Cats can stay in heat for a long time, and sometimes it seems like they come into heat several times a year.
How Long Are Cats in Heat? According to several sources [1, 2, 3], cats are in heat for 6 to 10 days on average, can last up to 21 days, and happens multiple times a year. If she doesn’t mate (or is not spayed) it will keep coming back every 2-3 weeks.
This period can be very uncomfortable for both cats, and cat owners.
During this time, the cat’s behavior can become overwhelming for some cat owners, as the cat becomes highly vocal, even frantic until she mates, or is spayed (fixed). If your cat doesn’t mate during this period, she will go out of the heat for a short period of time, and come back again into the heat cycle shortly afterward.
What can you do about it? Well, one of the answers is to spay your cat.
Other things include petting your cat more or having more playtime. Sometimes it’s the opposite: leaving her alone and making her comfortable is the only thing you can do. Check below for what else you can do.
How Often Do Cats Go Into Heat?
Cats are polyoestrous, meaning they go into heat multiple times a year, during their breeding season.
How long the season lasts will depend mainly on the temperature and daylight hours. Usually, it’s from early spring to late autumn. Those that live in colder parts usually go into heat from March to September, while those in the warmer regions can go into heat during the entire year.
Your cat will probably go into heat every 2 to 3 weeks for 6 to 10 days (on average), or until she has mated or is fixed.
An indoor cat that is exposed to artificial light constantly, may go into heat all the time, and all year round. This is because cats mostly go into heat based on the number of hours a day has.
When the sun is up for approximately 10 hours out of the entire day, which for the Western Hemisphere (Americas) occurs mostly between March and September, that’s when the female cats go into heat.
During this time, the cat will howl (caterwaul), be affectionate and look for a male cat to mate. If it doesn’t happen, the heat cycle will diminish for a few days up to 2 weeks, then start all over again.
The factor that will mostly affect the season when the cat will go into heat, is the number of daily hours out of the entire 24-hour day.
What is Cat Heat Cycle?
Cat heat cycle is a period in female cats’ life when she is sexually receptive (in heat).
How long will heat cycle last depends on several factors. The full heat cycle of a female cat can last from 1 to 6 weeks.
Most cats will experience their first heat cycles at 4 to 6 months old and can become pregnant in their very first heat cycle.
We can distinguish 4 stages in a cat’s heat cycle:
- First comes “proestrus”, during which the cat is attractive to males but is not willing to mate yet. She is vocal, raises her behind, and is more affectionate.
- Then comes “estrus”, when the cat is receptive to sexual activity, becomes more vocal and even frantic. Lasts for 7 days on average, before subsiding for several days (or until she mates)
A cat only ovulates if she mates, and if no ovulation takes place, her body goes into the period called “interestrus”, which is a combination of diestrus and anestrus.
- If ovulation does occur then comes “diestrus”. If the cat is pregnant, then the pregnancy lasts about 2 months. If she is not pregnant, then diestrus is termed a false pregnancy and will last for about 40 days.
- Finally, there is “anestrus” period of the decreased fertility cycle which lasts from late fall through winter.
Signs That Your Cat is In Heat
Hormonal changes when your cat goes into heat can have a powerful effect on her behavior.
Some cats will show more signs, some less, but every female cat has a couple of signs that show she is in the heat cycle.
These are the most noticeable behavioral signs:
- Your cat will become more affectionate. She’ll keep rubbing against you, weave around your ankles and purr very often
- She’ll also rub against furniture very often
- She will also seek attention and roll on the floor more than usual, and she will assume a mating position by placing her head down and raising her hindquarters and tail
- Some females will start spraying urine, which contains pheromones that act as signals to males. This means she is ready to mate, and she may keep doing it as long as she is in heat,
- The one sign that everyone hears: howling, or caterwauling to let the males know that she is in heat and ready to mate.
- She may also be demanding or pushy or beg to go outside
There are other signs of a cat in heat, but behavioral ones are the easiest to notice.
Here is a video of a cat in the heat:
Is it Painful for Your Cats to Go Through Long Heat Cycles?
Most of the evidence shows that heat cycles don’t directly hurt the cat, but having a litter at a very young age, or having constant heat cycles is very hard on the cat’s body.
Even though being in heat may not directly hurt her, it certainly will have its toll down the road, and constant heat cycles are definitely discomforting.
When your female cat goes into heat, nature is pushing her to obey hormones and mate, and she just can’t help it. If it lasts for a long time, and she doesn’t mate or doesn’t get pregnant it can put a lot of pressure on her body.
She will often roll on the floor, yowl, walk around constantly and go out to find a tomcat, or she will go crazy (just as you might from all the howling).
Plus, all those hormones keep bombarding her body constantly.
