9 Telltale Signs Your Cat Is in Heat

Written by Zoe Carina
Published: November 8, 2023
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Cats that give birth will usually go into heat for the first time between four and six months old. If they are not spayed, the felines will go into heat multiple times each year, corresponding with the breeding season.

When cats go into heat, they become fertile and are able to get pregnant. There are also unusual behaviors that cats exhibit during this time. During their estrous cycle, another name for going into heat, cats tend to be quite loud, attention seeking and will become escape artists.

Whether you’re adopting a cat for the first time or the fiftieth, it’s important to stay informed on the estrous cycle. With the right information in hand, you can take care of your cat during this time without additional stress or worry. Let’s dive into nine signs that your cat is in heat.

What is The Estrous Cycle?

Little red kitten with wreath of blue flowers on its head

The cat is the only domesticated species with a five-phase estrous cycle.

©Rita_Kochmarjova/Shutterstock.com

Though on average, cats will enter their first estrous cycle between five and nine months, some cats start as early as three-and-a-half months while others don’t experience it until 18 months. Other factors that affect a cat’s first heat include breed, time of year, social environment, and nutrition.

It’s important to note that cats do not bleed during this cycle. If you see blood, please contact your vet immediately.

The estrous cycle for cats is divided into five phases.

Proestrus

The first phase will last anywhere between 12 hours and three days. Proestrus is difficult to notice in some cats, because their behavior may only shift subtly or not at all.

Estrus

Estrus is the second phase of the estrous cycle. This phase will last anywhere between four to seven days. During estrus, cats will begin to show distinct signs of heat.

Interestrus

Cats do not ovulate after every estrus phase, which leads to the interestrus phase. During the third phase of the estrous cycle, cats go into a period of sexual disinterest. Interestrus will last anywhere from three days to seven weeks.

Diestrus

If the cat ovulates, it will go straight from the estrus phase to the diestrus phase. This phase is when breeding would typically occur. A feline can be in the diestrus phase anywhere from 30 to 50 days.

Anestrus

The fifth phase of the estrous cycle is typically only seen in free-roaming cats, though some outdoor cats exhibit it as well. Anestrus is a period of rest from October to January in which felines will hiss or strike out at other cats making sexual advances.

Look For These Signs

A Cat in the Clover - Best Irish Cat Names

Cats are seasonal breeders that experience heat cycles during seasons with longer days.

©vvvita/Shutterstock.com

When your cat goes into heat, you’ll be able to tell. While their physical features won’t go through drastic changes, their behaviors will. From home, it’s difficult to measure your cat’s hormone levels but if you keep a keen eye out, you’ll see their first heat coming.

Here are nine signs to look out for.

#1 Excessive Vocalizing

Closeup of a black and white cat grimacing with his mouth open

Cats release multiple calls during their estrous cycles.

©I Wei Huang/Shutterstock.com

During the proestrus and estrus phases of heat, cats will vocalize more frequently than normal. They will loudly scream, shriek, and howl to attract potential mates. Unless your feline mates, these calls will continue for several days in a row.

A few calls to expect include:

  • Howling
  • Meowing
  • Purring
  • Chirping
  • Caterwauling
  • Growling

Each cat has a different frequency of vocalizing, even in heat. If you are unsure whether your cat is going into heat, compare their current vocalization level to previous levels. Is there a stark increase? That’s usually a telltale sign of heat.

#2 Rolling on the Floor

A gray cat lies on a laminate. The cat sits on his back on the floor. Thoroughbred scottish straight-eared cat.

Cats will usually vocalize or spray during the rolls.

©Alice Rodnova/Shutterstock.com

During the proestrus phase of heat, cats will start to roll on the floor. This behavior indicates to other felines that they are in the beginning stages of heat. The rolling will look erratic and vigorous compared to standard.

Cats will also roll around after mating, which is hypothesized by feline biologists to help the sperm quickly fertilize the eggs.

#3 Excessive Affection Seeking

Cute tabby kitty enjoying caresses of his human. Female hand petting european shorthair cat, close up. Domestic animals. Purring cat.

Each cat is unique in how much affection it gives, so unusual levels will look different.

©PippiLongstocking/Shutterstock.com

When your cat enters the proestrus stage, they will become increasingly affectionate. They’ll rub their hindquarters on every piece of furniture they can, other cats, and against your legs. To differentiate this type of affection from others, notice how your furry friend lifts their tail. They might also assume the mating position.

This behavior is constant and might result in lost sleep if you let your cat into your room. Not all felines go through this behavioral change, so you might need to look for other signs.

#4 Trying to Escape

cat at the door

Cats are induced ovulators and only ovulate during copulation.

©Sentelia/Shutterstock.com

If you own a domesticated cat, the best practice is to keep the animal indoors. Many people will argue that felines should be allowed outside, but that is not correct. Cats are an invasive species throughout the majority of the world. They viciously kill birds and small animals and disturb the natural environment.

During heat, indoor cats will try to escape at all costs. Your feline friend is looking for one thing, a mate. You might notice them staring intently out the window or running to the door the moment that it’s opened.

Make sure to seal all the exits and distract them with extra play if necessary.

#5 Spraying/Marking

Spraying could also be a sign of a urinary tract infection or stress.

