If you adopted a kitten, you should be aware that sooner than you think you might end up with a cat in heat who meows constantly and seems unable to find peace. Cats’ heat period is not just in the summer, when you hear male cats fighting with each other through the open windows in the heat, but is a continuous all the way through winter, from spring, starting remarkably early in your kitten’s life.
But what does being in heat in the female cats consist of and how does it manifest itself? You may be wondering if cat heat can be a problem, if perhaps your cat is in pain, and if you are already in this situation of living with a cat during her heat you may be wondering how to make it stop, because it can be a real pain.
Why cats go into heat
One of the most important aspects of any animal’s life, including the cat, is that of reproduction. When they reach a certain point in their lives called puberty, animals begin to have reproductive instincts, which manifest themselves differently in different species.
As for cats, their puberty comes very, very early: as early as six months old they are able to mate, and females, in particular, can become pregnant and give birth two months later to many beautiful kittens.
A female cat as early as 3-4 months of age can begin her estrous cycle, meaning she can periodically start going into heat. Through this mechanism it is as if she signals to a male cat, through pheromones, that she is ready for breeding and mating. This is the reason why a female cat goes into heat.
But how does the cat’s cycle work, how often does she go into heat, and, most importantly, how to notice if our kitty is pregnant or how to avoid it?
The estrous cycle of the female cat
Before we understand how cat heat works, it is important to understand how her reproductive life works. Women have a menstrual cycle, which is to say that every month an egg, if not fertilized, is expelled through bleeding, whereupon the cycle starts all over again.
In female cats we do not speak of a menstrual cycle, but of an estrous cycle. The why is quickly explained: a cat does not menstruate, and she never bleeds from the vulva, unlike a woman, but also for example a female dog and other animal species.
Therefore, we cannot tell when a cat is in heat simply based on blood loss.
Even the cycle itself in a cat works differently from that of other animals: the cat, in fact, never ovulates unless she mates with a male, unlike a woman who does it every month, or a bitch who does it every six. It is one of the so-called induced ovulating species, induced obviously by the male.
Because of this, the cat’s egg always stays in the ovary, and it starts producing estrogen that will make her go into heat. It is these hormones that produce those bizarre behaviors in the cat during the heat period: the constant purring, the desperate meows, rubbing herself all over the place, and standing with her butt in the air. These are all behaviors aimed at capturing the attention of a male.
This mechanism creates the certainty that the male’s sperm will meet the female oocytes, and that the mating will be successful.
How to recognize heat: the symptoms and what to do
Heat in the female cat is very obvious and it is very difficult not to notice it. In fact, if there are males roaming around in the cat’s territory, the cat’s owner will not sleep at night because of the repeated loud calling, veritable cat songs.
In addition, the cat will want to play often, she will purr a lot more than usual, if scratched at the end of her back, at the base of her tail, she will lower herself, leaving her bottom up and open her paws, in a very suggestive behavior.
Does a cat in heat suffer?
One of the typical questions owners ask is whether a cat in her heat period is in pain. Technically she is not in pain, but neither is she having fun. She is completely in the thrall of her hormones, she will not find peace, she will have these bizarre behaviors, and moreover, in my opinion the one who is suffering is her human who will not know how to calm her down. However, the actual physical suffering is not there, this should be clearly stated.
There are two things we can do in such cases: if we don’t have a problem with it, we can let the males have the go-ahead and let the cat mate, which will result in a pregnancy that lasts for two months (after a fortnight the kittens can be seen with an ultrasound, after a month and a half with an X-ray) and after the birth the cat will not go into heat for another month or so because she will be nursing.
At the end of this period, the cat will start going into heat again, and we will be back to square one.
The reverse situation is when we don’t want kittens to be born: if the cat is pregnant by now let’s have her give birth, we don’t spay her during pregnancy, but if she doesn’t have kittens as a remedy to cat heat we can think about oophorectomy surgery, the so-called sterilization, in which a veterinarian is going to remove the ovaries.
It is a simple surgery, the cat will not even notice the difference, she will simply no longer feel the instinct to mate.
She will live her life without any problems or hard feelings, and we can rest easy because we will avoid kitten management and, most importantly, no animals will be brought into the world that no one (for space or economic reasons) might want.
Some veterinarians also recommend spaying the kitten before her first heat, so that estrogen never enters the body and the cat has no “residual” restlessness. Consult your trusted veterinarian who can advise you best.
Feliway can help you in the case of restless cat
Feliway is a synthetic product that mimics the effect of certain feline pheromones, which generate a feeling of familiarity and security in the cat. You can try it to calm a restless cat.
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Cat in heat video
I also made a video on the MicioGatto YouTube channel where I explain how cat heat works and what to do about it. You can watch it here.
Frequently asked questions about cat heat period
A female cat can go into heat as early as 4-6 months of age
It would be best to spay a female cat before her first heat, with the advice of your veterinarian.
Better not, the tissues are more fragile and there are more risks than spaying when the kitten is not in heat
No, only the female cat goes into heat. The male cat feels the heat of the female cat and seeks her out to mate.
On average, a female cat stays in heat for about a week.
A female cat goes into heat every 2-3 weeks, from spring until fall.
The only way is sterilization as soon as possible.
She purrs all the time, crawls and rolls on the floor, gets into the mating position, with her bottom up, meows at night and often during the day, is fidgety and restless.
I hope in this article I have given you enough information about cat heat, but if you have any questions or comments or would like to tell us about your experience with your cat, please feel free to use the comments below the article.