4 Signs of a Cat in Heat

signs cat is in heat
Cat with mouth open — trilling, meowing or making another kitty sound. Photography by annadarzy/Thinkstock.

Is your female cat acting weird? Maybe she’s sticking her butt in the air and meowing very loudly? What could be going on? We all know how important it is to have our cat companions spayed or neutered. But sometimes time gets away from even the best-intentioned cat caretakers — and before you know it, you’ve got a cat in heat on your hands. Don’t delay a trip to the vet if you see the following signs that mean your cat is in heat.

Related: Fix by Five: Vets Advise on When to Spay/Neuter Cats

A multicolored cat eating food out of a bowl.
A cat in heat may have an increased appetite. Photography by Remains/Thinkstock.

1. A cat in heat has an increased appetite and restlessness

This is the first sign of proestrus, the earliest stage of a cat’s estrus, or heat, cycle. Other things you might notice are tomcats gathering around your home because your cat’s pheromones are attracting them. If you don’t notice the cats, you’ll probably notice their calling cards: You can’t miss the stench of tomcat spray.

Your cat’s vulva might be slightly enlarged and moist, but you probably won’t notice this as one of the signs a cat is in heat because 1) she’ll probably lick off any discharge, and 2) because the odds are you’re not into closely examining your cat’s genitals. Proestrus lasts one or two days.

2. Cats in heat make creepy calling and meowing sounds

The sound of a female cat in heat can be downright bone-chilling. As her urge to mate grows, the calls of a cat in heat become almost alarming, as if she’s in pain. It can also make you crazy, because as her heat ramps up, the calling is going to get louder and more insistent, and could become almost constant.

If there weren’t tomcats at your doorstep before, there sure will be once your cat starts calling. Those cat in heat sounds are an indication that your cat is in full heat, or estrus.

3. A cat in heat will display a dramatic increase in affectionate behavior

If you thought your cat was a lovebug before, now she’s probably glued to you, constantly demanding your attention, weaving in and out of your legs, rubbing against you, shaking her pelvis, and rolling on the floor. But if you pick her up while she’s rolling around, she may grab your arm or even bite.

4. Cats in heat make a “come hither” pose with their butts in the air

If you stroke your cat’s back while she’s in heat, she’ll raise her hips to stick her butt in the air, twitch her tail to the side, and start treading with her hind feet.

These last three signs indicate that your cat is in full-on estrus or heat and extremely receptive to being mated. She may become an escape artist, doing whatever she can to scratch her hormonal itch. Estrus lasts four to six days.

After your cat has been through the week to 10 days of proestrus and estrus, more commonly known as “heat,” she’ll go into the third stage, known as interestrus. During this stage, she’ll refuse to mate and aggressively attack any tomcat that gets in her way. If she didn’t mate during the heat cycle, she’ll remain in this interestrus stage for one to two weeks, and the whole process will start all over again.

If your cat is older than about five months and begins showing these signs, get her to the vet for her spay as soon as you can. Cats will continue to go in and out of heat until they get pregnant or get spayed.

Unspayed cats have a much higher risk of developing mammary and uterine cancer, as well as polycystic ovaries, due to constantly fluctuating hormone levels. Spaying also eliminates the risk of a potentially fatal uterine infection called pyometra (I once saw a cat at a vet clinic that was dying from pyometra, and it was truly horrible). Your cat’s behavior will improve and you won’t have boy cats coming over to visit at all hours of the day and night.

But spaying isn’t just good for your cat — it’s good for your community, too. The fewer unwanted kittens brought into the world, the fewer cats killed in shelters due to lack of space.

Thumbnail: Photography by annadarzy/Thinkstock. 

Read Next:The 5 Stages of Cat Pregnancy

31 thoughts on “4 Signs of a Cat in Heat”

  1. I have two cats, both female. They are sisters. They are about 8 months old and haven’t been spayed yet. They’ve been going in and out of heat for a couple months now. It lasts about a week with them both just crying a lot and being very affectionate, but that’s about it. Well yesterday one of them started randomly hissing at the other and acting scared and nervous. She was better this morning after separating them half the night but then like 30 minutes later she was back to hissing at her sibling. These are two cats who do everything together and are always sleeping together and bathing each other. I just don’t know why she’s suddenly being aggressive and hissing and growling. We do have another female cat in the house, an old cat that we just took in from some family members, but that cat is in a separate room because she is skittish. The cats have been in there with her a couple times and there haven’t been issues as long as the cats don’t try to get within touching distance of each other. We did have the door to that room open the past day or so to let the other cat wander if she wants (she hasn’t wanted to) but I can’t figure out why all the way across the house last night, this cat started hissing at her sister.