©Daria Kulkova/iStock / Getty Images Plus via Getty Images

Not every cat will spray during heat. If yours does during estrus, it will typically exhibit this behavior during the estrus phase. The feline will target any vertical surface to spray with urine.

You’ll notice the behavior when your cat backs up to their chosen surface, raises a quivering tail, and releases the pheromone-filled spray. If no other signs of heat appear, take your animal to the vet as soon as possible.

#6 Agitated Pacing

angry cat

Heightened hormones can increase a cat’s anxiety.

©Anastasia Tveretinova/Shutterstock.com

Agitated pacing could be a behavior that your cat displays during heat. This pacing will typically occur through the night and will be accompanied by vocalizations, rolling, and spraying.

If your cat sees a potential mate outside, it will pace frantically in front of doors and windows. Provide them with plenty of space and offer play as a distraction.

#7 Mating Posture

The black cat was frightened and stooped. Black cat in fear and aggression.

Cat mating posture is called lordosis.

©NZ3/Shutterstock.com

During the estrus phase, your cat will start to exhibit the most noticeable mating behavior. They will assume the mating position and start to tread their back legs.

Your feline animal will put its head and chest down with its front legs bent. Then it will raise its rear and lift its tail to one side. They will walk their hind legs in place and vocalize during this.

Avoid scratching or petting your cat at the base of their tail during heat; otherwise, they will immediately assume lordosis position.

#8 Lack of or Increased Appetite

The cat eats dry food and pills from a bowl.

Like humans, cats will experience a variety of appetite shifts during hormonal cycles.

©Mukhina1/iStock via Getty Images

A shift in appetite might indicate a number of things in your cat. If you are not seeing other symptoms of heat or your animal does not eat at all, contact your vet. Most commonly, a feline will experience a dramatic decrease in appetite. The behavior should last about two weeks, usually less.

During heat, your cat’s body is focused on reproducing and will prioritize that over everything else. Keep cool and clean water for them during this change.

With less frequency, cats experience an increase in appetite during their heat cycle.

#9 Grooming, Grooming, and More Grooming

Maine coon cat grooming and lying on white bed in sunny bright stylish room. Cute cat with green eyes and with funny adorable emotions licking and cleaning fur. Space for text

Genital licking can also be a sign of a urinary tract infection.

©Bogdan Kurylo/iStock via Getty Images

During the proestrus and estrus phases, your cat might start to pay particular attention to its genitals during grooming sessions. There will most likely not be blood present since cats do not shed the lining of their uterus during estrous.

If your cat is experiencing other signs of heat, they might be licking themselves out of discomfort. With higher than usual hormone levels, the genitals will swell and can make your cat feel agitated.

What To Do When Your Cat is in Heat

Close-up of gray furry cat sitting on woman's lap and looking at camera with its green eyes. Hands of older woman stroking, caressing fluffy pet resting on legs of owner, indoors

Cats do not experience pain while they are in heat.

©Sergey Dementyev/iStock via Getty Images

If your cat is in heat, they will be agitated, anxious, and erratic. When your feline friend enters estrous, here are a few things you can do to make them more comfortable.

  • Dedicate a portion of your home to them: If you have multiple cats, keep them away from your furry friend in heat. Especially if those other animals can get your cat pregnant.
  • Keep your cat inside: While you should normally keep your cat inside, it’s especially important during their estrous cycle. Your cat will only be focused on mating, making it easy for them to get lost or hurt.
  • Close blinds: Your cat will spend large portions of time staring longingly out your windows. If a potential mate appears outside, they will caterwaul, spray, and pace in agitation. Closing window blinds avoids this entirely.
  • Distract them: Your cat will be quite agitated during their heat cycle. You can help diffuse some of their energy by playing with them more than usual.
  • Help them relax: You can give your cat some catnip or use a pheromone diffuser to help quell some of the restless energy.

When To Get Your Cat Spayed

Himalayan bluepoint cat lying on red.

Prices of spaying a cat vary between shelters and private vets.

©Anna Krivitskaya/Shutterstock.com

The standard is to spay cats around four to five months of age, which is after their first heat in some cases. However, the minimum accepted weight for anesthesia is two pounds, which some cats reach before four or five months of age. If your cat reaches the minimum weight early, you could avoid dealing with the estrous cycle altogether.

Some vets will want to wait until your cat is bigger, so speak with a medical professional before scheduling the surgery.

After your cat has had surgery, you’ll want to keep them in a quiet and comfortable place indoors for the first 18 to 24 hours. Keep the cat’s cone collar on at all times to avoid any licking or biting. Follow all instructions from your vet including giving prescribed pills at the correct times. If you notice any signs of discomfort, pain, or infection in the area, call your vet immediately.

Summary of Telltale Signs Your Cat is in Heat

#Sign
1Excessive vocalizing
2Rolling on the floor
3Excessive affection seeking
4Trying to escape
5Spraying/marking
6Agitated pacing
7Mating posture
8Lack of appetite
9Lots of grooming

The photo featured at the top of this post is © Autobahn/Shutterstock.com


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About the Author

Zoe Carina is a writer at A-Z Animals who primarily covers plants, animals, and places around the world. Zoe has been a professional copywriter and freelancer for six years and holds a bachelors degree in communications from Florida State University, which they earned in 2019. A resident of Oregon, Zoe runs a blog called Intuitive Traveler, where they write about traveling and language learning.

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