What Do Cat In Heat During Heat

A cat’s heat cycle, also known as estrus, refers to the recurring reproductive cycle that unspayed female cats experience. During this cycle, cats go through hormonal and behavioral changes as their bodies prepare for mating and pregnancy. The heat cycle involves distinct stages, with the period when the female cat can get pregnant known as estrus or being “in heat”.

This article will provide an overview of the signs, timing, hormonal changes, and behaviors cats display during a heat cycle. It will also discuss the risks and how to manage cats in heat, as well as the option of spaying to prevent heat cycles altogether.

Signs of Heat

There are several noticeable physical signs that indicate when a female cat is in heat. These signs often become increasingly intense as the cat gets closer to ovulation. Some of the most common physical signs of heat in cats include:

Increased vocalization – The cat will become much louder and vocal, especially at night. She may make loud meowing noises, howling sounds, or other vocalizations to attract male cats. According to Vet IC, this sign is common for both male and female cats when a female is in heat.

Restlessness – Cats in heat tend to act restless, moving around constantly, pacing, and being unable to get comfortable. They may seem agitated.

Excessive grooming – The cat may lick or groom herself more intensely, especially around the genitals.

Rolling/rubbing – She may roll around on the floor frequently and rub up against objects such as furniture. This helps spread her scent to advertise her receptiveness.

Elevating hindquarters – When interacted with, the cat may raise her hindquarters in the air and tread her hind legs. This reveals the vulva and allows scent to waft.

Tail raising and twitching – The cat may hold her tail up vertically and twitch the tail frequently. This helps spread pheromones.

Timing of Heat Cycles

Most cats experience their first heat cycle between 6-10 months old according to the ASPCA (“When Do Cats Go Into Heat?”). However, some cats can go into heat as early as 4 months old. After a cat reaches sexual maturity, they will continue to go into heat cycles throughout their reproductive years.

The frequency of heat cycles varies greatly between cats. Some cats will go into heat as often as every 2-3 weeks. Other cats may only cycle into heat a few times a year (“When Do Cats Go Into Heat?”).

Each heat cycle lasts about 1-2 weeks on average according to the Cornell Feline Health Center. However, the most fertile period is usually only about 4-6 days during each heat cycle when the female cat will actively seek out a mate.

The duration and frequency of heat cycles depends on factors like health, age, and whether the cat has had a litter recently. As cats get older, they may experience heat cycles less frequently. Spaying is the only way to completely stop a female cat’s heat cycles.

Hormonal Changes

A cat’s heat cycle is regulated by the hormones estrogen and progesterone. Estrogen is responsible for stimulating sexual receptivity and mating behaviors. When estrogen levels rise at the start of heat, it triggers the release of chemicals that attract male cats. Progesterone is responsible for ovulation and preparing the uterus for pregnancy. According to VCA Animal Hospitals, estrogen levels increase rapidly at the start of heat, leading to the swollen vulva, bloody discharge, and mating behaviors. If mating does not occur, the estrogen level declines until it drops to a basal level about 10-14 days later. Progesterone levels remain very low during this follicular phase. After ovulation, progesterone levels increase significantly to support pregnancy if conception occurs. If the cat does not get pregnant, progesterone levels will also return to basal levels.


When cats go into heat, their behaviors change dramatically as they become intent on attracting male cats for mating. Some of the key behaviors to look out for include:

Vocalizing – Cats in heat tend to vocalize frequently with loud, attention-grabbing calls. This vocalization is sometimes referred to as “calling” and may go on persistently for days until the cat mates (Signs of Heat in Cats, The Spruce Pets).

Seeking Male Cats – Unspayed females in heat will try to escape the home to seek out males for breeding. They become intent on finding an intact male cat and may dart out doors or windows (Estrous Cycles in Cats, VCA Hospitals).

Mating Behaviors – When in the presence of male cats, females in heat will exhibit mating behaviors like rolling around, rubbing, and holding their tails to the side. They will also assume the mating stance with their front half close to the ground and hindquarters in the air (Signs of Heat in Cats, The Spruce Pets).

Increased Affection – Cats in heat often become more affectionate and demanding of attention, persistently rubbing against people and objects. This helps spread their scent to attract males (Estrous Cycles in Cats, VCA Hospitals).


Cats in heat often experience significant discomfort. The most notable sign is increased vocalization or “calling.” Cats in heat will yowl, meow, howl, or make other loud noises frequently as part of their mating ritual. This calling can be loud, incessant, and frustrating for owners. According to The Spruce Pets, “A female cat in heat is restless and vocal. She has a plaintive-sounding meow and she’ll be quite persistent about getting your attention.” (1) The calling is part of the cat’s attempt to attract potential mates, but can lead owners to think the cat is in pain. However, being in heat itself is not typically painful for cats.

