Are you a new cat owner? Do you have a female cat? Some new cat owners may wonder when or if their cat may go into heat (also called estrus). Each cat is different, but there are some signs your cat may be in heat. Do you have a female cat that seems to be acting strangely? Is she yowling and bolting for the door? If you answer yes to these questions, it could be that your cat is in heat.
This is a time when you may feel the most anxious and irritated with your fur baby. A female cat in heat can be quite noisy and need or want attention more than normal. How do you tell if your kitty’s in heat and what can you do to help? First, we’ll take a look at the signs and symptoms of a female cat’s estrus cycle and then what you can do to help her.
Is My Cat in Heat?
The estrus cycle, when your cat’s in heat, can be a confusing time, especially if you’re a new cat owner. First, it’s important to know that only cats who have not been spayed (“fixed”) can go into heat. If you know for sure your cat’s been spayed but is exhibiting some of the signs and symptoms below, then she’s probably not in heat. You’ll need to get her an appointment with the veterinarian to see what’s causing her symptoms.
If your cat’s never been spayed, then she’s probably in heat. Being in heat is the time when your cat could become pregnant if she has access to male cats in your home or outdoors.
Let’s take a look at the signs and symptoms of a female cat in estrus.
How to Tell If a Cat’s in Heat–Cat in Heat Symptoms
The first estrus cycle will take place when your kitten is between the ages of 4-6 months. Puberty usually doesn’t come until they reach 6 months, but some cats do become sexually mature at 4 months.
Is my cat in heat? If she’s in heat, your fur baby could show these symptoms:
1. Yowling: female cats in heat will yowl during their estrus cycle. Yowling is a form of meowing—during heat “calling” may sound like your kitty’s in pain or as if she’s wailing. Female cats use this as a way to let nearby males know they’re in heat and ready to mate. Yowling is sometimes a distressing sound for cat parents, but it’s a normal part of the estrus cycle. However, some cats yowl at other times, too, so it’s not always an indication your cat’s in heat.
2. Mating position: some cats may assume the “mating position” when they’re in heat, especially if you pet her. In this position, a female cat will keep her front half on the ground (chest, paws, legs), with her bottom up and tail to one side. Her hind legs may also pump up and down, looking as she’s kneading bread. The female cat assumes this position to make it easier for a male cat to mount her.
3. Spraying: female cats in heat sometimes mark their surroundings as a way to attract mates. The spray consists of urine, which is full of estrogen. Your kitty may assume the mating position by backing up to furniture, walls, etc. and then spraying the surface with her urine. Not a pleasant thought, but this is normal behavior for female cats in heat.
4. Affectionate: your cat may seek you out for attention more often when she’s in heat. She may even want attention from other pets, such as your dog. This is normal. She may rub her head more on you and everyone in the house (including your dog—who probably won’t appreciated that too much!) and she may roll on the floor, etc. You may think your cat’s gone crazy, but this is all normal behavior when she’s in heat.
5. Licking: some female cats tend to lick their genitals more often when in heat. However, this can also be a sign that she has a urinary tract infection. If your cat’s been spayed, then she may need a trip to the vet to see if she’s developed a urinary tract infection.
Another common sign of heat is restlessness. Cats may take up pacing and show other signs of restlessness during the estrus cycle. Is your cat crawling along the floor, with her tail end in the air—a little bit like a commando in the military? This is another sign she’s in heat—she may also yowl as she’s crawling along the floor.
How Often Will My Cat Go into Heat?
The breeding cycle can vary between female cats, but it’s normal for a girl kitty to go into heat several times a year, especially from January to late fall. Indoor cats may go into heat more often, especially if you live in a warmer region. The estrus cycle usually lasts about 1-2 weeks, but can be as short as 1-3 days.
When your fur baby’s in heat, she may draw the attention of many male cats in the neighborhood.
It’s possible you’ll notice more cats hanging around your home or yard. If so, you can bet these are male cats attracted by your kitty’s yowling, scent marking, etc.
During this time, your cat may try to bolt for the door or male cats will try to find a way in. Either way, cats can be very determined, so it will be necessary to keep a wary eye whenever you go in and out of your home.
