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All You Need to Know About Cats in Heat

Going into heat is a natural part of a female cat's reproductive cycle. If you haven’t had a cat spayed before her first time in heat—which can happen while she is still considered a kitten—this guide will tell you what to watch for and what to do to calm her and keep her from becoming pregnant. Be sure to schedule an appointment for spaying before her next cycle starts.

Signs your cat is in heat

Unspayed female cats will go into heat (or estrus) as early as four months old. During this time, your cat will be searching for a mate.

Estrus can last a few days or even up to a week, and unmated cats will experience heat a few times a year.

What are the signs?

Vocalizing: The number one sign is a cry that sounds like she’s in pain. It’s perfectly normal, but because cats are nocturnal, she may keep you up at night.

Restlessness: Your kitty will be pacing and trying to escape the house every chance she gets—especially if she sees a male cat outside.

Excessive rubbing: She’ll become extra-affectionate, rubbing on you and the furniture. Her scent glands are located in her cheeks, and she may rub her face on you or other objects as well.

Spraying: Marking territory and peeing outside the litter box may occur.

Presenting her “backside”: Raising her pelvis and swishing her tail to one side indicates she’s assuming the “mating” position.

Tips to calm her

Isolation: Keeping her inside away from windows, or with blinds drawn, is crucial. If she spies any male cats outside the window, it’s going to agitate her further.

Petting: Be sure to give her extra affection at this time; lots of stroking, cuddling and brushing too.

Playing: Surprise her with a new toy and spend time with her. She needs your attention.

Cleaning: Change the litter box and clean up any of her “markings” immediately.

Spaying: This will eliminate the cycle and prevent unwanted litters as well.

Warning signs

Bloody discharge: Cats in heat do not normally secrete blood. If you see a discharge, take her to the vet immediately.

Excessive licking of her genitals: A cat in heat will lick her genitals, but if it seems excessive, she may have a urinary tract infection and should see a veterinarian.