A cat that enters heat can be unmistakable. Your pet may undergo some personality changes during this time, and could need some particular attention. If you are not prepared to spay your female cat, seasons in heat can be extremely challenging.
Of course, all of this can be avoided if you have your cat spayed. There are numerous other advantages to this process. Whatever action you decide upon, the more you know about why your cat is behaving this way, the better. It can be a trying time for any pet, and their owner.
What Does it Mean When a Cat is in Heat?
Heat is the colloquial term for estrus. Estrus is a female cat’s reproductive cycle, and the period in which they are open to mating. The process is broken into four stages:
- Proestrus. This is the precursor to a cat entering heat. During proestrus, which lasts a day or two, female cats will behave a little differently. They may be hungrier than usual, and unable to settle. You may notice their vulva is swollen, and it may release small amounts of clear discharge. During proestrus, male cats sense what is coming and attempt to curry favor with a female. As she is not yet in heat, however, any advances will be rebuffed.
- Estrus. This is the period that is known as ‘in heat.’ When a cat reaches the estrus stage of their cycle, they can be impregnated. Perhaps more than this, they want to be. A cat in estrus that cannot mate is like having an itch they cannot scratch. This could all be over in a few days, but that’s unlikely. A cat may remain in heat for up to two weeks. They will behave in a unique way during this period. If a cat is impregnated in this period, they will come back into heat around two months after giving birth.
- Interestrus (aka Metestrus). If a cat does not mate during estrus, they enter interestrus, aka metestrus. This period can last up to two weeks. This is the cooling off period for a female after the intensity of being in heat. If a persistent male attempts to mate again during this time, they will be aggressively rejected. During the appropriate times of the year, your cat will switch from interestrus back to proestrus and start the process again.
- Anestrus. This could be considered the first or last phase of estrus, depending on your perspective. Essentially, it is the period that your cat’s reproductive cycle is at rest. If you do not spay your cat, make the most of this quiet time.
After anestrus, your cat’s body will take a break. Usually, you’ll have a few months until they re-enter proestrus. This is a great time to consider spaying if you wish to avoid another reproductive cycle.
Early Signs That Your Cat is in Heat
If your cat is entering heat, there will be many telltale signs. These include:
- Affection and attention seeking. A cat that is usually cool and indifferent but suddenly becomes affectionate is likely in heat. While they’re in season, cats will weave between your legs, rub against your ankles and purr. It may not just be you, either. Two cats that are usually mortal enemies may become close friends when one is in heat.
- They are rubbing against everything and anything. A cat in season will also rub against your furniture and walls. This is marking behavior. Your cat is leaving their scent behind for a male to discover. Once they detect this aroma, the male will know that there’s a female in heat nearby.
- Calling, yowling, crying and wailing. Every cat owner’s least favorite part of a cat’s season is the noise. Rest assured, however, you will know about it when it happens. A cat in heat will stand at the door, making a din until they’re let out. This calling is designed to attract the attention of males, and announce their availability for mating. It’s impossible to ignore. Another explanation could be that cat is in pain during their season. There is no way knowing for certain.
- They are taking up the mating position. Your cat will strike the mating pose constantly, regardless of whether a male cat is around. This is easily identifiable. It involves rising the hind legs, and lowering the head. Your cat is essentially making their vulva easy to access for a passing male cat. They may even crawl along the floor with their bottom in the air, rather than walking.
- Marking and inappropriate elimination. In addition to rubbing against furniture, cats in season will mark through their urine. Feline waste is a communication tool, and cats in heat want the world to know it. This may lead to your cat ignoring their litter box. Peeing and pooping all over the house and yard leaves unmistakable messages for male cats.
When your cat displays these behaviors, you need to prepare yourself for what is to come. Cats in heat aren’t the easiest pets to live with, but they certainly need particular care
What to Do When Your Cat is in Heat
If your cat is in heat, the best thing you can do is keep them at home. They won’t enjoy this, and neither will you. You’ll be driven crazy by the constant calling. It’s the safest option.
It’s not just the risk of pregnancy that has to be considered. A cat in heat will not be fussy about the company she keeps. This means that she could cross paths with stray and feral cats. With this comes potential exposure to fleas, parasites and communicable diseases.
You will need to be particularly vigilant about watching a cat in heat. Even a pet that’s usually disinterested in leaving the house will become Houdini while in heat. Lock all doors, windows and cat flaps!
