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How to Tell if Your Cat is in Heat

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Cats have their first reproductive, or heat cycle when they reach sexual maturity. And for some breeds that can be as early as 4 months old. While for others, that could be as late as 18 months. However the average age is typically ~ 6 months old. (Itty was 10 months old when she had her first heat.) And cats display some signs that they are in season, so you will notice them acting differently. Continue reading to find out how to tell if your cat is in heat and how you can help her.

9 month calendar on white background
Digital art, Courtesy Sarah Smith

Cats are seasonally polyestrous, which means they’ll have multiple heat cycles during breeding season. Thus, in the US, February through October is considered the perfect breeding season. Therefore, your cat will likely cycle every 14-21 days from February to October if they aren’t already spayed or pregnant.

But how long does a cycle last? Each heat cycle lasts several days. Also, if the queen, or intact female cat, is not mated during the heat cycle, then she’ll go out of heat. For example, when Itty had her first heat, it lasted about a week. Or so I thought, because 3 or 4 days later it returned with a vengeance.

Signs Your Cat is in Heat

  • She’s extremely vocal
colorful cat meowing on sofa in patio
Photo by Dids on Pexels.com

This is one of the signs many pet parents notice first. Whether it’s yowling, caterwauling, or meowing when there was barely a mew before, cats in heat make all kinds of new noises.

Take Itty, for example, who, 2 days before we realized she was in heat, started meowing at me in the middle of the night. Full on meowing, while most of the time she only has little mews, that don’t even qualify as meowing. I thought she wanted to play with me or needed something. Or just loved me. Then the other signs started showing up.

  • She’s more loving than the dog
dreamy woman with loving kitty at home
Photo by Sam Lion on Pexels.com

The second clue your cat’s in heat is that she’s more loving than your dog, if you have one.

For instance, she lets you pet her, she rubs against you, and wants your attention and affection, whereas before maybe she was elusive. If your cat isn’t spayed, and she’s now extremely affectionate, it could just be she’s in heat.

  • Change in eating habits

She may eat less when she first starts her heat cycle than she was before. However she might return to her normal feeding schedule in time; that’s how it’s been for Itty.

  • A lot of floor action; ie, her tail and rear seem to always be up in the air. Plus, she rolls around on the floor more than she used to
an orange tabby cat lying in a cardboard box
Photo by Arina Krasnikova on Pexels.com

Female cats in the first position, called lordosis, are signaling that they are ready to mate. And by rolling on the floor, she’s releasing her pheromones all over the place. She’s just hoping it will catch some cat’s fancy.

  • Moving her hind end and treading her hind feet when her back is petted
calico cat treading her hind paws next to an Australian shepherd lying on the floor
I took a screenshot of this video where Itty rubbed up and against Sophie till Sophie appeased her; and then Itty started treading her hind legs. However the chair legs are in the way.

At this stage of her heat cycle, she’s very receptive to being mated, and might try anything to achieve her ends.

  • Begging to go outside (if an indoor cat)
calico cat standing up looking out a window
She longs to go outside.

Or she’ll try to sneak out if you’re not careful. And you might even start seeing toms, or male cats, gathering around your home in search of your cat.

digital drawing of a black cat with labeled scent glands
Digital Art, Courtesy Sarah Smith

Some queens will either urinate more often or spray urine on objects. Since cat urine contains both pheromones and hormones, this signals to other cats that they are in heat.

However this isn’t the only way that cats mark their territory; the other way is by scent rubbing against objects. (I’m thankful that Itty doesn’t spray.)

  • Another sign your cat is in heat is if she’s even more of a fastidious groomer than before
photograph of a brown tabby cat grooming itself
Photo by Arina Krasnikova on Pexels.com

If you notice your fur baby grooming her lady bits round the clock, chances are pretty high that she’s in heat.

  • And the last sign your cat is in heat, is that she flirts with your other pet(s)
calico cat on floor while Australian Shepherd licks her
This is an action shot, so unfortunately you don’t really get the effect. But I assure you, Itty started it.

Rather than just reserving all of her lovey dovey behavior for you, your cat may treat the dog or rabbit the same way; maybe even more so. You’ve caught them almost having inter-species relations! (Gasp!)

That’s what Itty does with Sophie, in spite of the dog’s protests.

What You can do for Your Cat

Even though they make a lot of noise and act like they’re suffering, the feline cycle is different to human women. Typically cats in heat don’t bleed; that’s because they reabsorb the uterine lining instead of bleeding it out. And experts believe cats in heat aren’t in pain when they make all their racket; it’s just their mating calls.

kids playing with white cat
Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

Although, what you can do is have a heating pad out for your cat, and see if she uses it. Itty didn’t use ours. But the trick that always seems to help her is when I play with her. And she’s good at trying to distract herself too.

Also, definitely keep your cat away from male cats if you don’t want her to get pregnant. And

  • try giving your fur baby some catnip
  • use Feliway or other cat pheromones throughout your home
  • and keep the litter box(es) clean

If your cat isn’t spayed and she hasn’t had her first heat cycle, talk to your vet about the best time to get her spayed. Some sites claim that veterinarians can still perform the surgery even while cats are in heat. However, just because they can do something doesn’t mean they will. For instance, we had to postpone Itty’s spay until mid-summer to see whether her heat cycle is waning. It should be a lot better than when it first started. But we’ll see.

Assuming you have a cat, did you get her spayed before she started her heat cycle? Or did you wait until she already started it? If you waited, did she have any or all of the signs I listed? Alternatively, did she exhibit extra ones? Your comments are appreciated.

Thank you for taking the time to read this. And if you enjoyed it, please like, share, and don’t forget to follow!

By KS

I breed pure Black Ameraucana chickens and Easter Eggers that are Black Ameraucana mixed with either Cuckoo Maran or Barred Rock. And I donate eggs to people or organizations in need.

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