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What Happens When a Cat Is in Heat? Vet Approved Facts & FAQ

Written by: Christian Adams

Last Updated on July 3, 2024 by Catster Editorial Team

Ginger tabby young cat sitting on a wooden floor looks up, asks for food, meows

What Happens When a Cat Is in Heat? Vet Approved Facts & FAQ

A cat’s heat cycle is an indication that she has reached sexual maturity, is fertile and can become pregnant. If this is your first time going through a heat cycle with your female cat, you may be wondering what on earth has possessed them! After all, their entire personality has done a 360. And saying that really isn’t a far stretch. Their personalities can change dramatically! Oftentimes, kitties in heat are incredibly affectionate and vocal.

So, if your cat is going through heat, we’ll give you a little rundown of what to expect.

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A Cat in Heat: You Can’t Miss It

There’s nothing subtle about your cat when she is in her heat cycle. From yowling to rubbing, your gal may turn into an unrecognizable creature for several weeks as she attempts to find a mate. So, first, let’s get into the physical cues you can look for—then, we can explain the process.


Have you noticed an extreme increase in your cat’s vocalization? If so, that is completely to be expected. Often referred to as ‘calling’, it’s one of the more obvious signs of heat in cats, and can be very challenging to deal with if you haven’t experienced it before.

Often, your female will start meowing and yowling loudly in the wee hours of the night when you are already asleep.

Image Credit: sophiecat, Shutterstock

Extra Affectionate

Your cat might already be lovable and wonderful. But have you noticed an increase in their affection? If so, your cat might really be in heat! Except for vocalizations, extra affection is one of the most common behaviors females exhibit in heat.


It might surprise you to learn that your female cat can spray urine on vertical surfaces just as efficiently as a male during high hormonal periods, others may just urinate more frequently. These cats do it as a way to attract a mate, letting them know they are ready and willing, as the urine contains pheromones and hormones.

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What to Know About Heat Cycles

Cat Heat Cycle
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Crazy enough, kittens can have their first heat cycles, and therefore become fertile and can get pregnant, from as early as 4 months old. One heat cycle can last several days to a few weeks. If a cat is not mated and becomes pregnant, or spayed, these cycles will repeat around every 2-3 weeks during the breeding season (typically February to October in the northern hemisphere, but indoor cats can cycle all year round). Signs like yowling can indicate pain, so some experts speculate that cats can feel uncomfortable at times. But yowling and spraying are also a female cat’s attempt to let a male know that she is ready to mate.

What Can Be Done About a Cat in Heat?

The solution to preventing your cat from going into heat is always getting them fixed, unless you are planning to breed from them. If this is your first time owning a cat, you might not understand the importance of it.

Here are some reasons to get your cat fixed:
  • It cuts down on the homeless cat population
  • It eliminates heat cycles
  • It reduces undesirable behaviors
  • It stabilizes their mood
  • It reduces the risk of mammary cancer

When to Spay a Cat

Most veterinarians recommend getting your cats fixed when they are approximately 4 months old. This is typically the time right before your cat reaches sexual maturity, so getting them fixed during this time can alleviate a lot of the issues.

However, every situation can be different. Your vet might recommend waiting, depending on a few factors. So always listen to a veterinary professional and schedule accordingly. If you’re having trouble affording spay or neuter, there are plenty of low-cost options at local rescues, shelters, and other similar organizations.

a small kitten getting examined at the vets clinic
Image Credit: Akimova-Tatiana, Shutterstock

Can a Cat in Heat Get Fixed?

A cat can be spayed when in heat but most veterinarians prefer to wait until the end of the heat cycle. The reason for this is that there is increased blood flow to the uterus and ovaries when a cat is in heat, and so there can be an increased risk of complications such as bleeding during or after the surgery. Speak to your veterinarian for advice about the best time to spay your cat.

Can You Get a Cat Fixed if She’s Pregnant?

It is also possible to spay a cat when she is pregnant. Some veterinarians will fix a cat if she is pregnant with a litter of kittens, but others won’t because it will terminate the pregnancy. It is a matter of the vet’s personal preference and beliefs.

Some consider it a preventive tool in some situations to prevent further unwanted kittens in the world. Others may feel that it is wrong to terminate the pregnancy and will want to wait until the cat has given birth to spay her. So, if you have any questions about that, it’s best to contact your vet and discuss it with them directly.

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Reasons to Spay a Cat

If you need other reasons as to why spaying cats is a good idea, take a look at these facts and considerations.

Animal Shelter Statistics

If you ever look at animal shelter statistics, it is staggering. It will break the heart of any animal lover. In a single year, 6.3 million pets and homeless animals enter shelters. 3.2 million of these animals are cats.

Of those 3.2 million cats, 530,000 cats are euthanized. So, you can see how this is a substantial problem, with so many cats being homeless or ending up being euthanized. That isn’t even counting the feral cats—estimated at around 32 million in the U.S.

kittens in a cage of a shelter for homeless animals
Image Credit: Okssi, Shutterstock

Danger of Feral Cat Populations

Feral cat populations are a real problem all across the globe. Not only is it so sad that so many cats are homeless without proper nutrition or medical care, but unneutered female cats can have two or three litters a year. This leads to rapidly increasing numbers of feral cats and kittens.

A single pair of cats and their offspring can produce as many as 420,000 kittens over the course of 7 years. If you think about it—you can see how it really adds up. Feral cats can spread infectious diseases and parasites, and most live short, tough lives.

Another problem with feral and outdoor cats is their impact on the wild bird population. On average, they are believed to kill upward of 2.4 billion birds per year. As predators, cats are ruthless to our beautiful native birds and can wreak havoc on the natural ecosystems this way, even if the cats are just looking for a food source.

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So, our point is, if your cat is in heat, don’t let her escape and get her fixed as soon as possible! Your vet will most likely want to wait until after the cycle is over due to increased blood flow to the uterus during the heat cycle. However, they will schedule a good time for them to come in for the surgery.

Now you know what to expect if your cat is in heat. If you haven’t yet, make that phone call to your vet today to see about getting her fixed.

See also:

Featured Image Credit: savitskaya iryna, Shutterstock

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