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How Do I Tell if My Cat is in Heat?


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It's easy to forget that our tiny kittens quickly grow into adult cats. All female cats go through puberty and have a reproductive cycle. 

Usually, by about 6 months old, a female feline will enter heat for the first time. That said, some cats reach sexual maturity quicker than others. Several breeds, including Siamese cats, can go into heat as early as 4 months old. Therefore, it's important to pay attention to the signs your cat is going into heat to avoid a litter of unexpected kittens.

Signs your cat is in heat

If your cat isn't spayed and is between 4 and 12 months old, you should watch for signs your cat is in heat. Common signs your cat is in heat include:

  • Restlessness
  • Increased affection
  • Rolling on the floor
  • Face rubbing
  • Wanting to go outside

One of the most common signs a cat is in heat is vocalization. They'll let out a long, drawn-out yowl. Some cats will also "present" to their pet parents. Female cats in heat are very sensitive to pheromones and will instinctively try to "flirt" with human males by yowling and sticking their behinds in the air.

white and orange cat howling

What should I do if my cat is in heat?

If you want to prevent your cat from getting pregnant, keep them indoors. Cats in heat will seek out and call to intact male cats in your neighborhood, and they won't have any trouble finding a suitor. 

It can be tricky to keep a cat happy indoors, especially if they're used to roaming the neighborhood. Try to keep your cat entertained with a new toy or a puzzle. You should also provide your cat with a cozy, secluded hideout in case they get aggressive or overwhelmed. 

Cats like to keep warm while in heat, so give them a heated blanket to sit on if you can. This should help improve their mood. If you're struggling to keep your cat inside, construct an enclosed cat patio so your cat can still go outside without meeting males. 

Of course, the best way to prevent your cat from getting pregnant is to get them spayed.

Reasons to spay your cat

Any responsible pet parent knows how important it is to spay their female feline. There are many reasons why you should get your cat spayed, from improving your cat's quality of life to preventing unwanted litters. You should also ignore anyone who says cats should have a litter before getting spayed — it's a myth.

Let's take a look at some other reasons why you should get your cat spayed.

To prevent reproductive conditions and diseases

Cats can develop several medical conditions and diseases due to sexual activity. Unaltered female cats produce hormones that can affect the development of uterine tumors. Pregnancy can also affect the growth of uterine tumors. Other common conditions in unspayed female cats include pyometra and mammary tumors

Sexually transmitted diseases are a problem among cats. One of the most common sexually transmitted diseases in cats is chlamydia, a bacterial infection with a 30% chance of being chronic. Feline herpesvirus (FHV) can be spread via sexual contact and affects around 90% of all cats during their lifetime. Feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) is also transmissible through sexual contact. 

To prevent premature pregnancy

It can be dangerous for a kitten or young cat to get pregnant. Just because your cat goes into heat at 4 months old doesn't mean she's ready to have kittens. Cats don't reach full body maturity until 10 to 12 months old. 

If your cat gets pregnant at a young age, it could put too much stress on her body. Your cat's body won't be able to support caring for kittens in utero, which could lead to complications, including stillbirths. 

To prevent environmental issues

Unwanted cat litters cause major environmental problems across the country. Often, cats who aren't cared for properly will have litters that end up in shelters or become feral. 

Feral cats are considered an invasive species in the US. There are approximately 100 million feral and outdoor cats across the country, which kill over 1 billion birds annually, according to the American Bird Conservancy. Feral cats are adding to the decline of species like the least tern and wood thrush. Pet parents that let their cats have litters that aren't cared for are adding to this environmental issue. 

To prevent welfare issues

Unwanted litters also cause a significant welfare issue. Outdoor cats often end up in shelters. The ASPCA states approximately 3.2 million cats enter shelters annually. Of these cats, over half a million are euthanized. 

Getting your cat spayed will help lower the number of stray and feral cats entering shelters and being euthanized. 

To prevent nuisance

At the very least, your cat going into heat is annoying. Cats go into heat frequently, sometimes as often as every 3 weeks. While in heat, you'll need to keep your cat indoors to prevent unwanted pregnancy. 

During this time, your cat may be overly needy or aggressive. They'll also yowl, roll around, and occasionally spray your furniture. Male cats can also be aggressive during mating, which could cause minor injuries to your female feline. Getting your cat spayed stops nuisance symptoms of your cat's reproductive cycle.

Caring for a pregnant or breeding cat can be expensive. Most accident and illness policies don’t cover costs related to pregnancy. But some providers, like Trupanion, offer add-ons that reimburse vet care costs. Start comparing pet insurance plans today to find the right fit for your fur-baby.

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