All female felines that aren’t spayed will eventually go through heat (or the period where a cat is fertile and ready to mingle). Typically, this first happens between 6 and 9 months of age, but cats can reach sexual maturity as young as 4 months of age. If a cat doesn’t mate it will continue to happen every few weeks during the mating season.1
A cat’s mating season depends on certain environmental conditions such as temperature and the amount of daylight hours. In the Northern Hemisphere, cats usually have heat cycles from January to late fall. Indoor cats with regulated lighting and temperature can potentially stay in heat all year round if not spayed or mated! If you’ve never owned a feline before, though, you might not recognize the signs of heat when they occur.
What are these signs? There are nine signs that can indicate a female cat has gone into heat. A couple of these signs can be a bit alarming the first time you see them, but don’t worry—your pet is fine! Keep reading for the nine typical signs your cat is in heat.
The 9 Signs a Cat Is in Heat
1. Overly Affectionate
Some (but not all) kitties may become overly affectionate when going through heat. They may come up to you to rub all over you and seek love. How can you tell if this affection is due to heat rather than just the normal kind? If your pet is usually the affectionate sort, you’ll be able to tell the difference by the way the kitty will lift its tail or go into the mating position while it engages in this affectionate behavior.
2. Escape Attempts
Blame feline instincts, but when a female cat is in heat, its main focus is on finding a male to mate with. This can mean your cat may try to escape from your home to seek out a male cat. Your kitty might spend more time staring intently out a window or run to the door the moment it’s opened. So, if your pet does this and it’s not normal behavior, it’s likely due to being in heat.
3. Genital Grooming
You already know that cats are big on grooming and spend a good part of each day doing so. But when a feline is in heat, it might concentrate more on grooming the genitals than other body parts. So, if you see your cat grooming here constantly, it could be in heat. However, excessive grooming of the genital area may be a sign of a urinary tract disorder, too, so if you don’t see any other signs of heat in your kitty, you should consider a vet visit!2
4. Loss of Appetite
Yet another sign your feline may be in heat is loss of appetite. While in heat, your cat has other, more important things on its mind than eating (mostly finding a mate). So, if the kitty is eating less, this could be why but get her checked out by a vet if you are unsure.
A cat in heat will appear more restless than usual. The cat might pace back and forth in front of doors and windows or just seem to have difficulty finding a place or position that’s comfortable. It’s challenging to stay still and in one place when instincts tell you it’s time to mate!
This won’t occur with all felines, but a cat in heat may begin urine to try and attract male cats. A cat’s urine is full of pheromones, so spraying it everywhere lets any male in the area know that she is ready to mate. This is also a sign of a urinary tract infection, or a sign that your cat is stressed. So if your pet isn’t showing other signs of heat, you might want to contact your vet.
7. More Tactile
Body language is always a good indicator of how your cat is feeling, and it’s no different during heat. When your pet is in the mood to mate, you’ll notice that kitty can’t seem to walk more than a few steps without rubbing against whatever is closest. Your pet might also be rolling around on the floor a lot. Why do this? Rubbing against everything in sight allows the kitty to spread its scent around and attract the attention of any nearby male cats.
8. The Mating Position
This is probably the biggest indicator that your cat is in heat—she will, at times, get into the mating position. This pose will see your cat putting its head down with its front legs bent while lifting its rear with a raised tail moved to one side. And chances are good that when your cat takes this position, you’ll see the hind legs treading the ground (a move that is thought to aid ovulation).
9. Increased Vocalization
The other clearest sign your feline is experiencing heat is how it vocalizes. While in heat, cats tend to get louder and “talk” more than is the norm. Kitty might meow every hour of the day or even start yowling (which can be a bit frightening the first time you experience it). This increased vocalization is another attempt to lure in any male felines in the area for mating.
FAQ About Feline Heats
People tend to have lots of questions about the feline heat cycle (particularly if they are first-time cat parents). Here are some of the more frequently asked ones!
How long will a cat be in heat?
If a cat mates, the heat will be over within 24–48 hours. But if the kitty does not mate, a heat cycle will typically last about a week (though it can be anywhere from 2–19 days).
How old must a cat be to become pregnant?
It depends on the breed, but felines can experience their first heat between 4 and 18 months of age (although the norm is 6–9 months). And cats of any age can get pregnant during heat.
Is there a breeding season for felines?
Felines tend to go into heat when there’s more sunlight (between 14 and 16 hours a day), so in the U.S., this would be anywhere from January to October.
Can you keep a cat from going into heat?
You can by having your pet spayed. Once your cat is spayed, she won’t have a heat again.
All unspayed female felines will go through heat, so it’s important to know the signs. While experiencing heat, a cat might do several things, such as trying to escape the home, becoming incredibly loud and vocal, or spreading pheromones all over the place in an attempt to let male cats know it’s time to mate. However, if you want to avoid having a kitty in heat, you simply need to have your pet spayed!