You should also provide your cat with substantial distractions during this time. They may not take advantage of them, but you can at least try. Cats with toys and scratching posts are less likely to take out their frustration on furniture.
My Cat is in Heat and Lives with Male Siblings
Cats are not picky about who they mate with. A cat may encourage an unneutered male parent or sibling to mate with them. Inbreeding is more common among cats than you may realize, but it remains dangerous. If you have a multi-cat, multi-gendered household, separate the cats while the females are in heat.
When Do Cats Go into Heat?
There is no hard-and-fast rule to when a female cat will reach sexual maturity. The breed of the cat could play a role, and every feline is an individual. Believe it or not, some cats reach sexual maturity at just four months of age.
It’s common for cats to enter their first heat at around six months. This means that you will have a decision to make before this time.
Do Cats Have a Mating Season?
Cats do not have a mating season, per se. However, they typically enter heat at times of the year with the most daylight. Cats in the Northern hemisphere are most likely to get into season during March and September. This is because these are the months where the days last longest.
If you have an indoor cat, this rule may not apply. Cats that live under artificial light are less impacted by the rays of the sun. This means that an indoor cat may have a slightly more unpredictable heat schedule.
How Many Times Do Cats Go into Heat in a Year?
This depends on how long each heat cycle lasts. As we have discussed, cats go in and out of heat throughout the appropriate season. The average cat will spend two weeks in estrus, and two weeks in interestrus. This pattern continues continually until they enter anestrus.
So, a cat will enter heat once a month, and the breeding season lasts around seven months. That is not an exact science, but it should give you some idea. Ponder whether you’re happy with your cat experiencing seven seasons each year if they’re not breeding.
Do Cats Bleed When in Heat?
Cats very rarely bleed as a result of being in season. This is because they do not shed the lines of their uterus while in heat. At most, a cat will usually release a little clear fluid from the vulva.
If your pet is bleeding while in heat, speak to a vet. Blood does pool around the reproductive organs at this time, but should not leave the body. If it does so, there could be a health issue that requires urgent attention.
Is Being in Heat Painful for a Cat?
Nobody quite knows if estrus is painful. It’s certainly possible, as they make a great deal of noise during the period. Under any other circumstances, such sounds would necessitate a visit to the vet.
One thing is certain, however; coitus is painful for female cats. The penis of a male cat is barbed, so it remains in place during mating. Also, male cats bite down on a female’s neck to hold them in place. Females seek mates during heat due to biology, but they rarely seem to enjoy the experience.
Despite this, it is not advisable to give a cat painkilling medication during her season. You should never offer paracetamol, or other human medication. This drug is toxic to felines.
Do Female Cats Have a Menopause?
Female cats do not experience menopause akin to that of human women. If a cat is not spayed, they will experience seasons for their entire life. This, in turn, means that they could also give birth at any age.
As cats grow older, these scenarios become increasingly dangerous. It may be worth considering spaying a senior female cat, for her safety. Naturally, surgery has its risks though. Discuss your options with a vet, and decide what is best for all parties.
What Are Common Female Cat in Heat Sounds?
The most distinctive sound of a cat in heat is yowling. This sound, also known as caterwauling, is extremely loud and extremely elongated.
For some cat owners, caterwauling is reason enough to look into getting their pet spayed. A cat that yowls at the door for hours on end can make life miserable. It only gets worse when male cats hear the cry, and respond in kind. Two cats will continue to make this sound until they find each other. It might be deemed romantic, if it wasn’t so noisy.
In addition to this, a cat in heat will purr more than usual. This will typically be quite melodious, and certainly easier on the ear that yowling. Finally, cats in heat may be more vocal with their day-to-day meows. This is because they will typically be a little hungrier than usual, and desire more attention. These desires will leave your cat feeling much chattier than they may otherwise be.
What Are Common Male Cat in Heat Sounds?
Male cats do not actually enter heat. As a result, they do not have a season. However, an intact male will always be aroused a female in heat.
When a male cat senses a female in heat, they will make high-pitched trilling sounds. These are comparable to a cat sitting in a window watching birds outside.
This trilling will usually escalate to many meows. These will not be as long and drawn-out as a female cat’s caterwauling. They will, however, be loud and unmistakable! These noises will not cease until the last female in the area concludes their season.
I Think My Cat is Pregnant
If your cat gets out of the house while in heat, it’s quite likely that they will fall pregnant. The telltale signs of this, aside from the obviously swollen belly, are:
- Keep an eye on this, and see a vet if it becomes chronic.
