Cats stay in heat for 4 to 10 days, and this cycle can happen every 3 weeks.
A cat’s first heat cycle, called estrus, happens at sexual maturity — which, depending on the breed, could be when the kitten is anywhere from 5 months old (for Siamese cats, for example) to 10 months old (particularly for some of the longer-haired breeds, such as Persians).
As a result, many people spay their cats as soon as possible 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.
- 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.
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What Can You Do?
Have your cat spayed to prevent reproduction. 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 go back into heat soon after giving birth, according to Dr. Debra Primovic, DVM.
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, the local shelter here has a day dedicated to spaying cats, and it costs only $10.
- Eldredge, Debra, Beth Adelman, and Delbert G. Carlson. Cat Owner’s Home Veterinary Handbook. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley Pub., 2008. Print.
- Caplan, Morton B. and Linda Ostrowalker. The Pet Doctor: Your Total Guide to Dog and Cat Care. Vancouver: Whitecap Books, 1994. Print.
This pet health content was reviewed for accuracy by a veterinarian, Dr. Pippa Elliott, BVMS, MRCVS. It was last reviewed and updated Oct. 13, 2018.