustn't see each other at all while one is in heat. 

If your feline is normally an outdoor cat, you can create an enclosure for them to spend time in while they are in heat. This will give her valuable time outside without putting her at risk of mating with other cats. 

Can You Spay a Cat in Heat?

The best way to prevent your cat from becoming pregnant is to have her spayed before she goes into heat. However, this is a possibility if you choose not to have your cat spayed but later decide you want to. 

Veterinarians recommend that you wait at least one month after your feline’s most recent heat cycle before you have her spayed. Although spaying a cat in heat is technically possible, it is a more dangerous and costly procedure. If you want to have your cat spayed, talk with your veterinarian to figure out the best time to do so. 


You will likely know when your cat goes into her first heat. She will make lots of noise, and you’ll notice some behavioral changes. Although the constant yowling and meowing may sound like noises of distress, remember that heat is a normal, natural process that all female unspayed cats go through.

You can do several things to help ease your cat’s discomfort and frustration while she is in heat. If she seems to want more affection, cuddle her as much as possible. If your kitty is acting more reclusive, let her have her space as her body moves through the heat cycle stages. 

Regardless of your cat’s behavioral changes, make sure that you keep her indoors and away from tomcats to avoid any unwanted pregnancies. Remember that spaying your cat is the only way to ensure she will not become pregnant. 


Female Reproduction | NIH

Spaying and Neutering | Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine

Current perspectives on the optimal age to spay/castrate dogs and cats | NIH

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