- Swollen, bright red nipples. This is sometimes called ‘pinking up.’
- Weight gain (typically around four pounds)
- Increase in appetite.
- Increased affection and attention seeking.
If you think that your cat is pregnant, get them to a vet for a check-up. This will ensure that your pet remains healthy. A vet can also provide an ultrasound, offering an idea of how many kittens are expected.
You should also think about your options for homing these kittens if the pregnancy was unexpected. Avoid the temptation to take them to a shelter. Many shelters are struggling for capacity already, and fear what they call ‘kitten season.’ When handed unwanted litters of kittens, shelters find it even more difficult to house older cats.
What Happens When You Spay or Neuter a Cat?
Anti-cruelty charity MSPCA-Angell explains everything that you could ever want to know about these procedures. In summary, however:
This is the act if sterilizing a female cat. Your cat will be placed under anesthesia, and an incision will be made on their belly. A vet will then remove the cat’s reproductive tract, uterus, and both ovaries. The whole process usually takes around twenty minutes.
A cat cannot become pregnant without these organs. Also, they will no longer enter the season. This means that they’ll be spared the hormonal changes that going into heat brings. They will also stop attracting the attention of unneutered males!
The incision will be closed with stitches and glue. The cat will usually stay with the vet overnight as a safety precaution, and return home the next day. Your cat will need to rest for a few days afterward to avoid bursting any stitches. They’ll probably have to wear an Elizabethan collar or a onesie for about a week, too.
Neutering a male cat is slight more simple. This procedure only requires a local anesthetic, and it can be wrapped up quickly. Sometimes, it can be as fast as two minutes.
An incision is made on the cat’s scrotum, and the testicles removed. The incision is then closed with stitches and glue. Unlike with spaying a female, the cat will usually come home same-day. There will also be a shorter recovery period afterward.
As male cats do not enter heat, this will not directly impact upon their hormones. It will, however, prevent them from becoming aroused when they sense a cat in heat. Neutered males are also usually less territorial, as they do not experience untapped sexual frustration.
Are There Any Risks to Spaying or Neutering a Cat?
No surgical procedure is entirely risk-free. Very young or old cats, for example, will need to have their heart rates monitored carefully. It’s possible for the anesthetic to send a cat’s body into shock.
Overall, however, spaying and neutering should be considered a safe procedure. Any professional vet will have conducted the operation countless times. The biggest challenge may be keeping an active feline calm afterward, when they should be resting.
Be aware that spaying a cat that is currently in season is much more dangerous. While a cat is in season, blood will pool around their reproductive organs. This makes the whole operation more delicate, and it takes longer. This means that a vet may charge a higher rate for the procedure.
Other risks that arise from the surgery could include inflammation or internal bleeding. There is always a danger of infection during the procedure, too. If you attend a reputable veterinary surgery, however, these risks will be minimal.
Can a Female Cat be Spayed at Any Age?
If your cat is heavier than two pounds in weight, they’ll usually be eligible for spaying. As kittens can reach sexual maturity at sixteen weeks, it’s advisable to spay them at this age. This is not a legal requirement, however, and a cat can be spayed at any point of their adulthood. There are advantages to completing the procedure early, however, which we will discuss.
What are the Benefits of Spaying and Neutering Cats?
Spaying and neutering cats come with many advantages. The two most pivotal are the end of seasons, and no risk of unwanted kittens.
Countless cats are left at shelters every year, and these sanctuaries are struggling to meet demand. Male cat owners have just as much responsibility for managing this problem. Unneutered cats will mate with local felines in season, then move on and repeat the trick. This can lead to a lot of unexpected pregnancies.
Other benefits of spaying and neutering cats include:
- Reduced risk of cancer. As the organs in question will be removed, a spayed cat cannot contract ovarian cancer. The chances of mammary cancer are also drastically reduced. A neutered cat, meanwhile, cannot contract testicular cancer.
- Less desire to wander. If you would prefer an indoor cat, you should consider spaying or neutering them. A cat that remains intact will have an overwhelming desire to wander and find a mate. Keeping them inside will leave them hugely frustrated. This can lead to destructive, and even aggressive, behavior.
- Neutering calms males down. Male cats undergo a considerable personality change after neutering. They become much calmer, and less prone to destructive behavior. Their territorial instincts will also drop with the absence of testosterone, resulting in fewer fights. This can be particularly important if you have multiple cats in your home.
