How does a cat’s behavior change when it is in heat?


Have you ever wondered why your otherwise calm and collected cat suddenly turns into a vocal, restless ball of energy? Cats are fascinating creatures known for their graceful movements and mysterious behaviors. One of the most intriguing aspects of feline behavior is the phenomenon known as “heat” or estrus. In this blog post, we will delve into the captivating world of cat behavior when in heat. We’ll explore the physiological changes, behavioral signs, and the importance of understanding your cat’s needs during this life phase.

white cat with black tail standing on hind legs | Mieshelle Nagelschneider | Cat Behaviorist |

To comprehend a cat’s behavior when in heat, we must first understand what heat is and why it occurs. This blog post will provide valuable insights into the reproductive cycle of cats. With more than two decades of experience as a Certified Cat Behaviorist™ behind me, this blog sheds light on the complex behaviors exhibited by cats when in heat, helping cat owners better care for and understand their furry friends.

Q: How does cat behavior change when they are in heat?

A: Both physical and behavioral changes occur when cats are in heat. Learning coping strategies and calming techniques can make a world of difference for both you and your furry friend.

Section 1: Spaying or Breeding

If you’re not planning on breeding your cat, consider spaying her. Spaying is a surgical procedure that prevents her from going into heat and eliminates the chances of unwanted kittens. Talk to your veterinarian about the best time for the procedure. Most recommend spaying and neutering around six months of age.

If you decide not to spay your cat, you must understand the responsibilities that come with it. An unspayed cat can become pregnant during her heat cycles, which could lead to a litter of kittens. Breeding should not be undertaken lightly. It requires a deep understanding of feline genetics, prenatal and postnatal care for the mother, and a plan for finding responsible homes for the kittens. The world already has an abundance of cats in need of homes, so breeding should be done with caution and a commitment to ethical practices.

Section 2: Understanding the Heat Cycle

You might have heard the term “heat cycle” tossed around when talking about female cats, but what exactly does it mean? Well, think of it as the feline version of the rollercoaster ride. Cats go through these hormonal ups and downs that can leave them – and you – feeling a bit bewildered.

The Phases of the Estrus Cycle

  • Proestrus: This is the first phase of the estrus cycle, and it’s like the calm before the storm. During this time, your cat might exhibit subtle signs like being a little extra affectionate or perhaps more vocal than usual.
  • Estrus: Here’s where things get interesting (and occasionally noisy). This is the phase when your cat is officially “in heat.” It typically lasts for about a week; during this time, your feline friend is on a mission to find love. She might yowl, roll around, and even present herself to potential suitors.
  • Metestrus: After the frenzy of estrus, your cat might calm down a bit. She’s not as actively seeking romance, but she’s not entirely back to her usual self either.
  • Anestrus: Finally, there’s anestrus, which is the resting phase. During this time, your cat’s hormones have returned to a more balanced state, and she’s no longer actively looking for a partner.

The Frequency of Heat Cycles

Cats are “induced ovulators” which means they only release eggs in response to mating. As a result, the frequency of heat cycles can vary. Typically, a cat will go into heat every two to three weeks during the breeding season, which typically occurs from early spring to late fall. Understanding these phases of the heat cycle is crucial to deciphering your cat’s behavior during this time.

Section 3: Behavioral Changes during Heat

Here’s what to expect if your cat is “in heat”:

  • Increased Vocalization – Remember those serene moments when your cat’s purring peacefully on your lap? Yeah, those are somewhat rare during the heat cycle. When your furry friend is in estrus, she becomes a vocal virtuoso. You’ll hear her serenading the moon, your houseplants, and perhaps even the neighbor’s cat. It can be loud and quite persistent, especially if she senses any potential suitors nearby.
  • Urine Marking – One day, you might notice your cat has developed a newfound interest in marking her territory. And by “territory,” we mean pretty much anything she can reach, including your walls, furniture, and even your shoes. This is her way of broadcasting her availability to potential mates through scent marking. It’s not just a messy situation; it can also be quite stinky.
Mieshelle Nagelschneider with Veterinarian 7 | Mieshelle Nagelschneider | Cat Behaviorist
  • Restlessness and Agitation – Cats can also become incredibly restless and agitated. Your once calm and collected kitty might start pacing, circling, and acting as if she’s on a mission to find love. This restlessness can sometimes be exhausting to witness but understand that it’s part of the heat cycle. To help her find some peace, consider creating a quiet and comfortable space where she can retreat when needed. Providing a cozy hideaway can make a big difference in helping her feel secure during this tumultuous time. To help burn off some of that excess energy, engage your cat in playtime. Interactive toys like feather wands and laser pointers can be a lifesaver during this time. Providing mental stimulation through puzzle feeders or treat-dispensing toys can also help keep her distracted and content.
  • Seeking Attention – Cats in heat often become more affectionate and clingier. They may rub against you more, purr loudly, and demand extra attention. While it’s heart-warming to feel needed, it can also be overwhelming, especially if you’re not used to your cat being so needy. But remember, this behavior is temporary, and your cat will return to her usual self once the heat cycle passes.

Section 4: Physical Changes during Heat

We’ve talked about the behavioral rollercoaster your cat can go through during heat, but what about the physical changes? Well, just like humans, cats also experience some bodily transformations during this phase of their estrus cycle. Let’s take a closer look:

  • Swelling and Redness – One of the most noticeable physical changes in a cat in heat is the swelling and redness of her genital area. This is perfectly normal and a clear sign that she’s in the estrus phase of her heat cycle. It’s her way of signaling her readiness to potential mates. This swelling can vary in intensity but generally becomes more pronounced as she progresses through estrus.
  • Increased Grooming – Cats are known for their meticulous grooming habits, but during heat, they might take it to the next level. Your feline friend might spend even more time than usual licking and cleaning herself. This isn’t just vanity; it’s her way of staying clean and attractive to potential suitors. However, excessive grooming can sometimes lead to hair loss or even skin irritation. So, keep an eye on your cat’s grooming habits during this time to ensure she doesn’t overdo it.
  • Changes in Appetite -You might notice that your cat’s appetite goes through some changes during the heat. Some cats eat less, while others might have an increased appetite. These variations are normal and can be attributed to the hormonal fluctuations she’s experiencing. As a responsible pet owner, it’s essential to monitor her food intake and ensure she stays properly nourished. If you’re concerned about drastic changes in her eating habits, consult with your veterinarian.


We’ve embarked on a journey through the fascinating and sometimes perplexing world of cat behavior during heat cycles. From the moment your sweet kitty turns into a vocal maestro to the day she finally gets back to her usual self, it’s been quite the adventure.

But what’s most important is how we, as responsible cat owners, navigate these changes. Coping strategies like spaying or neutering, keeping your cat indoors during heat, providing distractions, and using calming techniques can make a world of difference for both you and your furry friend.

Thank you for joining us on this journey into the captivating world of cat behavior. We hope you’ve gained valuable insights that will help you and your cat live harmoniously together, through heat cycles and beyond.

Cartoon Image of Mieshelle Nagelschneider | Cat Behaviorist