Estrus or heat cycles are a normal part of caring for a female cat. However, the first heat cycle can be challenging.
Not only are you trying to keep your cat comfortable and healthy, but you’re also trying to manage their changed behaviors and protect your home and other pets.
Keep reading if you’re curious about how to help a cat in heat. You’ll find some practical tips and tricks below.
Symptoms of a Cat in Heat
Need help to determine if your cat is in heat? Here are some of the most common signs you might notice:
- They’re more affectionate than usual
- They rub up against you, your furniture, and other objects
- They’re louder and more vocal (meowing, wailing, etc.)
- They urinate more frequently
- They’re restless and have trouble settling down
- Their appetite decreases
Cats in heat urinate more often, and their urine contains pheromones and hormones signaling their reproductive status.
Male cats may show up in your yard when they detect the scent of a cat in heat. They may also spray urine on or around the house or attempt to get inside to mate with your female cat.
It’s important to note that cats in heat don’t bleed (unlike female dogs). If you see blood in your cat’s urine or around their genitals, it may indicate a urinary tract infection or another health issue requiring a vet’s attention.
How Long Is a Heat Cycle?
Each heat cycle lasts about seven days on average. However, each cat is unique, and their cycles may range from 1-21 days.
If a female cat doesn’t mate during their estrus cycle, they will go out of heat for about seven days. Most cycles last about three weeks altogether, but they can also range from one to six weeks.
What Does the Heat Cycle Look Like?
A lot happens in your cat’s body during their heat cycle. Each cycle consists of 4-5 different stages:
- Proestrus: Lasts 1-2 days, usually does not cause any behavior changes
- Estrus: Lasts around seven days and is associated with behavioral changes; female cats are more receptive to males and can become pregnant during this stage
- Interestrus: If a cat hasn’t ovulated, this phase comes next and lasts about 13-18 days.
- Diestrus: Occurs when a cat has ovulated and mates with a male
- Anestrus: This is the absence of a heat cycle. It may occur during the winter when there are fewer daylight hours, particularly for cats that spend a lot of time outdoors.
Your cat’s first heat cycle will typically start when they’re between 6-9 months old. However, some cycles begin as early as four months or as late as 12 months.
How Often Do Cats Go Into Heat?
An intact female cat that doesn’t get pregnant during her heat cycle will go through heat very often. They may experience heat every 2-3 weeks!
How to Help a Cat in Heat
When your cat is in heat, they need extra care and support from you. The following are some specific steps you can take to help them:
Keep Your Cat Distracted
Heat cycles can be uncomfortable for cats (although most experts agree they aren’t painful).
To help your cat manage this discomfort, try to keep them distracted. Play with new toys, especially treat-filled ones that provide mental stimulation. You can also try teaching them simple tricks (yes, you can trick-train cats just like dogs).
Clean Litter Box
Because your cat will urinate more frequently during their heat cycle, you should be diligent about keeping their litter box clean. A dirty litter box may cause the cat to search for other places in your house to urinate.
Give Cat Blankets, Heat Packs or Hot Towels
The warmth from blankets, heat packs, and hot towels can provide additional comfort for your cat and help them sleep.
Keep the Cat Away From (Male) Cats
Keep your cat indoors during their heat cycle. Close your cat flap if you have one, and keep windows shut so they don’t sneak out.
Make sure intact male cats stay away, too. They may even try to sneak into your house, so be vigilant about watching for them during this time.
If your cat mates with a male while in heat, they will likely get pregnant.
Give Her Lots of Attention
Cats in heat tend to be needier and more affectionate. As much as you can, give them the attention they’re seeking, whether that’s from playing, learning tricks, or cuddling on the couch.
How to Prevent a Cat From Going Into Heat?
The most effective way to prevent a cat from going into heat is to get them spayed. During the spay procedure, a veterinarian will remove the cat’s ovaries. As a result, they will no longer go through heat cycles.
Most female cats get spayed around 6-9 months of age. Going through this procedure eliminates the discomfort of heat cycles and also offers additional health benefits, including a reduced risk of the following conditions:
- Breast cancer
- Pyometra (a life-threatening condition that causes the reproductive organ to collect pus)
- Vaginal hyperplasia (swelling of the vaginal wall)
- Cysts, infections, or cancers of the ovaries or uterus
It’s a myth that your cat should go through a heat cycle or have a litter of kittens before getting spayed. This approach has no proven health benefits, and it can contribute to overpopulation issues (meaning more strays and cats in shelters).
Get an Expert Opinion on Your Cat’s Health Today
Now that you know more about what happens to a cat in heat and how to care for them properly, follow the above guidelines to manage this period and keep your cat healthy.
Are you interested in getting your cat spayed so you don’t have to worry about heat cycles? Do you need additional advice on how to help a cat in heat? Either way, the Cooper Pet Care team is here for you. Contact us today, and we can connect you with a vet virtually in no time!