What Happens If A Female Cat Doesn’T Mate?

Understanding a female cat’s reproductive cycle is important for all cat owners. Most cats become sexually mature between 6-10 months old and go into heat multiple times per year. If a female cat does not mate during her heat cycle, she can experience health and behavioral issues. Knowing when your cat is in heat, if they should be bred, and what happens if they don’t mate allows owners to make informed decisions about their cat’s health and wellbeing.

Reproductive Cycle

Cats reach sexual maturity and go into heat for the first time usually between 5-10 months of age, although some cats can go into heat as early as 4 months old. Healthy, unspayed female cats will go into heat seasonally, approximately every 2-3 weeks from spring through late summer. Their estrous or heat cycle lasts about 4-10 days on average.

During the heat cycle, estrogen levels rise causing the ovaries to enlarge and ovarian follicles to develop. Eventually, a surge of luteinizing hormone triggers ovulation, releasing an egg from the follicle. If the egg is not fertilized, the corpus luteum breaks down, progesterone levels fall, and the cat returns to the non-breeding anestrus phase. The cycle then repeats every 2-3 weeks until late fall when cats go out of heat for the winter.

The frequency and length of estrous cycles in cats can vary based on factors like geographic location, photoperiod, and overall health. Indoor cats can cycle year-round. Consult a veterinarian if cycles last longer than 21 days as it may signal a health issue.

(Sources: https://vcahospitals.com/know-your-pet/estrus-cycles-in-cats, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7158189/)

Behavioral Changes

Female cats undergo significant behavioral changes when they enter their mating season or go into heat. According to The Spruce Pets, cats in heat tend to vocalize loudly, with a distinct yowling or meowing referred to as “calling.” This vocalization signifies the cat’s readiness to mate and may persist for several days until mating occurs. The cat will also assume a mating stance, keeping her hindquarters raised and tail to the side when she is receptive to a male cat.

Other heat behaviors, as noted by PDSA, include increased affection, restlessness, rolling on the floor, and treading with the hind legs. The cat may also rub against people and objects, flick her tail frequently, and attempt to escape outdoors. These behaviors result from hormonal changes linked to estrus and serve to attract potential mates.

Health Risks

Female cats that do not mate are at an increased risk for certain health issues. Going through heat cycles without getting pregnant can cause persistent estrus, where the cat remains in heat continuously. This can lead to a hormonal imbalance and make the cat more prone to uterine infections like pyometra. Pyometra is a serious and potentially fatal infection of the uterus that requires emergency surgery (1).

Unspayed female cats are also more likely to develop mammary tumors or uterine cancer later in life. One study found that females spayed before 6 months had just a 0.5% chance of developing mammary tumors, while intact females had a 26% risk (2). The hormones estrogen and progesterone directly influence the mammary glands. Going through repeated heat cycles without pregnancy causes abnormal cell growth that can lead to cancer.

While an occasional missed heat cycle likely won’t cause issues, it’s best for the cat’s long-term health to be spayed if she will not be bred. Spaying removes the uterus and ovaries, eliminating the risk of reproductive cancers. It also prevents unwanted litters and reduces problem behaviors associated with the heat cycle. Discuss your cat’s reproductive health with your veterinarian to determine the right course of action.


Pseudopregnancy, also known as false pregnancy, is a condition that can occur in unspayed female cats who go through estrus but do not successfully mate and get pregnant. According to PetMD, it happens when a female cat ovulates and her body prepares for pregnancy, even though fertilization of eggs does not occur. The queen’s progesterone levels remain elevated, and she exhibits physical and behavioral signs of pregnancy, even lactating in some cases, despite not actually being pregnant.

Some common symptoms of pseudopregnancy in cats include nesting behaviors, weight gain, enlarged nipples, restlessness, decreased appetite, mothering behaviors like carrying around toys, and even milk production. These signs usually resolve on their own within 2-3 weeks as hormone levels return to normal. However, according to the Merck Veterinary Manual, veterinary care may be needed if symptoms like lethargy, vomiting, or abnormal mammary gland development occur.

While false pregnancy is not typically dangerous on its own, it can be stressful on the cat and a nuisance for the owner. Spaying is recommended to prevent recurrence of pseudopregnancy cycles. Allowing the queen to mate is another option if the owner wishes to breed their cat.


