Cat in heat rolling around

Key takeaway

Cats stay in heat for around 3 to 7 days, and up to 20 days for some cats. The heat cycle varies for all cats and typically occurs every 2 to 3 weeks.

How Long Does A Cat Stay In Heat?

If you don’t get your female cat spayed, they’re going to go into heat. And if you’re experiencing a cat in heat for the first time, you’re probably wondering: how long does a cat stay in heat?

Typically, a cat will stay in heat for around 3 to 7 days, but this cycle can last as long as 20 days for certain cats. A cat goes into heat quite often, and this heat cycle is also called the estrous cycle. 

A female cat will go into heat every 2 to 3 weeks, and their heat cycle will continue until either they get pregnant or get spayed. A cat will typically start going into heat when they’re 4 to 5 months old, which is also around the same time that you would get your cat spayed.1

If you choose to not get your cat spayed, then it’s crucial that you understand how long your cat will stay in heat and what the signs of a cat in heat are. In this blog post, we’ll be answering important questions about a female cat’s heat cycle, such as “what happens when cats are in heat?”, “what are the signs a cat is in heat?” and “how long does a cat stay in heat for?

To learn more about a cat’s heat cycle so you can better prepare for your growing kitten, continue reading this blog post or use the links below to skip to a section of your choice.

What Happens When Cats Are In Heat?

There are various stages that a cat will go through when they’re in heat. Several factors can also influence when a cat goes into heat for the first time, such as their breed, the time of year, and their physical condition. 

There are five stages of the heat cycle, each with a unique timeframe and associated symptoms. Below, we’ll break down each of the five stages of a cat’s heat cycle.2

Proestrus 

The first stage of a cat’s heat cycle is called the proestrus stage. This stage will typically last one to two days and the cat’s symptoms will be subtle, if noticeable at all. During this stage is when your cat may start to attract unneutered male cats, but she will not be ready to mate with them. Some cats may display increased affectionate behavior and rub their head and neck against objects when they’re in the proestrus stage.

Estrus

The second stage of a cat’s heat cycle is called the estrus stage. This stage will last anywhere from 1 to 2 weeks and at this point, the cat will be receptive to mating. The length of this stage can vary depending on if she mates or not. 

A female cat will most likely show more noticeable signs during this stage as well. She may roll around on the floor, call or vocalize loudly, rub up against things, and crouch on the floor with her rear end elevated. Some cats may also experience a poor appetite and show more affection towards their owners. 

If the cat does mate during this period, then they will start ovulating. However, a female cat typically needs to mate at least 4 times during the estrus period to become pregnant. If the cat does become pregnant, then they will enter into the diestrus phase, which is when her fertilized eggs become embryos. 

Interestrus

The next stage in a cat’s heat cycle is called the interestrus stage, which will occur if the cat does not get pregnant during the estrus stage. This stage can last between 2-3 weeks. During this stage, the cat’s estrogen levels will drop and she will not exhibit any sexual behaviors. This is the period in between heat cycles, and once the 2-3 weeks are over, she will go into heat again.

Anestrus

The anestrus is the period of time when a female cat is reproductively dormant. This stage usually happens naturally during periods of time when there’s little daylight, like in the late fall and winter. During this period of time, a cat’s reproductive organs are not active and the estrus cycle will not occur.

However, the anestrus stage is more common for outdoor cats since they’re more exposed to natural sunlight and their heat cycles are more likely to be affected by daylight. Indoor cats are more likely to experience year-round heat cycles because they experience artificial sunlight all year.

Luteal/Diestrus

The luteal/diestrus stage occurs if a cat becomes pregnant during the estrus stage. This is when her fertilized eggs become embryos. The embryos will implant in the uterus around 12 to 13 days after mating, and around 84% of the embryos will survive this process. 

Graphic listing signs a cat is in heat

What Are The Signs A Cat Is In Heat?

There are various signs that can indicate a cat is in heat, such as3:

  • Calling or vocalizing loudly
  • Urine spraying
  • Increased affection
  • Rolling around
  • Rubbing against objects
  • Arching rear end into the air
  • Demanding behavior
  • Begging to go outside
  • Loss of appetite
  • Wanting to be pet more than usual, especially on their backs and hindquarters

The first signs that will indicate a cat is in heat will typically be them crying and meowing loudly. This is because your cat is trying to let other cats know they’re in heat. A cat in heat will also try to get more affection from their owners and other people. When you pet a cat in heat, they will most likely wiggle their rear end with their tail high in the air. 

The influx of hormones that a cat experiences during their heat cycle is what triggers these symptoms. However, as soon as a cat ends their heat cycle, these behaviors will stop as well.

How Often Do Cats Go Into Heat?

A cat will typically go into heat every 2-3 weeks. This will vary for every cat, but you can expect to see your cat go into heat this often unless they become pregnant or get spayed. Once a cat becomes pregnant, she will no longer experience heat cycles because her body will start to prepare for pregnancy.

Why Has My Cat Been In Heat For Two Months? 

If you notice that your cat has been in heat for longer than normal, you may be starting to get concerned. But, most cats will go in and out of heat until they are spayed or become pregnant. This might make it seem like your cat is constantly in heat, but in reality, they’re just going through a heat cycle every few weeks.

One of the many benefits of getting your cat spayed is ending this heat cycle. While the heat cycle is not usually painful for cats, it can be a bit uncomfortable for them.

Graphic listing what to do if cat is in heat

What Should You Do If Your Cat Is In Heat?

If you choose to not get your cat spayed, it’s imperative that you know what to do when your cat is in heat. There are various things you can do to calm a female cat who’s in heat, such as:

  • Play with your cat and show them affection
  • Keep them away from male cats
  • Use catnip
  • Have her sit on a heating pad or warm towel
  • Use synthetic cat pheromones
  • Keep their litter box clean

Can I Spay My Cat While In Heat?

Yes, you can spay your cat while in heat, but most vets would not recommend it. If you’re interested in spaying your cat, you should talk to your vet about what’s best for them. Your vet will have the best idea of how to go about spaying your cat in a way that is healthy for them and won’t pose any risks.

Owner petting cat

Final Notes

So now that we’ve answered the question of “how long does a female cat stay in heat for?”, you should have a better understanding of your cat’s heat cycle and what the symptoms of a cat in heat are. But if you notice any unusual symptoms that occur during your cat’s heat cycle, it’s never a bad idea to get in contact with a vet so you can make sure everything’s alright. Your vet will be able to tell you if your cat is in heat or not, or if the symptoms are from something else.

And if you need help connecting with a vet, you can use Dutch.com. Dutch is an online pet telehealth service that connects licensed veterinarians with pet owners right from home. We offer remote veterinarian appointments so all pet owners can have access to affordable pet care, no matter where they live.

References

  1. Bukowski, John A., and Susan Aiello. “Breeding and Reproduction of Cats - Cat Owners.” Merck Veterinary Manual, Merck Veterinary Manual, 22 Mar. 2022, https://www.merckvetmanual.com/cat-owners/routine-care-and-breeding-of-cats/breeding-and-reproduction-of-cats?query=heat+cats.

  2. Little, Susan E. “Female Reproduction.” Edited by Susan E. Little, The Cat, U.S. National Library of Medicine, 2012, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7158189/.

  3. “Cats in Heat/Cats Coming into Season.” PDSA, https://www.pdsa.org.uk/pet-help-and-advice/pet-health-hub/conditions/seasons-in-cats.