An important part of ensuring that your cat is well taken care of is knowing its reproductive health. The term queen is used for a female cat of reproductive age. You need to be aware of when your feline begins to manifest reproductive maturity, how it will behave during that stage, and how long that stage will last. This information is vital whether you want your queen to breed or whether you’re too concerned about cat population (and you have reason to be concerned). If you don’t want your queen to mate, you need to know how to manage her in-heat period properly. Understanding the feline heat cycle and how it works will help you prevent accidental pregnancies and ensure her good health. An important aspect of the heat cycle is knowing how long cats stay in heat for. As I’m sure you understand, it is impossible to teach family planning and contraceptive use to your feline buddy. For them, it’s a matter of ‘I feel it, I want it.’ So therefore, it’s up to the owner to take care of the cat.
When Do Cats Go In Heat?
Before we answer how long the cat’s heat period lasts for, we first need to first know when cats go in heat. Your feline friend is just like you. Well not in appearance, but in its life stages – birth, growth, death. Another stage in your female cat’s life is the heat cycle. This usually starts around six months after birth. Female cats that have not been spayed can have their first heat cycle as early as four months after birth. In other cats, it could be later, around nine months after birth. The first heat cycle varies from cat to cat. However, experts say that feline heat cycle is more complicated than we’ve mentioned. This is because they do not rule out the possibility of a cat going in heat at any time. Especially if for some reason there has been a form of sexual stimulation. That is the reason why experts advise that if you want to prevent your kitten from going into heat, you have to get it spayed early. How early will be determined by your vet – but usually no later than four months after birth.
So How Long Can A Cat Stay In Heat?
First of all, cats are polyestrous. This means a cat can go into heat several times in a single year until she mates. On average, a queen can stay in heat for four to seven days – or sometimes for as little as a couple of days. We will go into more details about this later on. But how do we know when a cat is going in heat or is in heat? What are the signs?
Signs Of Heat
Certain behavioral changes characterize a feline in heat. At the beginning of a reproductive cycle of your queen, you will notice she is not a happy camper. The change in behavior is sudden and unexpected. Some of the behaviors are tolerable. Some, not so much and some could really have you pulling your hair. The tolerable signs are the curtain-raisers. Now it is important to note that only female cats can go into heat or estrus, to put it technically. If you’re wondering about the toms (male cats), no, they do not go in heat. They basically smell the queens out and fight each other in tom duels to determine who is worthy of mounting the queen. The tom standing wins. Okay, back to the signs.
- Restlessness: Your queen will constantly pace about restlessly when she is in heat. She will become uncomfortable and her pacing will be focused around the exit areas like the doors, windows, or pet flaps. Sometimes a decrease in appetite accompanies her restlessness.
- Affectionate: Still with the tolerable signs. Your cat will become affectionate and unusually clingy. She’ll want to rub up against you constantly. Although rubbing up against their owners is normal in cats, when your queen does this an unusual number of times, she could be in heat. Sometimes it may seem like she’s constantly around your feet.
- Rubbing And Rolling: Related to affectionate rubbing, your cat will constantly rub against, well, anything. This is to spread her scent for the toms basically. Whether it’s the couch, rug, the wall, or your legs. In connection with spreading her scent, she will roll around on the floor. This is done instinctively. So it doesn’t matter whether you have a tom indoors or not.
- Howling: Now it gets intolerable. Your queen will vocalize, loudly, and will howl at night when you’re trying to get some sleep. Her vocalization will sound like loud moans, howls. This is not intended to annoy you (annoying as it may get). She’s only trying to call out to her potential suitors – her knights in furry armor. And they will show up – the toms – in their thirsty numbers when they hear your queen howl. They’ll hang around your house and wait for an opportunity. So you have to keep your queen locked indoors if you don’t want her to mate.