  2. Crysteen Jane Sinoy

    My cat is almost 2 yrs. Old and she haven’t mate ever but now I’m worried because for some reason she is getting skinnier and maybe because we haven’t spay her or the other than spaying I’m worried and I don’t know what to do and most concern is we don’t have vet hear especially here in Philippines only cities has vet not in a province places… If we spay her can her body weight go back as before? Please tell what to do? THANK YOU.

  3. Hi my cat is 7 year old and every 2 or 3 months she does this .. she is spayed .. it was done when she was 6 months old by the blue cross.. why is she still doing it? She licks her bits excessively, rolls around the floor and howls really loud also loves fuses more and sticks her bum up in air?

    1. Omg same to mine I am really scared my cat is rolling on the floor right now she sprayed like 2 times and she Kept on doing it today she is going to her best friends house .

  4. My female cat is now 2 1/2yrs.old , I found her when she was just a lost kitten, left or abandoned – she is now a young adult – and I hesitated to spay her because I was scared of the whole idea! (that was wrong) Now, she is still healthy i hope -but stressed out from the heat cycles (Plus – I have been rescuing other cats & temporarily kept them at home) so..my female cat is showing signs of stress and I am worried. I am spaying her asap -no more delaying it.! She is precious – and kind of petite for a cat, so I hesitated having the spay (surgery) done, it just scared me – the idea of it, being put to sleep, having surgery, etc. etc. Yet I do believe now that itis SO MUCH better in the long run, to have it done, for a healthier, calmer cat,for a longer life too. This is what I keep hearing, so it must be so and my kitty seems so unhappy I cant take it anymore to see her frustrated and listless too.

    1. Lauran C. Boshears

      I have done the same thing my kitty came to me when she was only 3 weeks old . She was unintentionally left behind by her momma. Her momma is a feral free roaming cat on my property. I too have hesitated to spay her now she is two years old because she is a rather small cat. The momna has small dainty kitties even though I feed her well even though she is feral she feeds on my patio daily. Yep it is time for the yowling and crying to stop plus she is peeing on everything in my house. I saw the vet yesterday. He will put her on the schedule this upcoming week to do the spay surgery. Loop

  5. I had a female cat show up at our house and adopt us. She turned out to be pregnant and had 5 kittens on April 9th. The last couple of days she’s been showing signs of being in heat! Is that possible when she just gave birth 10 days ago??

    1. Yep I’m going through that as we speak! A cat adopted us and ended up being pregnant, she gave birth to ONE baby on feb 24th and she was back in heat less than 2 weeks after! It’s now 6 weeks out and she’s in heat again!!! So yes it’s possible!

  6. I have two female cats. I am not wanting them fixes, because of their rare breeds: one is a purebred Egyptian Mau and the other is a purebred Russian Blue. I am wanting kittens from them when they get older. Am I still being irresponsible?

    1. Hi Nicky,

      Please reconsider spaying and neutering: https://www.catster.com/lifestyle/fix-by-five-vets-advise-on-when-to-spay-neuter-cats
      If you still want kittens when your cats are older, you could always adopt or foster kittens during kitten season.

  7. Hey so my kitten is 7 months old now she’s been going into heat the last 2 months at 6 months of age and well I haven’t had the money to be able to get her spayed but I finally do and so I have to wait until the 7th of may for her first vet appointment to talk about getting her spayed then make another appointment for the actual spaying. But anyways at one point in her last heat cycle there was a male cat outside meowing at the window at 11 pm at night at first I thought it was her meowing until I walked over and she ran up to me and looked at me and I then heard the meowing from outside the window. That hasn’t happened again yet. But it is really irritating when you have a cat in heat constantly meowing,howling,etc. my boyfriend doesn’t take it very well he gets mad at her and yells at her and tries to scare her to make her run away but this only stresses her out more and she meows even more and even louder. The only thing I’ve learned from this to actually calm her down and get her to stop meowing for at least 30 minutes at best is to pet her for about 5-10 minutes and speak to her calmly so she’ll feel less stressed and miserable and she usually will go eat something then come back and sleep for a little while. So I guess I’ll be repeating this until I am able to get her spayed in the next couple of weeks. And I explained to my boyfriend that yelling at her and all that reacting to her negatively is just going to stress her out more causing her to meow even more so he’s going to try and remain calm now and just pet her until she calms down. But I really hope these weeks go fast and we finally can get her spayed. I was actually shocked to learn that cats can go into heat by 6 months of age I’ve had cats for years and I never knew that usually they were spayed right away or when I lived with my mom she had several cats females and males that constantly mated mom’s with fathers mom’s with son’s fathers with daughters etc. it was just crazy.

