How to Help a Cat in Heat
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A cat in heat can be a difficult time for their guardians. Their behavior can be erratic and cause upset within the home. However, it is the cat who will be feeling most frustrated, especially if she has no opportunity to mate with a male. For this reason, we need to do what we can to help a cat in heat feel calm. This will best ensure their wellbeing, as well as maintain peace in the household.
At AnimalWised, we show you how to help a cat in heat. We provide practical ways for calming cats in heat, as well as provide the method of stopping heat altogether.
The heat cycle in cats
The sexual cycle of a cat is characterized by being dependent on season to some extent. The long days of spring and summer are conducive to entering heat, since they need at least 12 hours of daily light. When the days are short, street cats enter anestrus (i.e. they do not have heat). House cats can present it all year round due to the artificial light in the home.
In addition, the cat is polyestric in its reproductive season. This means they enter the heat cycle every 10-20 days, stopping if they become pregnant, if they are sterilized or if they enter anestrus for any other reason. The vast majority of female cats have induced ovulation after mating due to the friction made by the spicules of the cat's penis during copulation. The pain it causes is the reason cats scream so much when mating.
Puberty or development of sexual characteristics occur when they reach around 80% of their adult weight, usually between 4 months and 12-18 months of age. This depends on the breed. For example, short hair Siamese type cat breeds generally reach sexual maturity earlier than longer-haired Siamese cats.
Phases of the heat cycle in cats
The sexual cycle in female cats, especially domestic cats, is based on a follicular phase. Unlike other species, they present induced ovulation. If there is no uncastrated male cat in the home, it is very rare that they ovulate spontaneously (less than 10%). The heat cycle in cats is as follows:
- Proestrus (0.5-2 days): at this stage the cat still does not accept copulation, but she does have more interest in males. They become more affectionate and begin to show lordosis (arching spine), meows and rubbing against objects or people. At this stage the follicles are developing and estrogen is high.
- Estrus (3-12 days): this is the phase we specifically mean when we refer to the cat being ‘in heat’. We see it when she already accepts the male and the behavior is manifest. Follicles increase in size and estrogen increases.
- Interestrus (2-19 days): consists of the rest period between two follicular waves of heat. There is ovarian activity, but estrogens decrease and progesterone does not increase when ovulation does not occur. In some cases, the follicular waves overlap and the interestrus interval is practically non-existent while the cat is in heat, until the anestrus stage arrives.
- Anestrus (50-120): the cat does not have ovarian activity and heat cannot develop. It occurs in the months with shorter days.
- Diestrus or pseudopregnancy (30-40 days): occurs when spontaneous ovulation occurs (rare in cats) or copulation has occurred and therefore ovulation is stimulated, but the cat has not become pregnant. If they are in season, at the end of the phase they will start a new heat.
Symptoms of heat in cats
What to do if my cat is in heat? Symptoms of heat in cats are very evident. Cat guardians know that it can be very annoying and stressful, even for neighbors. When a cat goes into heat it is noticeable, since it does not stop manifesting even though there are no males nearby.
To know if your cat is in this period, you need see how they act when in heat. We need to know the symptoms to be able to calm your cat while in heat and help her feel less frustrated. Here are some signs to watch out for:
- Greater sensitivity
- Increased need for affection and attention
- Raise the rear third of the body
- Adopting the mate-receiving position
- Curl their tail
- Arch the back
- Expose their external genitalia
- Loud meows and vocalizations
- Roll on the ground
- Less sleep
- Rub themselves on objects or people
- Try to escape
- Increased purring
- Lick their genitals a lot
- Mark corners of the home with urine
- Urinate more
- Move their feet as if they were tapping
The heat cycle is not the only reason a cat licks her genitals. Take a look at our article on why a cat licks her private area for more.
How to help a cat in heat
Wondering how to calm a cat in heat? To help a cat in heat, a series of measures can be adopted such as:
- Provide a calm environment.
- Give more love and attention to the cat.
- Play with them more frequently, this will temporarily displace their heat behavior.
- Do not yell or get angry at their behavior, they do not do it on purpose, it is in their nature.
- Brush the cat's fur and say reassuring words to her, trying to calm her down.
- Transmit heat to the cat with our body contact, hot water bottles or blankets, since the heat helps them to calm down.
- Use of synthetic feline fraction 3 facial pheromones, which reduce stress and anxiety, calming our cat in heat.
- Clean the litter box more frequently.
- Avoid access to the outside, closing the windows and being careful when opening doors.
To know how much time you will need to help your cat, take a look at our article which asks how long is a cat in heat?
Can you stop a cat's heat cycle?
A companion cat can become very stressed by their heat cycle, especially if we prevent them from going outside. This prevents them mating with a male and becoming pregnant. For this reason and more, it is recommended to sterilize cats. Not only does spaying a female cat stop the heat period, it also prevents or avoids diseases such as breast cancer, pyometra, metritis and ovarian tumors.
Sterilization can be by oophorectomy (removal of the ovaries) or by ovariohysterectomy (removal of the ovaries and uterus). Contraceptive methods, such as progestogens, also called chemical castration methods. Although they can be very effective, they are not recommended because they can cause problems such as mammary fibroepithelial hyperplasia, increased appetite, diabetes mellitus, pyometra and depression in cats undergoing this hormonal treatment.
Can you sterilize a cat in heat?
Early sterilization is recommended, i.e. before the first heat. This is key in greatly reducing the risk of breast cancer in the future. If done before 6 months, the chance of breast cancer is only 9%.
Take a look at our related article on spaying pregnant cats for more information.
My cat in heat won't let me sleep
It can be common for out cat to not let us sleep. The best way to avoid this is the sterilization of our female cats. However, if your unsterilized cat is in heat and the day of your surgery appointment has not yet arrived, we recommend the following measures to reduce those incessant meows at night:
- Ignore their behaviors when night falls. It will make them tired of meowing and asking for attention without getting it.
- Make her release all her energy during the day, stimulating her to move and becoming tired at night.
- Keep her from starving at night and give her enough food and drink.
- It is important that she is calm and has toys to distract herself, beds to rest and places to explore away from you.
What not to do with a cat in heat
We have been commenting on what we should do to help and calm our cat when she is in heat. However, there are certain home remedies or ‘tricks’ some people share to stop the heat in cats. We need to avoid these at all costs, whether they come from people we know or unreliable internet sources.
We want to highlight one home remedy in particular. This is using a tampon or similar product to stimulate copulation with a male. This does not work and it can be very stressful for our cat. As cat caregivers we must make sure they are well, without unnecessary alterations to their peace of mind. We can not harm them and we need to ensure their happiness and quality of life.
Using this trick is harmful and it doesn't make sense. For a cat to stop being in heat and calm down, she must ovulate after copulation with the male due to the friction of the spicules of the cat's penis (not recommended due to the risk of abandonment of the litters) or let the days of heat pass and that the cat lowers her estrogen levels in the interval between heat.
Keep in mind that although it is annoying or stressful, it is something physiological in our cats. If heat bothers us, you should sterilize the cat. She should be sterilized in most cases. Not only will it help the cat as they won't have the distress caused by the heat period, but they will have other behavioral and health benefits. Take a look at our guide to neutering a cat to know more.
If you want to read similar articles to How to Help a Cat in Heat, we recommend you visit our Heat category.