Like other mammals, female cats go through physical circles that get them ready to fertilize and breed.
This cycle is called “estrus”, or more common “in heat”. But what about male cats and how long do a female and male cat stay in heat? Keep scrolling for the answers!
Female cats in heat
Typically, all unspayed female cats (queens) experience “estrus” or, in other words, go into heat seasonally in the Spring and the Fall and may repeat multiple times a year until they are either mated or spayed.
As days are longer in Spring and Fall, the queen’s reproductive hormones are stimulated by the warmth and sunlight. In-door cats that are exposed to home light daily can go into heat anytime.
In general, the first estrus cycle starts at about 6 or 9 months of age. However, some cats can have their first estrus cycle as early as 4 months old, whereas some late bloomers will have theirs at about 1 year old.
How long does a female cat stay in heat? A female cat’s heat cycles last a week on average but can vary from several days to 2 weeks. If mating is not achieved during the cycle, cats will go into heat again after 2 or 3 weeks.
There are 5 stages in the feline estrus cycle
Proestrus (1 – 2 days)
This is when female cats may be attracted to unneutered male cats but are unwilling to mate. No specific signs are shown during this stage.
Estrus (3 days – 2 weeks)
This is the heat stage when queens are ready to mate. Many outward signs such as vocalizing loudly, attention-seeking behaviors, elevating her rear end. If pregnant, the queen will go back into heat approximately 8 weeks after giving birth.
Interestrus (2 – 3 weeks)
The pause between heat cycles during the season if the queen is not bred when she stops showing mating desire.
Anestrus (2 – 3 months)
Non-breeding season with the inactive reproductive hormones and the absence of estrus cycles.
Signs that your cat is in heat
From the age of 4 – 6 months, unspayed female cats show quite noticeable signs when she enters the heat cycle.
It is normal to see your cat meowing intensively, raising her hindquarters into the air, rolling on the floor, rubbing her body against things, begging to go outside, spraying urine, licking her genitals, or asking for your affection.
When you pet or stroke the cat, especially near her rear, she will start to go into a mating position, or her legs will start tapping on the floor.
Some cat owners may refer the vocalizing and run away from the house to their cats being in pain, but the purpose of it is just to get attention from the toms (unneutered male cats) and show her eager to mate.
Do note that unlike dogs, cats do not develop bleed from their vaginal opening as a sign of being in heat, so if you see the presence of blood with your cat, visit your vet immediately.
What to do when your cat is in the heat?
A kitten can get pregnant during her very first heat cycle, at a pretty young age.
This is truly risky for both herself and her babies because her body is not fully grown and strong enough to give birth as well as she is not mature enough to take care of her children.
If you let your kitten run outside in her first estrus cycle, she will either get pregnant or get lost/hurt. If you keep her inside, she will go back into the heat cycle again and again until she is bred or spayed.
The repetition over a long time can be unhealthy for the cat, as she will periodically lose her appetite and get stressed.
With that being said, the best solution is to spray your cat if you don’t want her to get pregnant as it will end the heat cycle permanently. It is advised to get your cat spayed before her first heat cycle and not to spay her when she is in heat or pregnant due to the risk of surgical bleeding.
If you do want your cat to breed but want to avoid pregnancy at a young age, you can provide her with some toys to play with to relieve her stress or some calming herbs made only for pets.
Male cats in heat?
Have you ever wondered how long a male cat stays in the heat if you are a Mr. Fluffy’s owner? One important thing to remember is that male cats do not go into the estrus cycle.
Instead, they are ready to mate all the time. They are only aroused when they sense the signs of female cats being in heat by smelling their vaginal or urine spray.
Then, their behaviors could be very annoying. You can deal with your tom when in-heat queens are around by neutering him.
It is – the same with female cats – best to neuter your male cat to stop his unwanted behaviors and prevent him from mating with other unspayed females cat in the neighborhood.
Can a cat go back into heat after spaying?
Typically, female cats do not go into heat again after spaying. However, there are still some cases where your cat appears to be in the heat after the surgery.
This can be caused by some ovarian tissue being left intact during surgery, and this tissue releases hormones that can lead to the heat cycle.
If you notice that your cat has signs of going into heat again after being spayed, visit your vet and get the cat examined.
Above is our basic on the definition of a cat being in heat.
How to notice that your female cats are in heat, how long do a female and male can stay in heat (please note that male cats do not go into heat) and how to deal with cats when they are in heat.
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