- Your cat may become friendlier. It is believed that a spayed or neutered cat is generally a more affectionate pet. Without sexual desire to distract them, your cat will enjoy human company more. This means they’ll want to play with you, and will enjoy being handled more.
- Less marking. A cat that has not been fixed will mark almost constantly. This is designed to attract the attention of other cats. It’s a, “come and get me” plea. If your cat has been spayed or neutered, they’ll miss their litter tray a lot less.
As you will see, there are a great many advantages to fixing a cat beyond simple reproduction. Many cat owners arrange the procedure as soon as they’re able, primarily for these additional benefits.
What are the Disadvantages of Spaying and Neutering Cats?
We must also consider any negative connotations to spaying and neutering. These could include:
- No kittens. If you’re on the fence about whether you’d like to breed your cat, think carefully. Spaying and neutering are irreversible procedures.
- Surgery will be necessary. As we have said, surgery always carries a degree of risk.
- It’s painful. Any kind of surgery that involves incisions will be sore in the aftermath. Your vet will prescribe medication to manage your cat’s pain.
- Increased risk of incontinence. A spayed female, in particular, may be prone to Urinary Tract Infections later in life. Even in the immediate aftermath of surgery, your cat may struggle a little. The anesthetic can put small animal’s bodies into shock, upsetting their stomachs in the short term.
- Increased risk of Diabetes. Neutered males are more likely to develop Diabetes later in life that their intact counterparts.
Overall, it’s down to you as to whether you feel spaying or neutering is the best choice. Discuss all the options with your vet, and decide from there.
Will My Pet Insurance Cover the Cost of Spaying or Neutering My Cat?
The cost of spaying or neutering your cat is the responsibility of the owner. The average cost of the procedure is between $300-500. Neutering a male cat is usually a little cheaper.
If this cost is prohibitive, take a look at the ASPCA’S low-cost programs. This will list any nearby location that can provide the service cheap – or maybe even free.
It’s unlikely, but a cat may experience complications during the operation. Your insurance may cover the costs of further surgery, if applicable. Ensure that you notify your insurer when you book your cat in for the procedure.
How Long After a Cat is in Heat Can it be Spayed?
If you have no intention of breeding your cat, get them spayed as early as possible. If you can spare your cat all that is associated with entering heat, do so. The belief that cats should complete a season before being fixed has been proven incorrect.
This is not always realistic, though. If necessary, allow your cat to complete a season before booking the procedure. It’s possible to spay a cat in heat, but as discussed elsewhere, vets prefer not to. It becomes a longer, more complicated procedure, and will likely cost more.
Once your cat completes her season, try to get her spayed within around three weeks. This will provide sufficient recovery time, and your cat will not enter heat again so soon.
My Cat Has Been Spayed but Still Acts Like She is in Heat
It is physically impossible for a cat to fall pregnant once they have been spayed. However, cats that are fixed later in life may continue to behave like they’re in heat.
This may be a matter of habit, but there could also be a medical explanation. If your cat retains traces of their ovaries, hormones will continue to make their presence felt. This means that cats will continue to vocalize and mark during seasons. They may even engage in sexual activity with male cats. As PetMD explains, this is known as Ovarian Remnant Syndrome.
If you suspect that your cat is living with Ovarian Remnant Syndrome, see a vet. A second round of surgery may be required. This is typically safe, and will put an end to the symptoms.
Should I Adopt a Cat That Has Not Been Spayed or Neutered?
Firstly, formerly stray cats may have birthed multiple litters of kittens already. A cat can theoretically birth multiple litters per year, for their entire adult life. It’s not necessarily safe for them to so, however. Whenever you adopt a cat, learn as much as you can about their medical history
Your cat will also have a lot of adjusting to in a new home. Coping with a season on top of this can cause a great deal of stress. Spayed and neutered cats are less likely to mark your home to declare it their territory. If you don’t want to clean urine from your carpets constantly, consider spaying and neutering.
Also, remember that a formerly stray cat will likely want to spend a lot of time outdoors. If spayed, they are less likely to encounter problems with other cats.
If you bring a cat home from a shelter, they will likely already have been spayed. If in doubt, get to a vet for a full once-over. A healthcare professional will be able to advise whether spaying or neutering is necessary.
Entering heat can be a trying experience for your cat. Females will become very agitated, and males will become aggressive and frustrated. It’s a necessary part of a feline’s hormonal cycle if you wish to breed your pet. If you do not intend to bring kittens into the world, however, consider spaying or neutering. It can save your pet discomfort, and potentially stave off future healthcare concerns.