Can My Cat Get Pregnant During the Estrus Cycle?
Yes, cats are induced ovulators, which means they release the egg only after they’ve mated. It may take 3-4 matings for a female cat to become pregnant. A cat can even mate with several different males, resulting in kittens from different fathers. It’s possible for a cat to become pregnant during her first cycle—even if she’s officially still a kitten, rather than an adult cat. It’s not recommended that kittens this young become pregnant.
What to Do If Your Cat’s in Heat
This can be a distressing time for new cat parents. You wonder if your fur baby’s in pain and the constant yowling can be irritating and distressing, too. However, this is all the normal behavior of a stray female cat in heat. You may be wondering what you can do to help her.
- Get her spayed: foremost, if you don’t plan on breeding your female cat, the best thing you can do is get her spayed (“fixed”) so she (and you!) don’t have to go through the estrus cycle over and over again. Not only that, but you’ll also be helping to curb the number of unwanted kittens born each year.
- Give her attention: when your kitty’s in heat, be sure to give her some extra attention. She will be happy for the affection you lavish on her. It may also help to calm her down. Your fur baby may also enjoy a little more cuddling and holding, too.
- Playtime: increasing the amount of playtime can also help your fur baby, especially if she’s restless. Dig out her favorite toys for a vigorous game of cat and mouse.
- Give her catnip: some owners swear by giving their cat catnip during the estrus cycle. Catnip has a calming effect on some cats, and this may relieve her yowling and restlessness a little bit.
- Keep her away from male cats: be sure to keep your fur baby away from all male cats. If you have a male cat indoors, make sure he’s been neutered and/or keep him separated from your girl kitty. You’ll avoid unwanted pregnancies this way.
Spaying Your Cat
This is the best option for your fur baby—having her spayed will keep her from having an unplanned/unwanted pregnancy and unwanted kittens. Veterinarians generally advise having your cat spayed before her first estrus cycle. The earliest a cat can be spayed is between 8-12 weeks of age, though some vets prefer a cat to be between 6-8 months old before they’re spade. Spaying involves removing the ovaries and uterus via an incision in your cat’s lower abdomen. At that time, the organs are removed, and the incision is sutured closed. This is major surgery, but it routinely done by vets every day.
The surgery is done in the vet’s office, with general anesthesia. Your vet may ask you to withhold food and water before surgery. This is done to keep your kitty from vomiting and aspirating (inhaling) fluids while she’s under the anesthesia. This can and does happen on occasion and can lead to asphyxiation. The anesthesia will help your cat to sleep deeply through the surgery, so she won’t know what’s happening and will feel no pain. After the surgery is completed, your fur baby will likely have to spend the night at the vet’s for observation. This is just to make sure everything’s OK before she goes homes.
Some veterinarians may suggest your cat wears a cone around her neck. This keeps her from biting, scratching or licking at the incision and stiches as she heals.
Your cat will enjoy some health benefits from being spayed including:
- Lowered risk of developing mammary gland tumors.
- Avoid the serious infection called pyometra, which is an infection of the uterus.
- Avoid cancer of the ovaries and uterus.
- Lowered risk of your indoor cat trying to get outdoors (to mate). She will be safe from attacks by other cats, being hit by a car, picking up feline infections, etc.
- No spraying: your cat will no longer have the urge to mark her territory by spraying furniture, etc.
What to Expect After Spaying Procedure
You may need to take your cat back to have her stitches removed, unless your vet has used dissolvable stitches. Your fur baby may be sore for a few days and not feel up to playing. However, after a week or two, she will be back to her old self again.
We hope this guide has answered your question, “Is my cat in heat?” Your cat going into heat the first time can be a little unsettling—no doubt about that. It’s a time of stress for your fur baby, too. You can help her have a happier and healthier life by having her spayed.
KimKim is a talented author, who loves animals especially dogs. She engaged in writing books and articles relating to animals a decade ago. Kim resides in Chicago with her husband and son. The family is the proud owner of a dog and a parrot (Jack and Lily). Kim wanted more than these two pets, but her husband put his foot down... She often visits elementary schools to talk to the kids about what she learned about pets and how they could learn from them.
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