There is an unmistakable sound that almost everyone has heard: the loud screech of a cat entering the throes of cat mating season. We tend to associate the warmer months with cats in heat, the wailing acts like a soundtrack to those spring and summer nights. For those who are hearing it for the first time, it can cause alarm.
You may think that something is wrong with the cat or that she’s in pain – but the truth is, she’s simply in heat.
Is there such a thing as Cat Mating Season?
Cat mating season is somewhat of a misnomer – cats (much like humans) can and do mate at any time of the year. However, there are some clear cut signs that cats are ready for breeding or mating that will result in litters.
Female cats start relatively young – as soon as the first heat cycle emerges, she is ready to breed. Once she gives birth, it doesn’t take a long time for her to get back into action. Some cats can have up to three litters per year!
Signs Your Cat Is In Heat
The most obvious sign that your cat is in heat is that you hear the calling or loud yowling. It is an unmistakable sound that will travel through your home and haunt you – it may seem like she never stops.
There’s a reason for this: your cat wants attention. She doesn’t really want your attention, though that may placate her. If there isn’t a male cat around, she will show increased affection toward people. She will rub against your legs and roll around on the floor in front of you.
If you do go to pet her, a cat in heat may raise her bottom half into the air and start swaying her tail. In reality, though, she wants the attention of a male cat. If she does this while near a window or outside, it can be heard for great distances and will likely attract some attention from male cats.
Not all signs that your cat is in heat are positive ones. In very rare cases, female cats can also show aggression towards their owners or other cats. More often, you will notice that she is licking her genitals with rapt attention. She may also urinate on walls and other flat surfaces.
One of the more problematic signs that your cat is in heat, is that she will try to escape and go outside in order to find a mate.
One of the other major signs your cat is in heat may not have to do with the cat at all – when the days seem to get longer (in the spring and summer), more cats go into heat. Now, this isn’t a foolproof way to determine whether or not she’s in heat, but it can be an indication that it is coming.
Explaining the Cat Heat Cycle
While you most often hear the term “heat cycle,” it can also be called “Oestrus” or “Estrus” in some circles – we will break down those terms in a bit. In general, a heat cycle is when your cat is ready to breed. Most people who breed cats regularly think of March through September as prime breeding time.
All cats, whether they are purebred or not, are “polyestrous.” This means that their heat cycles are periodic and they will turn on and off throughout their fertile years. Sometimes, cats will go into their first heat cycle at as young as four months old and it will continue until she has bred or she is spayed.
There are some other factors that may determine when your cat goes into heat, including your cat’s weight (she needs to be 80% of her adult weight to successfully carry kittens), general health, and the specific cat breed.
How long are cats in heat?
There isn’t a set length to a cat’s heat cycle – most go somewhere between a few days to two weeks, but it isn’t unheard of for them to go longer. It repeats every two or three months, which is why it may feel like your cat is always in heat.
The cat heat cycle has four main stages:
Stage 1: Proestrus
This is when the female cat is prepared for ovulation. You will notice some of the common signs of heat, including vocalizing, affection, and sticking her bottom into the air. This stage can last for a few hours up to a few days. What sets this phase apart is that your cat will not allow a male to mate with her yet.
Stage 2: Estrus
During this phase, you will see similar behavior to stage one. As this is when ovulation occurs, your cat will allow a male to breed her. This stage lasts about a week.
Stage 3: Interestrus
If your cat has not mated, she will enter an in-between phase where she waits. Some of the behaviors from Proestrus will continue while others may fade away, only to come back.
Stage 4: Diesterous
If your cat ovulates, she then enters into this phase. Her body prepares for pregnancy and she will stay out of heat for around 30-35 days. While it may appear that she is pregnant, she may not always be at this point.
Once your cat is pregnant, she will be pregnant for somewhere between 64 to 66 days. Once she gives birth and takes care of her kittens, she is ready to begin the process again in about a month.
Do Cats Get Periods?
While breeders might wish for their cats to get a period so they know what is going on inside, however, cats don’t get periods. The vulva may swell a bit, but if there is blood present, it is a sign that something is wrong.
Do Male Cats Go Into Heat?
In their own way, male cats do go into heat. They are able to mate and breed whenever the female allows them to mount. However, males tend to be randy between September and March.
During this time, they tend to misbehave and, if they are around other cats, they will fight them. Males will also mark their territory with urine, known as sexual marking. Most commonly, you will see it on furniture and tall vertical spaces like walls.
How Do Cats Mate?
Cats mating is not what you’d call romantic! Typically, the female cat will try to attract the attention of the males. When a female cat is ovulating (the Estrus phase), she will allow the male cat to mount her. She may yowl during this phase as well, most likely because the male cat tends to bite her neck to keep her from running away – like I said, not romantic!
Now, the female cat doesn’t allow the male cat to stay too long. She will stop him after about 45-60 seconds. Often, she needs to get physical to stop him. However – she isn’t done. After a few minutes of cool down, she is ready to try again. This phase is repeated over and over again until she is finally done. You will know she is done when she either runs and hides or doesn’t allow him to mount her again for about 20 minutes.
While it may seem difficult to know the signs of female heat and when she’s ready to mate, after a while, you will see patterns and trends. If you are going to breed cats and you want to have a healthy female cat that has strong kittens, you should learn the signs of cat mating season.