Spaying is the surgical removal of a female cat’s ovaries and uterus, and it prevents her from going into heat and becoming pregnant. There are several pros and cons to consider when deciding whether or not to spay a female cat:

Pros of spaying:

  • Eliminates the risk of an unwanted pregnancy and prevents contributing to pet overpopulation (https://www.goingmuttspetservices.com/blog/6crasx0rv5keswzsrhnxrn459k6obm)
  • Reduces the risk of certain cancers like mammary tumors later in life (https://www.companionmed.com/pros-cons-of-spaying-neutering/)
  • Eliminates the hassle and mess of heat cycles
  • Reduces roaming, territorial marking, and aggression associated with heat cycles

Cons of spaying:

  • Surgical procedure with risks of complications like bleeding or infection
  • Permanent decision that cannot be reversed
  • Small increase in risk of urinary incontinence or obstruction later in life
  • May cause subtle personality changes due to hormone changes

Overall, most veterinarians recommend spaying female cats that will not be used for breeding. The health and behavioral benefits often outweigh the small risks involved with the surgery. It is ideal to spay before the first heat cycle, around 5-6 months of age.

Mating Options

There are two main options for mating cats – natural mating and artificial insemination. Natural mating involves introducing the female cat in heat to a male cat and allowing them to mate naturally. This allows the female to choose a mate and follow her natural instincts. However, the cats must be carefully monitored during mating to prevent injury. Issues like aggression between the cats or rejection of a mate can interfere with successful breeding.

Artificial insemination involves collecting semen from a stud male cat and surgically implanting it into the female’s uterus while she is in heat. This bypasses the need to introduce the cats for natural mating. It allows breeders to choose the stud cat with desired traits without transporting the animals. Artificial insemination also reduces risks of sexually transmitted diseases. However, it requires veterinary assistance and is more invasive for the female cat.1 Both natural mating and artificial insemination, if done properly, can result in successful pregnancies and healthy litters.

When to Breed

Follow these guidelines for determining the appropriate breeding age for female cats:

  • Wait until the cat is fully physically mature, which is usually around 12-18 months of age (Purina, 2022).
  • The first heat cycle can occur as early as 4 months, but breeding this young comes with health risks (Quora, 2019).
  • Ideally, breed after at least 3 heat cycles, usually around 1.5-2 years old (European Commission, 2020).
  • A female cat’s prime breeding age is between 1-8 years old. Consult your vet. (European Commission, 2020).

For male cats, recommended breeding age is between 1-7 years old after reaching sexual maturity (European Commission, 2020). Limit a male to siring no more than 5% of kittens in a pedigree population over 5 years (European Commission, 2020).

Breeding Considerations

Responsible cat breeding involves carefully considering why you want to breed, choosing healthy parent cats, ensuring proper prenatal and postnatal care, placing kittens in good homes, and being prepared for lifetime responsibility of cats you produce according to RESPONSIBLE CAT BREEDING GUIDELINES.

Breeders should have a goal of improving the breed and produce healthy, well-socialized kittens. Choose parent cats from healthy lines with good temperaments. Ensure the queen is mature enough for breeding and provide proper veterinary care. Kittens should only go to responsible owners who understand cat care and are prepared for a long-term commitment.

Never breed just to make money or produce more cats, as cat overpopulation is a serious issue. Take lifetime responsibility for any cats you produce that cannot be homed. Overall, focus on the health and welfare of the cats rather than business interests when breeding.


In summary, if an unspayed female cat does not mate, she will continue to go into heat cycles until she eventually does mate or is spayed. This can lead to behavioral changes like restlessness and loud vocalizing as she tries to attract mates. It also poses certain health risks like uterine infections and breast cancer if she goes through repeated heat cycles without pregnancy. Some cats may develop pseudopregnancy after a heat, displaying mothering behaviors without being pregnant. While it is best to spay cats not intended for breeding, owners who want kittens should learn the signs of heat cycles, introduce their female to an unneutered male when receptive, and monitor mating to ensure pregnancy. With proper preparation and education, cat owners can better understand feline reproduction.

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