This is a question I have been asked many times especially by first time cat owners. How do I know if my cat is in heat? If you adopt a female kitten between the ages of 6 to 12 months or older from a shelter it is likely they will already have been spayed (if female) or neutered (if male).
What does being in heat mean?
When a female cat becomes fertile for mating this is referred to as being “in heat”. For non-spayed female cats this usually occurs between the ages of 6 to 12 months. But since we all know rules are made to be broken, in some kittens this can happen as early as 4 months of age.
It is a seasonal occurrance which most commonly happens in the spring and the fall. If the cat completes her cycle without becoming pregnant she can begin another heat cycle within a month. The cycle lasts for approximately a week, but in some cats can last 10 to 14 days.
What are the signs?
If you have never owned a cat as a pet before some of these behaviors can be a bit confusing. You may feel as though that sweet kitten you brought home has become posessed!
She may have been perfectly content being indoors and suddenly will begin to make every attempt to escape to the world outside. Or she may become overly affectionate, rubbing against you, your legs, the furniture and even the dog if one happens to be nearby! This is nature taking over her hormones, and by spreading her scent everywhere she is letting all interested male cats in the area know she is open for business.
She may become unusually vocal, emitting excessively annoying (to us) meows, yowls and other sounds you have never heard come out of her little body before. For reasons unknown to us she will be especially prone to doing this between midnight and 4 a.m.
You may notice a decrease in her appetite, and see her cleaning the area around her genitalia much more frequently. A cat’s uterus doesn’t shed its lining so there will not be any bleeding or bloody discharge to worry about. Cats are known to be fastidious about keeping themselves clean.
Another odd behavior she may exhibit will look similar to the “play” position that dogs show each other. Her front paws and front half of her body will be on the ground while her rear end and tail will be raised in the air, referred to as “assuming the position”.
How can I help her?
Although some veterinarians may offer synthetic hormones to help with easing some of the more annoying symptoms, most will recommend spaying. And the fact is spaying is the ONLY permanent solution to the symptoms and annoyances of having a cat in heat.
Spaying and neutering of all pets is beneficial in multiple other ways. It will prevent the territorial marking most often done by the males of the species. It will also ease aggression issues that are caused by the rise and fall of hormone levels, also more common in male animals. And in general spayed and neutered animals live longer healthier lives.
It is a sad fact there are many hundreds of unwanted, abandoned and feral animals euthanized every year due to overpopulation because people are negligent about spaying or neutering their pets. That is the one thing everyone can do to help save a life. Unless one is a professional and ethical breeder who makes a living from their animal’s offspring, or has plans to keep a show animal’s bloodline recorded for future generations there are few other reasons for not spaying and neutering.
Please make this a priority in your own animal’s lives, and spread the word so that more animals lives aren’t ended needlessly.