Cat in Heat: Signs and What to Do

Lisa Selvaggio
by Lisa Selvaggio
M C Jaarsveld/Shutterstock

If you have an unspayed female cat, it’s just a matter of time before she goes into heat and is ready to mate. But will you be able to recognize that she’s in heat, and will you know what to do? Here’s some basic information on the signs that a cat is in heat and what you can do to make sure your cat doesn’t get pregnant and produce an unwanted litter.

When Do Cats Start Going into Heat?

A cat can go into heat (known as estrus) at a surprisingly young age. On average, her first heat can occur at roughly 6 months old. But some cats will go into heat sooner, such as around 4 months old, or later, such as closer to 1 year old.

Several factors, such as the cat’s breed, her weight and body condition, and the time of year and amount of daylight, influence when a female kitten that hasn’t been spayed will go into heat for the first time. So, it can be difficult to predict when it will happen.

Note: A nursing mother cat with a litter of kittens could go into heat and get pregnant again.

How Long Is a Cat in Heat?

On average, a cat will be in heat for seven days, but it is possible for a cat to be in heat longer, such as for 14 days, or for a shorter period, such as two days. 

If she doesn’t mate, the heat will end but restart a short time later, such as a couple of weeks later. But if she mates, she’ll ovulate and move out of heat in a couple of days. 

Note: Cats can be in heat multiple times throughout the year. The environment they live in and the number of daylight hours can affect if they go into heat.

Signs a Female Cat Is in Heat

Behavioral changes are the main things to look for to determine if your cat is in heat. Here are some of the common signs:

  • Vocalizations – your cat will yowl and meow more loudly and more often than usual
  • Attempts to get outside – your cat will try her best to sneak or dart out the door in search of a mate
  • Changes in posture – your cat will stick her rear end up in the hopes she’ll grab the attention of a male kitty
  • Increased urination or spraying – your cat may urinate more often, and she might mark spots around the house by spraying urine on them
  • Seeking attention – your cat will be more demanding, seeking your attention and affection, and will rub her face and body on people and objects around the house
  • Rolling – your cat will roll around on the floor more than usual
  • Grooming more – your cat will groom herself more, and you may notice her grooming the genital area more

What to Do When Your Cat Is in Heat

Once your cat is in heat, there’s really nothing that you can do about it except wait for it to end. In the meantime, she can easily get pregnant, so it’s important to keep her indoors and away from intact males.

In addition to that, you can try calming her down by giving her your attention. If she’s acting restless, you can encourage her to play with a wand toy, which is perfect for interacting with your pet and showing her you care.  

A good example is the Our Pets Play-N-Squeak at Night Twinkle Mouse Cat Wand. It features a stuffed mouse that squeaks when hit, along with feathers and a long string so your kitty can chase down or jump up and grab her “prey.”

Another option is to give your cat a puzzle feeder filled with treats. This can keep her busy as she works on figuring out the method for getting to the food.

Check out the Nina Ottoson Buggin’ Out Puzzle & Play Cat Puzzle Game, which has multiple compartments in which you can hide treats. And the nice thing about this product is you can adjust the difficulty level to keep your cat guessing after she’s become a pro at getting the treats.

You can also help her stay busy with some new toys, such as irresistible catnip, valerian, or silver vine toys that she can play with on her own to unleash her energy. Once she’s tired from playing, she may want to settle down for a nice nap.

Consider the Yeowww! Stinkies Catnip Sardines. You get three toys that are filled with organically grown catnip, so you can keep them in different rooms throughout your house for when your cat is ready to play. Plus, they come in a cute tin that you can use to store them neatly.

Spay Your Cat to Prevent Heat Cycles

To stop your cat from going into heat, and prevent her from ever getting pregnant, have her spayed by a veterinarian. Work with your vet to schedule the best time for the procedure, and get it done before her first heat cycle if possible. 

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Lisa Selvaggio
Lisa Selvaggio

Lisa Selvaggio is a freelance writer and editor, and our resident cats-pert, with certifications in pet nutrition and pet first aid. She enjoys producing content that helps people understand animals better so they can give their pets a safe and happy home.

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