- Attempts To Escape: Even when your cat is locked indoors, she’ll try to get out. Naturally, she’ll want to meet up with the knights outside. She’ll make attempts to escape and will be alert to your movements. Especially when you near an exit area. Going out can be dangerous for her. She could get lost or knocked down by a vehicle.
- Assume Mating Position: You may notice your queen crouch with her hind legs while pushing her hump upward. Her tail will move away and expose her genitals. This is done to imitate a mating position as if expecting a tom to show up, even indoors.
- Spraying: Another way of spreading her scent and announcing to her potential suitors is spraying. Experts say that during in-heat periods, a queen’s urine contains increased amounts of pheromones. When she sprays, the male cats are able to pick up the scent and decode the signal expertly. Be sure to visit your vet if your cat is spraying but isn’t showing the other in-heat signs. She could have a urinary tract infection.
- Over-grooming: Your queen will over-groom her genital area. If you observe closely, you may notice the place swollen and moist.
Stages Of Heat Cycle In Cats
A female cat’s heat cycle is at irregular intervals throughout the year. It cannot be predicted exactly. Neither can a timetable be drawn for it. However, factors like daylight length can determine a queen’s mating season length. Another factor is the presence of other cats. The stages of the heat cycle in cats is also called the estrus cycle. It has five stages. These are anestrus, proestrus, estrus, interestrus and metestrus.
- Anestrus: At this stage, the queen’s ovaries are inactive and she does not go into heat. This is a dormant stage where her reproductive hormones are inactive. There is no sexual stimulation and therefore no mating. This period usually runs from Spring to Fall or late September to mid-January. We’ve mentioned how daylight affects their mating season. During anestrus, the length of daylight is short because there are shorter days. As a result, the queen is not stimulated and does not go into heat. However, when she is exposed to indoor artificial light, she could go into heat all year.
- Proestrus: This stage follows anestrus and the queen will begin to go into heat but not yet receptive to mating. She may even attract males with her vocalization and she could get restless. But not enough to make her receptive to mating. She may display some levels of affectionate rubbings towards her owner. This period usually lasts a day to four days.
- Estrus: At this stage, the queen goes into heat and can become pregnant. She becomes recept to mating and signals for it. This stage is also called the heat period and the queen may vocalize loudly and howl. She may roll around, assume the mating position by raising her hump, and she may spray and become restless. Her vocalization will attract toms for mating and she will attempt to go outside to mate. A queen will need to mate for about four to six times during this period before she can become pregnant. The estrus period usually lasts ten to fourteen days.
- Interestrus: A queen will go into interestrus immediately after estrus when she does not mate or become pregnant during the estrus period. So an interestrus period can be sandwiched between two estrus periods. This is because she will go back into heat after this period. The queen will show no signs of heat during this period and it could last for two days to three weeks. Afterward, another estrus period will begin. This cycle may repeat itself until the queen mates or becomes pregnant.
- Metestrus: This period also follows estrus. But only when the queen mates and becomes pregnant. She will pay no attention to the toms during this stage.
Estrus After Birth
It is possible for a female cat to go in heat while nursing her kittens. Most cats do so within six to eight weeks after giving birth. In some cases, a female cat can have another heat cycle as early as a week after giving birth to her kittens. It is the responsibility of the cat owner to protect his queen from getting pregnant while nursing her kittens. Especially when getting pregnant poses health risks. It is therefore important to get your cat spayed when you do not want her to become pregnant. However, there are a few things a cat owner can do to calm her queen in heat.
- Keep her away from toms. Preferably, lock her indoors.
- Give her a lot of playtime and attention. You can stroke, brush or pet her to help calm her down.
- Because queens in heat may spray a lot, it is important to make sure her litter box and surroundings are clean and dry.
In conclusion, how long a cat can stay in heat depends on the context. If we add up all the stages of her heat cycle, it will be safe to assume that a queen can stay in heat for three to four weeks. This is minus the anestrus stage as the cat is not in heat during this stage. It’s important to remember that a queen’s estrus cycle or heat cycle will be extended if she doesn’t mate.