Skip to main content

PawTracks may earn a commission when you buy through links on our site.

How your cat’s behavior may change when she’s in heat

Everyone who’s ever shared their home with a cat knows that feline fur babies can be a bit eccentric. Whether they’re singing the song of their people or sleeping in unusual positions, cats are notorious oddballs. But if your typically quiet cat suddenly prowls the house vocalizing, you might be wondering what’s going on with your fur baby.

While sudden changes in behavior can be alarming, if you have a female cat, you could be dealing with your standard cat in heat behavior. We’ll fill you in on what you can expect from your cat while she’s in heat—from the behavioral quirks you should look for, to how long she’ll stay in heat.

An exotic calico cat lifts her tail against a bike tire.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

How do I calm my cat when she’s in heat? 

Though the age of onset can vary, in most cases cats reach sexual maturity when they’re around 6 months old. Certain small breeds might experience their first heat between 4 and 5 months of age, while larger cat breeds—and some long-haired breeds—may not experience a heat cycle until they’re around 14 months or older. Once a cat has reached sexual maturity, she’ll be able to have her first estrus cycle, also known as going into heat. Unless your cat has been spayed or is currently pregnant, she’ll have her heat cycle at some point. She may withdraw from your affectionate gestures or she could become more demanding of your attention than ever. Fortunately, there are ways you can help her feel more settled while she’s in heat. 

  • Give her some space: If you have male cats in the house, keep them separate while your female cat—also known as a queen (a fitting name, we might add)—is in heat. 
  • Make sure your cat is safe: You’ll also want to keep your fur baby inside the house while she’s in estrus. Because your cat is receptive to mating during estrus, she could easily wander off and get lost while in search of a mate. 
  • Help her feel more relaxed: While many cats wail during heat, there’s no cause for worry. Your fur baby isn’t in pain; she’s calling out because she wants to attract a mate. But just because your cat isn’t uncomfortable doesn’t mean she isn’t feeling restless. Try giving her some catnip or using a pheromone diffuser to help her feel settled and calm. 

Your cat might not be as interested in food during her heat cycle, but when her appetite is low, you should make sure she has access to cool, clean water. Conversely, some cats might experience an increase in appetite during estrus. Just like people, cats have their own distinctive personalities, so heat behaviors can vary. 

A tabby cat sprawls out on the grass beneath a lounge chair.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

What are the side effects of a cat in heat? 

Even a cat who’s usually serene and affectionate may exhibit strange behavior during her heat cycle. Potential side effects include:

  • Loud vocalizations
  • Urination outside the litter box
  • Crawling low to the ground
  • Rolling around on the floor
  • Changes in appetite
  • Restless behavior, such as pacing or the inability to settle down
  • Increase in affectionate behavior; some cats may even rub up against furniture
  • Suddenly wanting to spend time outside
  • Walking with her tail straight up in the air or tucked to one side
  • Swollen genital area, potentially with very light bleeding
  • Increase in grooming, particularly the genitals

All of these behaviors are perfectly normal for cats while they’re in heat. It can be alarming to hear your cat wailing at the top of her lungs or suddenly rubbing up against a table leg, but the only way to permanently put a stop to your cat’s eccentric behavior during heat is to have her spayed. 

How long does a cat stay in heat?

Did you know that feral and stray cats typically don’t go into heat during the colder months? However, domestic cats live in artificially warm homes, so your fur baby can easily go into heat every 2 to 3 weeks, all year long—even during the winter. Unless your cat mates during her heat cycle, she’ll remain in heat for an average of one week, though that can vary widely in different cats. Some cycles may last as short as 2 days, while others can stretch on for an impressive 19 days

A tabby cat stretches out on a gray faux fur rug.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

It’s best to spay

Unless you intend to breed your cat, you may want to consider having her spayed. Not only will spaying your cat eliminate her unsettling heat-related behaviors, but it will also make her much less likely to run away from home. Lastly, spaying your cat can prevent health problems from developing later in life, which is undeniably the most important reason to consider spaying your fur baby.

Editors' Recommendations

Mary Johnson
Mary Johnson is a writer and photographer from New Orleans, Louisiana. Her work has been published in PawTracks and…
8 essential tips for disciplining cats
8 Easy and effective tips for training your cat
Two kittens on wooden shelves

Cats may be one of the most popular pets worldwide, but even they have reputations (mostly with non-cat people). Felines are known for indifference, sass, and even attitude. Cartoons, comics, and movies portray them as impossible to reason with, but if you ask a cat owner, they'll assure you cat discipline exists. Here's the catch: you need to know how to discipline your cat -- safely and properly -- for that training to stick. With these seven simple tips and tricks, though, you'll be on your way to perfect feline behavior.

Rule out medical concerns as a cause for misbehavior
Surprising as it sounds, the source of a lot of cat misbehavior has roots in medical conditions. Cats may stop using the litter box, demonstrate new aggression, or start hiding in unexpected places -- all from changes inside their body. So, before you start wondering how to punish your cat, make an appointment with your veterinarian. You may find a medical cause for the behavior. If not, you'll get peace of mind and can move on to further tips on cat discipline.

Read more
Why do cats throw up? (Plus, the one thing you should always do)
Don't ignore your cat when they do this
an orange and white cat lounging on wood plank

When you signed on to cat parenthood, you likely knew you'd have to deal with waste management, like cleaning litter boxes (or scooping poop if your kitty is an outdoor one). Feeding and providing a cat with plenty of water are also expected basics of having a cat. However, cats are full of surprises, from wake-up calls for pets (aren't felines anti-social?) to a Bah-humbug relationship with holiday trees.

An unwelcome surprise of kitty parenting? Cleaning up vomit. To be frank, it's gross. However, seeing that your cat threw up is likely also concerning to you. When people throw up, they're often sick — can the same be said for cats? If you're wondering, "Why is my cat throwing up?" your first call should be to a vet. Here's why.

Read more
Cats sleep with their eyes open — it’s creepy, but here’s why they do it
Cats do all sorts of weird things, including sleeping with their eyes open. Here is why.
A one-eyed cat sleeps with the other open

Cats do weird things sometimes, and we love them for it! What would we watch on TikTok otherwise? But their strange behavior can also cause us cat owners some concern. If you’ve ever seen your cat sleeping with her eyes open, you know exactly what we mean. Not only does this look frightening, but it also might spur some crucial questions in your mind. Why do cats sleep with their eyes open? Is it a medical problem? Should I be worried? Keep reading to find out.

Can cats sleep with their eyes open?
They can. If you’re reading this article, you have probably already observed your cat sleeping through the day with her eyes open. Not all cats do it, and cats that can don’t usually do it all the time. The first time you notice your cat sleeping with her eyes open, it can be quite jarring. It looks a little spooky, and you may start to worry that something is wrong with her.

Read more