Cats in heat

Cats have multiple heat cycles during the breeding season. They can enter in heat every  2-3 weeks and this can last almost all year long, depending on your cat and the location where you live. 

Being in heat, also called being in season or estrus, is normal in female cats who have not been neutered. Your cat’s behaviour will change during a heat. She will become interested in male cats and can get pregnant more than once during her heat cycle.



Understanding heat cycles in cats

Age of their first heat:

  • Female cats typically experience their first heat (puberty) at 4 to 9 months of age.

Duration of the heat:

  •  Each heat takes an average of 4-7 days, depending on the cat.

Frequency of heat cycles:

  • In heat days can be short as mentioned above, but they occur roughly 2-3 weeks apart and can last almost all year.
  • The pattern is variable from cat to cat and is usually affected by seasons.
  • The reproductive cycle is probably triggered by an increase in day length. In the northern hemisphere, therefore, cat pregnancies and births increase from March to May and decrease from October to January.

Signs of heat:

  • Includes: rubbing and rolling on the floor, increased vocalisation, tail raising, and increased affectionate behaviour.

Interesting facts:

  • A single queen can have as many as 2 to 4 litters of kittens per year, since they can breed as early as 1 week after giving birth.
  • The same litter can have multiple fathers because queens may mate with more than one tomcat during their fertile period.

Breeding or neutering?

  • From your cat’s point of view, there are no benefits of having kittens. So unless you are certain you would like to breed, you understand the responsibilities, including proper care during pregnancy, labour, and the commitment to finding suitable homes for the kittens, and are fully prepared regarding the time and costs involved, it’s best to have her neutered (spayed).
  • Neutering stops heat cycles, reduces the stress of caring for a cat in heat, prevents unwanted pregnancies and reduces the overpopulation crisis. It also prevents problems such as pyometra, cancer and phantom pregnancy.


Things to lookout for

Does a cat bleed when in heat?

The majority of cats don’t bleed at all. Others bleed such a small amount that you may not even see as they groom and clean themselves often.

How long is a female cat in heat?

It depends on each individual cat, but on average for 4 to 7 days, 2 to 4 times a year. But it’s not uncommon for them to be in heat every 3 weeks for several months.

Indoor cats tend to be in heat longer than wild cats.

Is being in heat painful for cats?

No, it’s not painful. If you think your cat is in pain, contact a vet.

Keep them indoors

Your female cat may attempt to escape to find a mate when she is in heat.

Take extra care with windows and doors during this time.


What to do

How to prevent pregnancy when a cat is in heat

  • Keep your female cat indoors.
  • Avoid leaving her alone in your garden in case a male cat manages to enter.
  • If you have an unneutered male cat, you may need to consider castrating him or moving him to a different part of the house or a different house.

How can I help my cat in heat?

Your cat may feel anxious during this time in her cycle.

  • Provide her with a quiet place to rest.
  • Give her additional attention when she looks for it.
  • Distract her with playtime.

What should you do if your cat accidentally mates with another cat?

Contact your vet as soon as possible.

You may decide to go through with the pregnancy. Or you may need to consider ending the pregnancy.

Pregnancy termination

Can be achieved with medications or surgery (spaying).

It is helpful to know the breeding date, as different medications work only during certain stages of pregnancy.

Talk to a vet to discuss what is the best option for your cat since medications can have side effects and may not be 100% effective.


What not to do

Should you let your cat have a season before getting her spayed?

No, most cats do not need to have a heat cycle before they are spayed.

Vets usually recommend spaying before the first heat cycle to reduce the chance of mammary cancer.

However, each cat is different and you should always consult a vet before making any decisions.

Can a cat be spayed while in heat?

It’s generally recommended to avoid spaying a cat in heat, but there are situations where it may be necessary.

If possible, wait around 1 or 2 weeks after your cat finishes their heat cycle.

Spaying while in heat increases the risk of haemorrhage (excessive bleeding) because the blood vessels become much bigger.

Is there a birth control pill for cats?

This is not typically recommended due to the very high risks and side effects.


When is it normal

Do cats go through menopause?

Cats do not experience menopause due to their reproductive cycles being different from humans.

They can continue to go into heat and become pregnant throughout their lives, even into their senior years, although it may not be medically recommended.

During senior age, it’s normal that your cat’s cycle changes, appearing less often.

Cats that have stopped having cycles altogether should be examined by a vet, as this can signal an underlying health condition.


When to worry

When should you be worried about your cat in season?

Take your cat to the nearest vet practice if you see:

  • Greenish/whitish vaginal discharge
  • Smelly vaginal discharge
  • Lethargy
  • Vomiting
  • Pain

Joii can help if:

  • Your cat is not eating as usual
  • Your cat is peeing more than normal
  • You need help taking care of a cat when she’s in heat
  • Your cat no longer appears to have a season
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