Another sign of discomfort is restlessness. A cat in heat feels driven to mate, so will be more active than usual. They may pace, rub against objects, and attempt to escape the house to find a mate. This restless energy can be disruptive and make the cat seem anxious or distressed.

Finally, some cats in heat show a decreased appetite and interest in food. According to Animal Trust, “General discomfort, or being a bit under the weather” is common during a heat cycle. (2) The hormonal changes and mating drive cause stress that can suppress their appetite. However, this lack of appetite should pass once the heat cycle ends.


There are several risks that come with a female cat being in heat. The main risks are related to pregnancy, pyometra, and urine spraying.

Pregnancy is a major risk, as cats in heat are eager to mate and can become pregnant very easily if an unneutered male is around. Pregnancy places physical strain on a female cat and kittens require a lot of care and expenses. It’s best to avoid unwanted litters by keeping cats in heat away from males.

Pyometra is a life-threatening uterine infection that can occur in unspayed female cats after a heat cycle. Bacteria enter the uterus and cause an infection, which can be fatal if left untreated. Signs of pyometra include lethargy, vomiting, and abdominal swelling. Spaying cats helps prevent pyometra.

Cats in heat may spray urine more frequently to attract mates. They tend to lose their normal litter box habits. This urine spraying can cause bad odors and lead to damage or stains around the home. It’s advisable to keep cats confined while in heat to limit spraying issues.

Overall, pregnancy complications, pyometra, and urine spraying present the biggest risks for a cat in heat. It’s important to monitor cats closely and limit their contact with males during this time.

Managing Heat

There are several steps cat owners can take to help manage a cat in heat and minimize the symptoms. One of the most important is confinement. Keeping the cat indoors and limiting her access to doors and windows can help reduce her desire to escape and find a mate. Closing curtains or blinds can also help block outdoor sights and sounds that could further trigger her heat behaviors. According to Wedgewood Pharmacy, confinement can help keep a cat’s stress levels more manageable.

Pheromone products like Feliway can also help minimize some of the vocalizations and restlessness that occur during heat. These synthetic pheromones mimic cats’ natural facial pheromones and help induce a sense of calm and relaxation. Using pheromone diffusers and sprays in the rooms where the cat spends the most time can be helpful.

Finally, veterinary care can provide relief for a cat in heat. Medications like progestins help suppress the hormonal cycles that induce heat. Long-acting injections can provide relief for 4-6 months. Sedatives may also be prescribed to help an agitated cat in heat relax. According to KXAN, asking a vet for advice is recommended if the owner does not intend to spay their cat but wants to avoid her heat cycles.


Spaying a cat has many health and behavior benefits. According to Animal League, spaying helps reduce companion animal overpopulation and increases a cat’s chance of living a longer, healthier life. The surgery eliminates the risk of ovarian, uterine and mammary cancers, which are common in unspayed female cats. It also reduces the risk of pyometra, a potentially fatal uterine infection.

Behaviorally, spaying can curb negative behaviors associated with heat cycles and the urge to mate. These include yowling, restlessness, spraying urine, and attempts to escape the home. Spayed cats are less likely to roam, fight with other cats, or attract unwanted male cats to the area. The home environment is calmer and more harmonious without the cries and tension of a cat in heat. According to Hill’s Pet Nutrition, spaying leads to a cleaner home without the strong odor of cat urine that unspayed females use to mark territory.

Overall, spaying offers significant health and behavior benefits for female cats and their owners. It is a responsible way to avoid preventable illnesses and unwanted litters of kittens.


Cats in heat experience a number of changes as part of their estrus cycle. The most noticeable signs include increased vocalization, restlessness, rubbing, rolling, and attempts to escape. This is driven by a surge in hormones like estrogen that prepare the cat’s body for mating and pregnancy.

Heat cycles usually last 1-2 weeks and occur every 2-3 weeks during breeding season, which is typically spring and summer. This repeats until the cat becomes pregnant or undergoes spaying. The frequency and intensity of heats may cause discomfort, stress, and health risks if allowed to continue repeatedly.

While heat cycles are normal, pet owners have options to manage them. Keeping the cat indoors, using pheromone diffusers, or short-term medication can provide temporary relief. Spaying is the only permanent solution, with benefits for the cat’s health and behavior in the long run.

In summary, cats in heat experience hormonal and behavioral changes in preparation for breeding. Being aware of the signs, risks, and management options allows owners to make informed decisions regarding their cat’s health and wellbeing.

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