There is also a slight risk of growing ovarian cancer as well, which can be prevented by having your cat spayed (or your male cat neutered).
Spaying your female cat is highly recommended by pet organizations and most veterinarians. Most pet organizations will recommend spaying your cat as soon as it is safe to do so unless you want to have kittens to take care of, and your cat is in good health to give birth.
What to Do When Your Cat is in Heat for a Long Time?
If your cat is in the heat for a very long time, you can do several things. Most importantly, you calm your cat in heat and help your sanity as well at the same time.
Here is what you can do:
- Extra petting and brushing. Most cats (but not all) may want some extra petting and physical constant in general. This will help her calm down and ease some of the anxiety and restlessness.
- Play with your cat more often if she wants to. Most cats will welcome more playtime. The urge to mate is in hurr instinct, so you need to use a distraction.
- Keep your cat as far away from male cats as possible. She can easily smell a male tomcat from a mile away, so keeping her isolated will help reduce the excitement a bit.
- Some cats prefer to be alone when in heat. If she is irritable or aggressive give her space, and make sure she is comfortable.
- Play her music. Some cats really love listening to music. Try this video:
- If the cat is spraying urine around your house, some people have said that you can encourage her to spray in the litter box, by cleaning up the box regularly. It didn’t work for me though…
- Try Herbal remedies or this calming collar.
Many people have said that this helps calm their cat, and for some people it’s the only thing that helps.
- Spay your cat. For some cats, this can be the best thing to do, as it may not only prevent your cat from going into heat, but also will stop all the erratic behavior, spraying and howling. Many pet organizations strongly suggest spaying or neutering your cat as soon as it is safe to do so, unless you plan on having some kittens, and your cat is healthy to give birth.
Can You Spay Your Cat in Heat?
It’s possible to spay your cat in heat, but not recommended. Many vets prefer not to spay the cat while in heat, even if it lasts for long.
The main reason for this is that the feline’s reproductive organs and related blood vessels are swelling with blood, so the surgery – Ovariohysterectomy, may be more difficult to do.
The ovariohysterectomy is the typical “spay” when the ovaries, fallopian tubes, and uterus are removed from your female cat. This makes her unable to reproduce and it also eliminates her heat cycle and other instinct-related behavior.
And while it can be done, and many cat owners do so, it may be best to wait until the heat cycle diminishes a bit.
Why Spay or Neuter Your Cat?
According to American Veterinary Medical Association, every year millions of cats and dogs, including kittens and puppies are euthanized because of pet overpopulation.
But, as responsible pet owners, we can make a difference, and veterinarians will recommend spaying your female cats (and neutering your male cats), not only for this reason but for several others as well (keep reading).
How long to wait before spaying your cat depends, but most pet organizations suggest doing it as soon as it is safe to do so.
If your cat is healthy, and any future kittens are being taken care of, you would think there couldn’t be any reasons to spay your female or neuter your male cat.
But, there are still a few reasons. Whether or not you do it, always consult a veterinarian to know the health condition of your cats.
First, according to AVMA.org, every year millions of unwanted dogs and cats, including puppies and kittens are euthanized, because of pet overpopulation. You can make a difference by spaying or neutering your cat.
Second, according to both AAHA (American Veterinary Medical Association) and AVMA.org, spaying your cat can help greatly decrease the risk of mammary cancer, which is fatal in about 90% of cats. Neutering your male cat will prevent spraying in male cats, and slightly reduce the risk of testicular cancer.
Third, for female cats, it will prevent heat cycles.
This means it will eliminate yowling and erratic behavior, while neutering male cats reduces some behaviors, like roaming around to find a mate, marking its territory, or fighting other males.
Females can become pregnant on their very first estrous cycle, and they will continue to conceive all their life. There is no equivalent to menopause because cats do not menstruate.
These are all fairly good reasons to spay your cat, but it’s completely up to you. Many cat owners had cats all their lives without fixing them, and there is nothing wrong with that if the cat is healthy and there are no complications.
Do Cats Stay in Heat After Mating?
Mating itself may not immediately end the heat cycle, even if your cat is pregnant. However, mating will end the heat cycle, just may not end it right away.
After your cat gives birth, in about 8 weeks the cat will return to the heat cycle. Some cats have what is called “false pregnancy”. The cat will show all the signs of being pregnant, it will last for about 40 days and then return to normal.
Do Male Cats Go Into Heat?
No, male cats do not go into heat, only females do. They do, however, caterwaul or yowl during the female heat cycle. This is the main characteristic of a tomcat (unneutered male cat) during the female’s cycle.
Tomcats (toms) will do this, first, to advertise themselves to females that they are available to mate, and second, to warn off other potential male cats. Another thing they do is spray urine to mark the territory before they attempt to mate.