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How Often & Long Cats Are Cats in Heat? Vet-Reviewed Facts & FAQs

Kristin Hitchcock

By Kristin Hitchcock

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Reviewed & Fact-Checked By

Dr. Maja Platisa

In-House Veterinarian, DVM MRCVS

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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If you don’t get your female cat spayed, she will go into heat eventually. Cats will begin going into heat around the time they hit puberty, and they will continue to go into heat for the majority of their life.

Most cats hit puberty around 6-9 months of age. However, larger felines may take longer to reach puberty and go into heat. Time of year can also affect when a cat will technically reach puberty.

After cats hit puberty, how often and how long they are in heat depends on a variety of factors, but typically, a cat will go into heat seasonally, with a heat cycle lasting an average of around 7 days.

How Often Are Cats in Heat?

Cats mate seasonally, like most mammals. They will usually have multiple cycles over their “breeding season.” However, this breeding season can last for nearly the whole year in some circumstances.

The time of the breeding season varies, though. It depends on your local weather, daylight hours, and temperature. Usually, the breeding season ranges from January to late fall in the Northern Hemisphere. 

Cats that live in tropical regions or spend their time indoors may cycle all year round because of the higher number of daylight hours. It can also vary from cat to cat.

There is no way to know when a cat will go into heat for sure. However, you can watch for common signs, which often occur a few days before a feline is technically ready to breed.

cat in heat bends in an arm chair
Image Credit: iwciagr, Shutterstock

How Long Are Cats in Heat?

How long a cat stays in heat can vary considerably. In the wild, cats would stay in heat until they mated with another cat (or several other cats, as it sometimes goes). However, the typical owner is trying to prevent this from happening. Therefore, it is usually other factors that affect how long a female stays in heat.

The average heat cycle lasts about 7 days. However, it can vary from cat to cat. Some cats may even be in heat for 3 weeks, while in others, it lasts a day or two.

Cats can get into heat for as many as 20 times during the year! If the average heat is around 7 days, this is 140 days. That’s a considerable chunk of time. It all depends on the climate and daylight hours, as well as the cat.

If cats don’t become pregnant during their heat cycle, they will often go back into heat after a short period. Cats that don’t become pregnant will have more heat cycles in a season than those that do.

Once the cat’s body realizes they’re not pregnant, they will gear up to try again. This cycle will continue throughout the whole breeding season.


What Are the Signs of a Cat Going Into Heat?

The very first signs that your cat is going in heat are often behavioral. During this time, your feline’s hormones will change. Therefore, her behaviors will often change as well!

Many cats rub against their owners more than usual. They become very demanding of affection and may even persistently rub up against furniture. When their backs are stroked, they may raise the rear quarters and stomp their back feet a few times. Typically, this is one of the last behaviors to occur, though.

Many females will become highly vocal. They may meow more at their owners and other household members, or they may seemingly meow at nothing. Some cats will meow in the middle of the night, which can be pretty troublesome for their owners. It’s a bit like having a crying baby, except nothing you do will make the cat stop meowing for very long. 

However, keep in mind that howling and yowling particularly may occur with certain serious medical conditions or trauma, so if your cat is not in heat and they have suddenly started yowling or are in distress, they need to be seen by your vet urgently.

Some females will begin to urinate more frequently and may even exhibit marking behaviors. Accidents outside the litter box are not uncommon during this period. A female’s urine contains pheromones, which will let nearby males know of her breeding status.  Of course, you don’t have any males in your home (hopefully), but the cat’s hormones don’t know that. These signs will continue while your cat is in heat.

Again, if your cat is not in heat and they are having urine accidents, straining to urinate, passing blood in urine, or seem uncomfortable, they should be checked out by your vet promptly.

Should You Let Your Cat Go Into Heat Before Spaying?

neutering cat
Image Credit: Simon Kadula, Shutterstock

There is no reason to let a female cat go into heat before spaying her. There is no evidence that a heat cycle affects the cat’s temperament or health. Cats can become pregnant during their first heat cycle. While some cats have undeniable signs that they are in heat, others do not. It can be challenging to know when you should start quarantining your feline away from males. It is relatively easy for cats to become pregnant before they show any apparent signs.

Furthermore, if you have male cats in your house, they can indiscriminately mate with the female, whether they are related or not. This can lead to inbreeding problems and overpopulation issues. Many kittens end up in shelters due to accidental breedings that occur when their mothers are very young.

Having a litter of kittens does not make a female more friendly or pleasant. It also doesn’t improve her health. Having a litter can be very trying on a female’s body, particularly if she is a kitten still herself, potentially leading to all sorts of problems later down the road.

How Can You Get Your Cat Out of Heat?

There is no way to get your cat out of heat. She will stay in heat until her heat cycle is over. It’s that simple. The only way to get a cat out of heat is to mate her with a male. Even in these circumstances, it isn’t odd for females to stay in heat throughout the rest of their cycle – they won’t go back into heat afterward.

If you want to make your cat stop being in heat, the best thing to do is to get her spayed beforehand. This procedure will prevent the feline from going into heat for the rest of her life, eliminating this problem.

There are many potential ways to try and “calm” a female cat while in heat. You should keep her away from males and continue to fulfill her needs. However, the behaviors a cat exhibits while in heat are normal and biologically appropriate. There isn’t much you can do to “fix” your cat when she doesn’t need fixing, to begin with.

How Do You Stop a Cat in Heat From Meowing?

cat meowing
Image Credit: Stanimir G.Stoev, Shutterstock

You don’t. The only way to prevent a cat in heat from meowing is to get her out of heat, and that takes time and patience. It is relatively normal for cats to meow during the night and periods of the day while in heat. They are trying to call males to their location. This behavior is normal, and there isn’t anything you can do to stop it.

If you don’t want to deal with the meowing and urine spraying, your best option is to spay your feline so she won’t go into heat again!

If you have a male, he will probably meow and pace as well. Some males even stop eating when they smell a female nearby that is in heat. While you can separate your cats to prevent pregnancy, both will continue their often loud (and annoying) behaviors until the female comes out of heat.

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Cats are technically seasonal breeders. They have a mating season and will go into heat multiple times over that season. However, when precisely the season takes place varies from location to location.

Cats in southern climates will often have longer breeding seasons than those in northern climates. Your cat doesn’t look at the calendar to determine when to go into heat – her body pays attention to the amount of daylight and the temperature.

Once cats hit puberty, they will go in heat every few weeks during her breeding season. Each in-heat period will last about 7 days. However, it isn’t odd for some cats to stay in heat for only 3 days, while others stay in heat for 3 weeks. If the female doesn’t become pregnant during this period, she will go into heat again shortly afterward. Once her body realizes she didn’t get pregnant, it will kick in for another cycle!

If you don’t want your feline to go into heat, you should plan on spaying her before her first cycle. Cats can be very sneaky about their first cycles and may end up pregnant before you realize they even went into heat at all!

Featured Image Credit: christels, Pixabay

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