Feline Estrous Cycle also known as “heat cycle” or “calling” is a repetitive cycle of hormonal driven fluctuations in female cat’s (queen) fertility and sexual receptivity. It is the time when female cat becomes ready & receptive for mating. Estrous is usually seasonal but it also depends on a number of factors like age, daylight hours and general health of the cat.
Feline Breeding Season:
Cats tend to be seasonal mater although they can come into heat and produce litter at any time of the year. Typically feline mating season begins in spring when days begin to become longer and continue until autumn.
Onset of Estrous:
Estrous starts when female cat reaches puberty (age of sexual maturity) and it varies from breed to breed as well as from individual to individual. Some breeds like Siamese can call as early as 4 to 5 months while others may not reach sexual maturity at 10 months or older age.
Cats are Polyestrus i.e. they can come into heat more than one time in a year.
Cats are induced ovulators, which means they will not ovulate (pass an egg) until they are bred and this greatly increases the chances of conception. That is why stray queens often have many kittens per year.
There are 4 phases to the cat’s heat cycle.
We will be discussing the second phase, estrus, in detail.
It is a hormonally mediated state, influenced by increase in the levels of certain hormones in the blood, estrogen being the most important. Primarily it is recognized by behavioral signs not by the hormonal measurements. A female cat is said to be in heat or estrus, if it stands for the male cat and allows mating to occur.
How to tell if Your Cat is in Heat?
Recognition of cat’s heat is usually done by the behavioral characteristics or signs displayed by the female cats.
Estrus is also termed as “calling”. This is because a cat in heat becomes very vocal and will frequently walk around the house calling or vocalizing. This can sound like a distressed cry and can be louder and persistent enough to awake you at night.
2- Increased Affection:
A female cat in heat usually becomes more affectionate then typically it would be. It will rub against your legs, rolling and weaving round your legs. It will rub her cheeks and chin (where her scent glands are located) against the furniture, especially at entrance and exit points like door frames, spreading her scent around to advertise that she would like a mate to come.
3- Lordosis or Crouching Body Posture or Standing Estrus:
This is a behavior in which cat flattens her front quarters to the ground, crouches with her back legs, elevates her bottom into air by standing on the toes of her back feet and hold her tail to one side, thus exposing her vulva to encourage mating by tom.
4- Vaginal Discharge:
You may observe a clear, watery fluid coming out of her vagina.
5- Licking the Genitals:
Vulva of a cat in heat becomes swollen and this mild swelling is uncomfortable to cat. It will likely lead your cat to spend a lot of time in licking her vulva.
6- Frequent Urination and Urine Marking:
Female cats in heat release pheromones in their urine, which notify any male cats in the vicinity of their approaching sexual receptivity. In order to this female cats will urinate small puddles of wee all around the house or yard. To the owner it will appear as cat is urinating frequently. Inexperienced or over concerned owners might suppose that the cat is having any urinary tract problem.
7- Rolling Around:
As part of “affectionate behavior” and “apparent sexual frustration” associated with estrus, many cats in heat will roll around a lot, rubbing their backs on floor, carpet and other horizontal surfaces.
8- Restless Behavior:
Restless behavior and inability to settle is a characteristic feature of a female cat in heat.
9- Loss of Appetite:
Female cats in heat usually become off feed due to sexual frustration.
10- Expect the Cat to Disappear:
Even home loving cats get adventurous when in heat. If a male cat doesn’t come calling, then she is likely to go wandering for a day or so to seek one out for herself.
Some cats are what we call as silent callers and may display none of the above signs.
How long does a Female Cat stay in Heat?
Estrus typically lasts between 7-10 days. If your cat doesn’t mate or become pregnant it will repeat the cycle 14-21 days later and continues to do so until she becomes pregnant or season changes.
There are 3 Possible Outcomes:
- Cat mates and becomes pregnant.
- Cat mates, doesn’t become pregnant and comes back into heat.
- Cat doesn’t mate or become pregnant and comes to heat 14-21 days later.