The feline world is a strange one. Cats have their own unique way of social interaction, which includes finding a mate. They have their own way of attracting potential mates, which also depends on the season. As the warmer weather sets in, you may begin to notice your female cat exhibit unusual behaviors. They might try to escape the house more often, make weird sounds, and even be excessively restless. During this time, your female cat may be in heat.
When in heat, female cats are most fertile and will instinctively attempt to mate with males and get pregnant. But can female cats get pregnant even when they aren’t in heat? The simple answer is no. Female cats can only mate with males while they are in heat.
Still curious? Read on as we discuss your female cat’s heat cycle, and why they can’t get pregnant outside of their heat season.
What Does “Being in Heat” Mean?
Being in heat simply means that your cat is fertile and receptive to mating. When a cat is in heat, they will exhibit various changes in behavior to attract males and attempt to procreate, which is more common during the warmer seasons.
A cat in heat will have to mate three to five times before getting pregnant, and can also mate with different males. Because of this, a litter of cats can have different fathers, depending on the males that the female cat has mated with.
Although a typical heat cycle can last for about three weeks, the stage of estrus, which is when a cat is actually in heat, can last anywhere between one to seven days.
Cats can also go through the heat cycle every two to three weeks, depending on the weather. Because cats can undergo multiple heat cycles in a year, it may seem that they’ve gotten pregnant while she wasn’t in heat, but in reality, they may have just gone through the heat cycle again without you noticing!
Signs of Being in Heat
When your female is in estrus, or in heat, you might notice changes in behavior. Here are some behaviors that your female cat may exhibit when in heat:
- They are louder and noisier than usual
- They constantly attempt to go outside
- They may show more affection than usual
- Increased exposure of genitalia by raising posterior and moving tail
- They may mark their territory more than usual
Note that some female cats may be in heat without exhibiting any signs of heat. This is called being in silent heat, and although they do not show any changes in behavior, they are very much fertile and are able to get pregnant. Many owners can easily mistake their cats as getting pregnant when they aren’t in heat without noticing that they are actually going through silent heat.
The Normal Heat Cycle
Estrus, or being in heat, is the second stage of the entire heat cycle. A female cat will typically go through a heat cycle every two to three weeks, which can last up to three weeks at a time. Multiple heat cycles occur throughout the year, but happen more often during the warmer months of the year.
The first stage of the cycle is proestrus, which involves a female attracting a male without showing any signs of heat. The proestrus stage lasts for one to two days, and then moves on to the estrus stage which is when the female cat is in heat. Estrus can last for one to seven days, and during this time, they are most likely to get pregnant.
Diestrus is the stage that follows, which occurs if the female cat does get pregnant, wherein the fertilized egg goes into their natural development to become embryos.
If the female does not get pregnant, the cat goes into interestrus, which is the stage in between heat cycles. During this time, the cat will not display any signs of being in heat until the next cycle occurs, lasting anywhere between one to three weeks.
A female cat can also enter anestrus, when she is reproductively dormant due to her hormones being inactive. This typically occurs during the colder seasons, when the temperature isn’t conducive for reproduction and cats receive only a limited amount of light.
How to Deal With a Cat in Heat
When your cat is in heat, it is important to identify their changes in behavior in order to properly deal with them. Your cat can be clingier and more affectionate, so it is important to spend more time with your cat by bonding with them.
Your cat may also be restless and constantly attempt to go outside to attract a mate. When in heat, secure the perimeter to prevent any unwanted escapes by keeping the doors and other exits locked.
They can also mark their territory more often, so be prepared to clean up after their potty.
How to Avoid Unwanted Pregnancies
Cats can become sexually mature as early as six months of age. When a cat enters their first heat cycle at six months old, they can already get pregnant. To avoid any unwanted pregnancies, you might want to spay your cat as early as possible.
Spaying is a surgical procedure that involves removing parts of a female cat’s reproductive system to keep your cat from getting pregnant. While surgical procedures may seem intimidating, spaying is considered a low risk procedure with little to no medical complications post-operatively.
So if you have no plans of getting your cat pregnant and dealing with a litter of kittens, it’s best to spay your cat as soon as possible!
Female cats naturally go through a heat cycle when they are in optimal physical and hormonal shape for getting pregnant. While cats cannot get pregnant when they aren’t in heat, cats can go into heat multiple times in a year, and more often during the warmer and more comfortable seasons. Some cats can also go into a silent heat, when they exhibit no signs of being in heat.
To prevent any unwanted pregnancies, it is best to have your cat spayed as soon as possible!