How Long Does a Cat Stay in Heat?

cat in heat 2

A cat usually stays in heat for about four to seven days in general.

However, there are certain factors that might complicate things or change the estrus duration.

Let’s see how long does a cat stays in heat across different circumstances.

What is heat or estrus?

Heat is the time when your female cat (queen) is ready to mate.

It’s essentially a time period in a queen’s life when she’ll do various things aimed at attracting males as well as for other physiological reasons:

  • Loud vocalizing is pretty common during this time, but she won’t be screaming at you, you can be sure of that.
  • Rolling around is also pretty common and spreads her scent quickly.
  • To further spread her scent, she can also rub on things constantly.
  • Elevating her rear end is a good sign that she’s in heat.
  • Her appetite will decrease during the heat and she’ll be eating less food or sometimes ignoring it completely.

All these behaviors are typical of a queen’s heat period. Technically, it’s called the estrus cycle.

cat lay

So, how long will this keep going in?

In other words, how long will the heat last?

Well, to be honest, there’s nothing specific about it nor is there any rule of thumb. You see, the general time period of a queen’s heat is considered to be 4-7 days. However, sometimes cats would be in heat for a single day or just three days. It’s not abnormal.

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It’s exceptionally rare and possibly abnormal if her heat continues well beyond a week.

How old my cat will be when she has her first heat?

Cats usually experience their first heat around four months of age. This is true for a large number of cats. However, technically, the average age is considered to be six to nine months.

If you don’t want unwanted pregnancies and litters of kittens to take care of, you’re highly recommended to get your cat spayed before her first heat.

Surely, your vet will determine when  

cat on floor

What happens during the heat?

During estrus, males will try to approach her and mate.

However, ovulation (the release of eggs from the ovaries, required for successful pregnancy) will only happen during the heat. Mating at any other point will have no effect because the necessary hormones are not present.

Now, the queen might need to mate for about 4-5 times (it could be with different males) to get pregnant. If multiple males are involved, she will give birth to a litter of kittens who will all have the same mother but different fathers.

Now, one thing that you have to understand is that your cat will not be pregnant if she’s not in heat. I have seen a lot of cat owners worry over their female cats thinking that pregnancy can come at any point. Well, that’s not the truth at all.

Only a queen in heat will get pregnant.

Another point that a lot of cat owners seem to be missing out on is that unless your cat is spayed, she will keep getting out of your house until she gets pregnant. During her first heat, if she’s not ovulated, she will continue to circle through heat cycles and until she’s impregnated, she won’t stop going out.

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So, in a way, if you don’t want to contribute to pet overpopulation and increase the count of stray kittens, then the best thing for you has to be getting your female cat spayed (and if you own a male cat, then getting him neutered).

What happens after heat?

There are two possible stages after estrus: interestrus or anestrus.

If mating was unsuccessful during estrus, she goes into interestrus. It’s a time period where her estrogen levels will drop significantly but her health or behavior will not be affected. This is sort of an in-between phase. After several days, she’ll again go into estrus.

During anestrus, the queen is reproductively dormant as a result of the hormones becoming inactive. She’s simply not in season and cannot or would not mate. The estrus cycle activity is missing here.

Indoor cats are exposed to artificial light which means they can keep going through heat cycles all year round. However, outdoor cats usually go into heat during the spring to fall time. Longer days have more light, therefore stimulating hormone production. October to January, daylight is lesser and therefore, unable to stimulate outdoor cats to go into heat.