Cats stay in heat for 7 to 10 days, and this heat cycle can happen every few weeks.
The first heat cycle, called estrus, happens at sexual maturity — when a kitten is around 6 months old.
As a result, many people choose to spay their cats as soon as possible (around 8 weeks old) so their cats don’t experience a heat cycle. Of course, spaying also helps prevent pet overpopulation.
How to Identify the Heat Cycle
You might expect bleeding. Although a small amount of bleeding and discharge may occur, it is not common. The changes are more behavioral. Examples include:
- More affectionate
- Rubbing against people or objects
- Rolling on the floor
- Demanding more attention
- Raising the hind quarters when rubbed or scratched
- Becoming vocal, even yowling at times
- Urinating more frequently or marking on objects
- Trying to escape to the outdoors
This video shows a cat in heat meowing to a male cat. Grab some ear plugs:
Urinary markings serve a purpose to other cats. The pheromones and hormones released in the urine indicate the female cat’s reproductive status. The scent can be so strong at times that you may notice male cats hanging around outdoors even if your cat is an indoor pet.
The ovulation cycle is different from that of humans. Ovulation is stimulated by mating, and it is normal for a cat to mate several times during a heat cycle.
Cats can mate with different males and may even have kittens that are widely varied in breed and appearance. If you’ve ever seen a white cat produce kittens of many different colors or breeds, multiple fathers may be the reason.
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What Can You Do?
Have your cat spayed to prevent reproduction. There are other benefits to spaying, such as reducing risks of mammary cancer, uterine diseases and reducing overpopulation.
You can spay as early as 8 weeks of age, but check with your veterinarian. If a cat is already in heat, some vets may wait until the cycle is over before performing the spay.
- Cats do not need to have a litter of kittens before they are spayed.
- Reproducing does not make them more affectionate, alter personalities or solve any problems. It does add to pet overpopulation.
- Cats can become pregnant during their first heat cycle, and they do not discriminate when it comes to finding an available male — they will mate with their parents or siblings.
- Cats can also go into heat shortly after giving birth, sometimes as short as 1 week after delivery.
If you can’t afford to spay, call your vet or local humane society to see what options are available. A few times per year, my shelter has a day dedicated to spaying cats, and it is only $10. You may be able to find free services, depending on your situation — but you won’t know until you ask.
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