    1. Catnip I have my 1st female kitten and we already had 2 lil boys. She was one we took in the kids around here hurt her and we just couldn’t let her go after caring for her. Well this is 1st time I experienced a heat cycle. Every night at 9 930pm I go in her room (we gave her our spare room for this) I fill all her dishes and clean cat box then I sit on the bed and while petting her I have a toy w catnip and raw catnip and I rub her cheeks and allow her to roll around a small pile of raw for about 30 min. Then she’s good till about 7am
      I hope this helps your lil girl I know it’s annoying but she can not help what’s happening to her and the BF has to try to understand that. Just a thought if he gets this annoyed at the cat imagine if this was a crying baby who can’t communicate unless it cries when it needs something or is just fussy my mom always said watch how a man #1 treats his mother and sisters and #2 how he is around animals. I didn’t take that advice and spent over a decade being beaten and my kids were terrified. Mom was killed and I finally left. He treated his mom like crap and abused animals any little thing the dog did he blew up. Just food for thought

      1. I was thinking the same thing. If he gets that annoyed over a cat, that should tell you something right there. Get away from him!! Run

        1. why are women so quick to tell other women to leave their men? you don’t even know those ppl. look how quickly a little cat talk escalated into relationship advice…

  8. have an indoor cat that has been neutered. There is a cat coming to the window acting as if it’s in heat. I don’t know if it’s a male or female. My cat is yeowling and spraying inside. How can this happen with a neutered tom?

    1. Hi there —

      These articles might help:
      Please consult your vet if the issue persists!

  9. Pingback: 4 Signs of A Cat In Heat | Furs For Us

  10. Before I had my Tripod spayed, she would this rolling trill sound, and roll back and forth on her back; I’ve seen other cats in heat do this. I’ve recently heard a vet can trick a cat’s body into thinking she’s been bred, thus enabling the cat to get fixed before her next heat by sliding a Q-Tip into her vulva (DON’T DO THIS AT HOME!). Cats shouldn’t be spayed while in heat because it causes excessive bleeding.

    1. Cats can be spay even when they are in heat and there is little to no risk. A few years ago, I volunteered with an organization that was trapping and altering stray cats. One of the homeowners in the neighborhood had a female cat that was not spay. Her explanation: “Well, I was going to have her spay but she was in heat; or she was pregnant; or she was nursing kittens.” This went on for more than five years and the cat had had numerous litters! I personally took the cat to the vet to make sure that the cat was spay. What people don’t know is that a cat can be in heat and exhibit NO signs of being in heat. Also, a cat CAN become pregnant even if she is nursing kittens, even very young kittens. (I’ve had several veterinarians verify that this is true!!). Believe me, we’ve seen it and heard it all!! Spay/neuter the cat!! If you care for your cat, you will make sure to do the right thing as soon as possible, whether it is male or female. Set your priorities to be a RESPONSIBLE pet owner first.

        1. I have a male and female cat and their from the same litter(I know this means nothing), I know my male cat is in heat and just yesterday my female cat started staying up my butt and now she’s rolling around on the floor alot. I don’t want or need any kittens and I’ve had an appointment 4 times for getting them both fixed but, because of the Covid-19 the Vet has canceled the appointments until further notice. They have set up another appointment for May 5th but, I’m scared they have mated. My male cat is still whining but, I haven’t heard my female whining(have heard it in another female cat). I don’t know what to do other than keeping them in separate rooms till they get fixed. Please help me!!!

  11. I have an indoor cat that has been neutered. There is a cat coming to the window acting as if it’s in heat. I don’t know if it’s a male or female. My cat is yeowling and spraying inside. How can this happen with a neutered tom?

    1. Hi Betty — Sorry to hear you’re experiencing this. This article on cat spray might help: https://www.catster.com/lifestyle/cat-behavior-tips-spray-stop-sprayingthe-behavior

      1. Betty Jo Davis

        Thank you so much for the information. I have been following most of these suggestions and my cat is now calmer and more at ease. Keeping the shade down is really working. There has been no more spraying or yowling. I’m happy to know I have been approaching the problem in the right way. My kitty is very important to me and is always treated with kindness and love. Thanks again. Betty

  12. Not really a comment but a question. How long does a cat stay in season? it’s her first and would love to know how long this will last. Thanks…

    1. Hi Carole —

      This might provide more insight: https://www.catster.com/cat-health-care/cats-in-heat
      Don’t forget to talk to your vet about scheduling a spay!

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