How Long Does a Cat Stay In Heat?
Being a cat owner means dealing with your cat’s reproductive cycles, urges, and behaviors. If you have a female cat, one of the things you will ask yourself is, “How long does a cat stay in heat?” You won’t see any bleeding or notice behavioral changes in cats in heat, but the thing you will notice is - cats in heat become more vocal. It can be difficult to deal with, and many cat owners confuse cats in heat with mysterious diseases. If you have a female cat, here are a few things you absolutely have to know about the cat’s heat cycle.
The heat cycle is scientifically called the estrus cycle. When a female cat reaches sexual maturity, she will start going into heat cycles, which means she is ready to produce kittens. Estrus is when the female cat starts being receptive to male cats. The full heat cycle consists of 5 stages: proestrus, estrus, diestrus, interestrus, and anestrus.
Proestrus is the first stage of a cat’s heat cycle. The cat shouldn’t exhibit any physical or behavioral changes during this stage. The most noticeable thing female cats do during this time is spray urine around their territory to attract mating partners.
Estrus is the second stage of the heat cycle. This is what we refer to as “in heat.” Cats in heat will attract mates and be receptive to mating. The cat will exhibit behavioral changes, and female cats have to mate 4 - 6 times during heat to become pregnant. The first act of mating will trigger the cat’s ovulation.
The diestrus stage happens if the cat becomes pregnant. During that time, the most dominant hormone is progesterone, and the cat’s fertilized eggs should migrate to the uterus. About 84% of embryos will survive and successfully implant in the uterus.
Interestrus comes into play if the female cat doesn’t become pregnant. This stage can be described as the time between two heat cycles. The cat’s estrogen levels will fall, and she won’t exhibit any changes.
The anestrus stage is the stage when the heat cycle stops. Cats' heat cycles are seasonal, which means these stages will exchange during the mating season. When a cat reaches anestrus (usually between October and January), she cannot become pregnant, nor will she be interested in mating or attracting partners.
The cat’s heat cycle will depend on several things. Cats are seasonally polyestrous, which means they will go through several heat cycles during the mating season. The estrus stage, or the “heat” stage, usually lasts several days. The average length is 6 days. If the cat doesn’t get pregnant, she will reach the interestrus cycle, which will last briefly.
The full estrus cycle of cats can last anywhere from 1 - 6 weeks, and the average cycle lasts 3 weeks.
FUN FACT: Unspayed, sexually mature cats are called Queens, and unneutered, sexually matured males are called Tomcats.
We already briefly mentioned cats will have several cycles during the breeding season, so the next logical question would be - when does that happen? Well, the breeding season will depend on several things like geographic location, climate, and living conditions.
Cat owners need to understand that a cat’s hormones are triggered by long exposure to light. During the part of the year when days are longer (spring to fall), the cat can be in the breeding season. However, if you live near the equator and the days are always long, and the weather is warm, the cat breeding season can last year-round. The same is valid for indoor cats. They are exposed to vast amounts of artificial lights, which means their breeding season lasts all year.
If you still have a kitten that hasn’t matured yet, you should be prepared because cats reach puberty pretty fast. Cats can go in their first heat cycle as early as 4 months. The average for all cats is about 6 months. If you want to avoid your cat going in heat, you should talk to your vet and ask about possible solutions, but keep in mind that the possible solution is spaying. Your vet can tell you when that procedure will be safe for your cat.
Unlike female dogs, female cats should not bleed when in heat. If you’re a new owner, that means noticing your cat’s first heat cycle can be tricky. However, if you know what to look for, you can notice it pretty easily. Here are the most common signs you can notice in cats in heat;
- The cat became very affectionate (even needy and demanding)
- The cat persistently rubs against the owner or furniture
- A constant need for attention
- Rolling on the floor
- Very vocal
- Frequent urination
- Urine spraying (marking)
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Most veterinarians don’t know precisely when the first cycle will begin. Unfortunately, it is impossible to know for sure. Your vet might recommend you to have your cat spayed before the first cycle happens when the cat reaches 6 months. You will prevent unwanted behaviors and escape attempts (yes, some cats attempt to run away from home searching for partners). However, your cat is individual, and just because something is a general rule doesn’t mean it applies to your cat. Make sure you talk to your vet and see what the best option for your cat is.
World Cat Finder Team