Getting a new pet is exciting, but dealing with their first heat cycle may scare you. While a feline’s sexual maturity is completely natural, many pet owners don’t want to deal with their animal going into heat. But how old are they when they go into heat?
Cats are between 6-8 months old when they go into heat after reaching sexual maturity at six months. Since cats go into heat repeatedly throughout the year, from January to late autumn, your cat’s first estrous cycle may be delayed until January, depending on when she was born.
Read on to learn all about your cat’s first heat cycle, including when it happens, what to expect, and how her behavior might change. We’ll also discuss when you should spay your cat if you don’t want her to go through her first heat and the health risks of cats who aren’t spayed.
When Do Cats Become Sexually Mature?
Cats become sexually mature when they are six months old. Both female and male cats can reproduce at this time. In females, sexual maturity is rapidly followed by their first heat cycle. For males, this involves an influx of testosterone which will drive them to seek out females in heat and inspire territorial behavior such as spraying.
Do Male Cats Go Into Heat?
Male cats do not go into heat. Male cats reach sexual maturity about six months of age which gives them a sexual and territorial nature. Female cats go into heat, which is technically titled the ‘estrous cycle.’
The estrous cycle in cats is their reproductive cycle. It happens multiple times a year, from January to late fall. Cats don’t go into estrus (the stage when they are in heat) during the coldest months of the year so that their kittens aren’t at risk of freezing to death. In warmer climates, female felines can go into heat year-round.
At What Age Do Cats Go Into Heat?
The first estrous cycle takes place after the kitten reaches sexual maturity. Since kittens reach that point at six months of age, their first heat usually occurs soon after that. This can vary; however, if the cat happens to turn six months old during late fall, the first heat cycle will often be delayed until January when the cat is 7-9 months old.
How Do You Know if Your Cat Is in Heat?
Cats who are in heat are very demanding and vocal. They will often rub against any members of the household, even those they do not normally favor. The feline will be persistent in her search for attention, rolling on her back and pushing against you vigorously. When scratched, your cat will likely stick her hindquarters up in the aid and wiggle her back legs.
A cat in heat will also roll around on the floor, generally trying to bring attention to herself. She may also rub against furniture and her cat posts excessively, making mewling and even howling sounds. Cats in heat are extremely active during the typical crimes cats are: dawn and dusk. It’s no wonder so many people complain of cats making a raucous in the evenings.
Females in heat may also start marking, a messy habit in which they spray their urine on high-traffic areas around the neighborhood or home. The urine contains pheromones and hormones that linger on the surfaces, announcing to other cats in the area that there is a cat in heat that is ready for a mate. Both unneutered and neutered males will be interested in this smell, but unneutered males will be much more driven to seek out the female in heat.
If your cat is an indoor/outdoor cat, you may notice other cats being drawn to your property. These cats are likely unneutered males, or ‘tomcats,’ and they may spend hours outside of your house meowing and stalking your female cat.
What Do Cats Do When They Are in Heat?
Cats in heat will spend most of their time searching for a nearby mate. If you don’t want your cat to get pregnant, you will have to keep her indoors. She may be frustrated for a few days, as the female heat period lasts an average of six days. However, it’s imperative to keep her away from and unneutered male cats, or the chance of her getting pregnant is very high.
While your cat is stuck indoors, she will likely pace by entryways and windows, mewling loudly and calling to the males outside as if asking them to rescue her. She may spray in areas around the house as well, which will be messy and annoying. You can put her in cat diapers, for the time being, to stop the spraying. These diapers will also stop any bleeding that may occur, though it’s uncommon to see spotting or bleeding from your cat.
If your cat is allowed outside when she’s in heat, then you may not see her for nearly a week. She will likely be out and about, spreading her scent and spending all of her time calling for a mate. She may lay out in the middle of your property, meowing loudly and strutting or rolling around. Her entire existence will be dedicated to finding a physical partner during this time.
When Should You Spay Your Cat?
If you don’t want to deal with your cat going into heat, then the best time to spay her is when she is six months of age. The sixth-month mark will be long enough to allow her to reach sexual maturity but should be early enough to go into heat early.
You should book her procedure for as close to the six-month mark as possible. For instance, if your cat is born on January 1st, you should book her in for June 1st. Every week that passes after the six-month mark increases the chance that your kitten will go into her first heat cycle.
Why Should You Spay Your Cat?
You may think that the only reason to spay your cat is to stop her from getting pregnant. While this is a major factor, many health concerns can arise if you don’t spay your cat.
By spaying your cat before her first heat cycle, you reduce the future risk of cervical cancer and eliminate ovarian cancer risk since the ovaries are removed during the procedure. Many cancer-causing hormones originate in the ovaries, so removing them, even after your cat has experienced multiple heats, will lower her risk of other cancers as well, including mammary.
An unspayed cat will go into heat multiple times a year. Each time she goes into heat, she will be driven to try and escape your house, turning every entrance and exit from your home into a battle against your riled-up kitten. Cats in heat outdoors will also roam farther and may be more likely to be killed by a coyote or hit by a car since they are less concerned with their well-being than they are with finding a mate.
Spaying your cat will also reduce the chance of her spraying or marking around your home. In general, she will be less territorial and less likely to get into a fight with other cats in the neighborhood. A cat in heat will be more inclined to beat away any competition or keep other females away from her property.
Cats usually go into their first heat between 6-8 months. They have to reach sexual maturity first, which happens around the beginning of the sixth month. After that, they may go into heat right away, or a month or two later, depending on the time of year. In North America, cats usually don’t go into heat from October to December to give their litters the best chance of survival once born.