Being “in heat” or “in season” are the common terms used to refer to the oestrus cycle of the unspayed cat, indicating the fertile part of their cycle and the time when they are potentially able to conceive to have a litter. Being in heat will generate some fairly dramatic behaviours and personality changes in your cat for the duration, and also means that they will be in the mood for mating and may go out of their way to find a tom cat to mate with.
If your cat is unspayed or you are considering keeping your cat unspayed to breed from them, learning to identify when your cat is in heat is important. Not only does this allow you to recognise when they are fertile and will be able to mate with a male cat to conceive, but it will also mean that you can take steps to prevent them from breeding when you don’t want them to, by keeping them inside and away from the presence of any males.
Read on to learn more about cats and their heat cycle.
Coming into heat for the first time indicates the onset of sexual maturity in the cat, and if you are not planning to breed from your cat, they should be spayed when they are old enough, to prevent them from coming into heat at all.
Cats usually reach sexual maturity and undergo their first heat cycle between the age of six and twelve months old, although it can occur as early as four months of age, particularly within some pedigree breeds such as the Siamese and Burmese cats. Although the onset of the first heat cycle means that your cat can theoretically conceive, they should not be bred until they are one year old at a very minimum, and preferably at least two years old.
While unspayed dogs only come into season once or twice a year, female cats are fertile and come into heat much more regularly. Cats can come into heat as often as every three weeks, and can conceive at any point while they are in heat, meaning that keeping an unspayed adult cat can prove challenging.
Once in heat, the fertile part of the cycle can last for anything between five and ten days, and as mentioned, the cycle will repeat on a regular basis unless the cat is spayed or conceives.
All cats are different, but it is usually fairly obvious when a female cat is in heat, as they will display a distinctive set of mating behaviours and often, undergo personality and temperament changes for the duration.
Look out for any combination of the following signs that your cat may be in heat:
The only way to prevent your cat constantly coming into heat is to have them spayed, and unless you intend to breed from your cat and have good reasons for doing so, you should always have your cat spayed at the first available opportunity.
As mentioned, having your cat spayed will stop them from ever coming into heat again, and means that your cat will be unable to conceive and will not be interested in mating.
Even if you do plan to breed from your cat, this process should be planned and properly undertaken with due thought and consideration, meaning that it is important that you prevent your cat from breeding when in heat unless it is a deliberate mating.
This means confining your cat to the house every time they are in heat, and taking pains to ensure that they cannot get out to go in search of a mate, and that other cats cannot get in. Also, the presence of an un-neutered male cat can potentially trigger or induce a season in the unspayed cat, so try to keep your cat away from un-neutered male cats if possible, even when your cat is not in heat.