How To Tell If A Cat Is In Heat For The First Time

When a female cat goes into heat for the first time, it means she has reached sexual maturity and is now able to get pregnant. This usually happens between 4-12 months of age. Recognizing a cat’s first heat cycle is important because it allows owners to make decisions about spaying or preventing pregnancy if unwanted. Going into heat is part of the cat’s natural reproductive cycle, but owning an intact female cat comes with responsibilities.

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Physical Signs

One of the most noticeable signs that a cat is in heat for the first time are changes in vocalization. Female cats become much more vocal when in heat, loudly meowing and yowling more often. This is called “calling” and is their way of attracting potential mates. Restlessness is another common sign, with cats in heat rubbing up against people and furniture more often. They are seeking attention and wanting to be petted and stroked. Cats in heat also display more affectionate behavior, becoming more clingy and demanding of attention. They may follow their owners around persistently.

There are other physical signs that indicate a cat is in their first heat. Cats in heat engage in a behavior called “treading” where they rhythmically step or “knead” with their hind legs. This mimics the motion they would use while mating. Cats in heat also tend to hold their tails to one side, keeping their reproductive organs exposed and sending a signal they are ready to mate. These are some of the most common physical indicators a cat is experiencing their first heat cycle.



Most cats experience their first heat around 6-10 months old ( This often coincides with the start of the breeding season, which is typically spring and summer. During this time, cats will go into heat every 2-3 weeks until they become pregnant or the season ends in late fall.

The first heat can be surprising for owners, since kittens reach sexual maturity faster than many people expect. But knowing the typical timing for a cat’s first heat and being aware of the signs can help owners be prepared. Monitoring the cycle is also useful for determining if a spaying procedure or other contraceptive options may be desired.

Appetite Changes

When a cat first goes into heat, you may notice some changes in her appetite. Many cats experience a decreased appetite due to the hormonal fluctuations associated with being in heat. Your cat may beg for food and act hungry, but then not eat much when food is presented.

According to The Spruce Pets, “It’s not unusual for a cat in heat to be restless, pacing, vocalizing, and not interested in eating when you put food in front of her.”1 The hormones related to her heat cycle can suppress her appetite, even if she is meowing for food.

Reveal Pet Food notes that while some cats have decreased appetite during a heat cycle, others may actually eat more.2 So it’s important to monitor your cat’s food intake closely. Significant loss of appetite that persists could potentially indicate a health issue, so contact your vet if you have concerns.

With a first heat, these appetite fluctuations may catch you off guard. But being aware of this common behavioral change can help you respond appropriately and make sure your cat is getting adequate nutrition during this time.

Marking Behavior

When a female cat first goes into heat, you may notice changes in her urination habits as part of her marking behavior. She is signaling to potential mates that she is fertile and ready to mate. According to Hill’s Pet Nutrition, cats in heat will urinate more frequently and may spray strong-smelling urine on walls, furniture, or other vertical surfaces. This urine spraying is an instinctual means of communication about their receptiveness to mating.

As explained by Gray Group International, female cats spray urine during their heat cycles to attract potential mates and advertise their fertility. The urine contains pheromones that signal the cat’s reproductive status. Urine spraying often occurs alongside other heat signs like vocalizing, rolling, and mounting behaviors. It tends to decrease once the heat cycle concludes.

According to PetMD, urine spraying behavior in female cats is more likely to begin around 6 months of age when they reach sexual maturity. If you notice these changes in urination and spraying, it can signify your cat is in her first heat cycle.


Female cats in heat often exhibit rolling and writhing behaviors. As their bodies fill with hormones, female cats may roll around on the floor frequently. This rolling and writhing is an instinctual behavior that indicates the female cat’s readiness to mate. According to MakatiCatAndDogHospital, “Female cats in heat roll on the floor. The female cat is full of sexual hormones and exceptionally affectionate.” The writhing motions are part of the female cat’s efforts to get a male cat’s attention and encourage mating.

In addition to rolling around, female cats in heat may rub against furniture, walls, or people. Along with the rolling and writhing, this helps spread the female cat’s pheromones to attract potential mates. Expect the rolling and writhing behavior to continue throughout the approximately week-long heat period until the female cat is bred.


One common sign that a female cat is going into heat for the first time is mounting behavior. The cat will attempt to mount objects, people, and other animals. This mounting behavior is driven by hormones during the cat’s heat cycle. Even neutered male cats may attempt to mount a female cat in heat due to instincts and pheromones. Mounting is part of the cat’s natural mating behaviors.

A cat in heat for the first time may become very insistent about mounting. She will rub against objects and people and then attempt to mount by treading with her back feet and holding on with her front feet. The cat may also attempt to mount other animals or cats in the household. This mounting behavior can seem alarming to owners who are not expecting it.

It’s important not to punish or scold a cat for this natural mounting behavior during her first heat. Instead, owners should gently discourage the behavior and try to distract the cat with toys or activities. Though the mounting urge will persist during the heat cycle, owners can do their best to redirect the cat’s energy in positive ways.

Neutering is the best way to prevent long-term mounting behaviors in both male and female cats. But for a cat’s first heat, mounting attempts are normal. With patience and proper care, owners can help the cat through this initial heat cycle without undue stress or confusion.

Preventing Pregnancy

The best way to prevent pregnancy during your cat’s first heat is to keep her indoors and away from unneutered male cats. According to the VCA, “The best way to prevent your cat from becoming pregnant is to have her spayed (neutered) before her first estrous cycle.”

You can also use synthetic feline pheromones like Feliway to help discourage male cats. According to Estrous Cycles in Cats – VCA Animal Hospitals, “These pheromones will not prevent her from coming into heat, but may make her less attractive to male cats.”

It’s important to monitor your cat closely during her first heat and keep her separated from males. Allowing her outdoors during this time can easily lead to pregnancy. The VCA states: “Cats can become pregnant on their very first estrous cycle, increasing the chance of pregnancy.”


There are benefits to spaying a cat after her first heat cycle but before her second heat. According to Maxx Pet, spaying a cat before her second heat cycle still reduces the risk of certain health problems like mammary tumors and uterine infections compared to not spaying at all. However, spaying after the first heat but before the second heat provides a balance between health benefits and allowing cats to physically mature.

Per VCA Animal Hospitals, cats spayed before their first heat have increased risk of urinary incontinence and bone issues later in life. Allowing a cat to go through one heat cycle helps her urethra and pelvic muscles fully develop. It also lets her bones grow a bit more before removal of hormones. Overall, one heat cycle balances health and maturity best.

Caring for Your Cat

When your cat experiences her first heat, it’s important to show patience and care. This new experience can be stressful and uncomfortable for your cat. To help keep her calm and comfortable:

  • Stick to her normal routine for feeding, play time, and sleep. Consistency is calming.
  • Make sure she has access to her favorite toys and activities. Interactive play can provide a positive distraction.
  • Watch for signs of stress like hiding, loss of appetite, or aggression. If you notice these behaviors, give her more space and quiet time.
  • Spend extra time petting or brushing her if she seeks out affection. Physical touch can be soothing.

With time and care from you, your cat can get through her first heat cycle feeling loved and secure. Have patience – this too shall pass!

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