Most female cats, even unaltered ones, do not reach estrus until they are at least six to ten months old. Cats are induced ovulators, so the uterus does not prepare for pregnancy until the ovaries have been stimulated by sperm or pheromones. This can occur when a queen is spayed before she reaches sexual maturity, but unaltered queens usually do not begin showing signs of being in heat until after nine months of age.
Cats are efficient little reproducers, when they’re not sleeping all day. Their periods of heat cycle, or estrus, happen about every two months so that they can successfully mate with one or more healthy suitors. It’s important for a veterinarian to be able to tell if your cat is in heat in order to make sure she is cared for properly. Cats can go into heat at any point during the year, though it typically happens between January and September.
Display of Affection
Your female cat may become unusually affectionate. She may sidle and rub her hindquarters against furniture, stuffed toys, other cats, and maybe even you. You can distinguish this behavior from pure restlessness (a sign she may be in pain and need to see the vet) by the way she lifts her tail or even occasionally assumes the mating position. This display of affection, or lordosis, is stimulated by hormones during ovulation—approximately three to five days before she would actually be receptive to mating if she were allowed to go into estrus (heat).
When a female cat enters her season of heat, she is likely to start grooming herself excessively. This excessive grooming can sometimes result in blood on the fur. It’s important to note that this blood is not from the genital area, but from the skin. In fact, contrary to popular belief, cats do not bleed during their cycle. What does cause bleeding, however, is a urinary tract disorder which can also be a sign of pregnancy so it’s important to take your pet to the vet if she exhibits any “out of the ordinary” behaviors or excessive grooming.
Mating Call and Position
If your queen starts to call loudly, she’s probably mating. This “calling” may go on for several days unless she mates. She then assumes the mating position: head down, forelegs bent, rear quarters raised to expose the perineum, and tail raised and held to the side of the body. This posture is called lordosis. And when she assumes it, her rear legs will tread rhythmically as if walking in place.
Marking Her Territory
A feline in heat may spray you, your furniture, and any vertical object she can find. Yes, it’s upsetting, especially if you have to clean it up. However, the service is necessary for her species’ survival.
Loss of Appetite
Your cat may exhibit a noticeable decrease in appetite. If so, don’t attempt to force feed him, or assume he’s sick unless you’ve noticed a drastic change in his behavior. This is normal for your cat. He is preparing to mate with the queen. Frankly, his mind is on other things. Pure instinct shifts his bodily need towards reproducing, rather than feeding himself. But monitor his appetite, as this behavior should last no more than two weeks. Something else may be off if he doesn’t return to his normal eating pattern after that time.
Need to Escape
Cats is in heat are natural predators and the instinct to run away when in heat is present in all felines. The moment your feline steps out of your house and into the open air, she will begin to smell other cats is in heat’ signs—the pheremones they secrete, more specifically. This triggers the instinct that drives her to mate. Then, if you have an indoor cat, it will escape your house through whichever hole or opening it can find, running for several miles in search of a mate.