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Cat in Heat Behavior, What to Know About Feline Estrus

by | May 15, 2023 | Cat Behavior & Care | 2 comments

What to Know About Feline Estrus

cat facts

I planned to refer my friend to one of my blogs—and instead realized I hadn’t specifically addressed cats in heat behavior, feline reproduction, and what to know about cat estrus. Yes, I write about this in my Complete Kitten Care and Cat Facts books in more detail, and now you get the kitty Cliff’s notes here.

Cat heat (the estrus cycle) defines the time when a female becomes sexually receptive to the male and breeding takes place. Do cats bleed in heat like dogs? No. Their uterus does prepare for babies, but doesn’t shed out, and instead gets absorbed by the body if not bred. Cats show more behavioral than physical clues.

cats in heat

The cycle begins with one to two days (called proestrus) when the female cat meows constantly, treads with her hind feet, and acts excessively affectionately toward people and other cats of both sexes. She’ll demand attention, rub-rub-rub herself against you and other objects or animals, head-butt other cats, torment the dog with attention, and roll on the floor. Some people adore this attention-seeking behavior, while others find it tedious and obnoxious.

When she transitions into full estrus, cat heat behavior literally turns up the volume. She howls and meows her readiness for a mate for minutes at a time. People often confuse this behavior with cats in heat in pain. She probably feels some stress, and a heating pad or catnip may help with potential discomfort, but those won’t significantly change her heat behavior. Watch her closely, or she’ll pick the window lock with her rabies tag and escape the house to find her feline Romeo. During cat heat, female cats often indulge in urine spraying.

Cats in heat spend a lot of time with their bottom in the air and tail held to one side. This lordosis position advertises her availability and readiness to mate. Male cats recognize what she wants by her behavior and distinctive odor. They arrive from miles away, mark territory by spraying smelly urine that announces their status as hunka-hunka-burning love-machine breeding males. They defend that territory from other male cats in loud and often violent fights.

cat heat

The age at which a cat becomes sexually mature and able to reproduce varies depending on the cat’s health, time of year when they were born, and even the breed. Male cats typically reach puberty by nine months of age, and females between seven to 12 months (about ten months on average).

However, this varies a great deal from cat to cat. Some boys won’t reach sexual maturity before 16 months of age. Professionals urge you to spay girl cats prior to six months of age to avoid cats going into heat. But some female cats like Siamese go into heat for the first time as early as four months of age. Yep, that means babies having babies. Other cat breeds like Persians and other bigger cats mature later than other cats and may not go into heat until they’re nearly two years old.

Both male and female cats produce offspring well into their teens, if they remain intact. Left to their own urges, the girls can produce litters of two to six kittens two to three times a year.

feline mating behavior

Feline estrus occurs seasonally during specific time periods of the year. The amount of daylight influences many things—shedding fur, and also the timing of how long cats are in heat. In the Northern Hemisphere, the feline breeding season begins in February and lasts through October.

A single pair of cats may breed 20 or more times during the female’s receptive period. It’s also possible for a single litter to be fathered by more than one male. Gestation, the time between conception and birth, varies somewhat from cat to cat and from breed to breed. Feline pregnancy lasts about 63 to 69 days; Siamese cats typically carry their babies for 71 days.

Nursing continues for up to eight weeks, and during this time the queen also protects and teaches her babies how to be cats. Depending on the time of year, she can go back into heat a week after weaning her kittens.

How Often Do Cats Go In Heat

The heat cycle and cat heat behaviors lasts about seven to ten days. If she gets pregnant, it only lasts about four days. If she fails to become pregnant, a “resting period” of 15-21 days follows cat heat when she no longer cares about getting pregnant. The cycle repeats—in and out of heat, over and over again—from February through October, until she gets pregnant or you have her spayed.

I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? Do you have a new kitten and need answers? Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter. Stay up to date with the latest book giveaways and appearances related to my September Day pet-centric THRILLERS WITH BITE!

Amy Shojai, CABC is a certified cat & dog behavior consultant, a consultant to the pet industry, and the award-winning author of 35+ pet-centric books and Thrillers with Bite! Oh, and she loves bling!



  1. Thobile Mabuza

    Thanks for the information about cats.I got so worried about my cat meowing non stop and losing appetite, I thought she was sick, until I read this article.I honestly do not want kittens but t the same time I cannot afford to sterilise her because it is expensive.

    • Amy Shojai

      I’m so glad the article helped! And I know it can be a bit pricy for the surgery but I encourage you to budget for that in the future (put away a bit each month). Because your cat will go into season over and over and over…Pregnant cat care and kittens costs way more than the sterilization. If she does NOT get pregnant but goes into heat over and over, she also could develop life-threatening infection (pyometra) of the uterus. So even if you can’t afford it now, I hope you’ll manage to do this soon.


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