There is a lot to think about when you bring a new cat or kitten into your home. And when it comes to a cat there is one more addition: future kittens.
Understanding the signs of your cat’s heat cycle is essential if you choose not to spay her. It is confusing and complicated for both you and her, so the more you know, the better you can comfort and help her.
Not sure where to start? That is normal. Read on to get all your burning questions about feline fertility, heat, and the mating process answered: in the end, you’ll be ready to handle your cat, whether she’s in heat or not.
At what age do cats have their first heat?
Female cats reach sexual maturity in a wide range of ages, although the average age is between five and eight months. Reaching feline puberty, at one date or another, largely depends on breed, although it is also influenced by other genetics and even by the time of year they were born.
In general, short-haired breeds become sexually mature at a younger age than long-haired breeds. Siamese cats, in particular, often experience their first heat cycles at just four months of age. Persian cats, on the other hand, are rarely considered sexually mature at less than twelve months.
Another good rule of thumb is that larger breeds take longer to mature than smaller breeds. It is not uncommon for Maine Coons to be eighteen months old before going into heat for the first time.
You should also know that stray cats will normally reach puberty earlier than cats that live exclusively indoors.Do cats stop going into heat when they get old?
Cats don’t have a menstrual cycle , so they don’t go through menopause, but what happens to heat when they get older?
The answer is no. The heat cycle of a cat is for a lifetime. Although there are factors, such as health and energy levels, that can affect an older cat’s fertility and behavior during heat, the cycle continues anyway. It is known that female cats can become pregnant into old age, and some conceive at the age of 15 years.
Yes, your unsterilized cat will remain in heat for the rest of her life. As you get older, you may show higher levels of fatigue during heat, so it can sometimes seem like the cycle is slowing down, but you can still get pregnant.
When can cats have kittens for the first time?
A cat can get pregnant in her first heat . But just like in humans, being old enough to get pregnant does not mean it is advisable and safe .
For this reason, it is better that she reaches sufficient physical maturity, around one year, to become pregnant and thus not have problems during delivery.
The signs of a cat in heat
There are a number of signs that indicate that your cat is in heat
- Meow a lot
This is different from the sounds your cat normally makes. You will hear her loud, persistent, meowing or crying.
Not just loud and persistent, but very loud and very pushy.
- Nervous behavior
Cats in heat can be very restless. Disappearing on the street for longer periods than normal and struggling to settle in a closed space are the typical behaviors of a cat eager to find a suitor.
- More affection
He will obsessively rub himself on everything he sees, including you. Her rubbing activates the pheromone glands and covers everything with her scent, which now carries the message that she is ready to mate.
- Excessive grooming and licking
Your cat will have increased blood flow to her vulva while she is in heat, causing her to swell slightly.
This can be uncomfortable, but not painful for her, and she might wash the area more in response.
- Trace command
It will crush its ribs to the ground with its front legs bent, and its bottom in the air, then it will drag its legs forward.
Quite simply, she wants a cat to realize that she is ready for sex, and she is leaving nothing to chance.
- Reflex tail deviation
If you suspect that your cat is in heat, try running your hand down her back to her tail. It is likely to raise its butt and tilt its tail to the side, it means that it is ready to mate.
Do cats have a heat season?
We know that cats are in heat continuously, and that it recurs every three weeks or so. But depending on where you live, your cat can go several months a year without having heat (anestrus). The reason has to do with the light levels and therefore the seasons.
It takes a minimum of 10 to 12 hours of light per day for a cat to maintain her heat cycle. Without adequate light, your body will assume this is not a good time to reproduce: in nature, shorter photoperiods mean shorter days, this leads to colder weather and less food. Female cats exposed to less than eight hours of light per day experience an abrupt interruption in their heat cycle (anestrus). About two weeks after returning to longer periods of light, the cycle resumes.
This means that in fall and winter, generally from September to January in the Northern Hemisphere, female cats are not in heat. Several factors influence this, the exact location, the seasons, the breed of the cat, and whether she is allowed outdoors.
Cats that live farther from the equator are more likely to have seasonal anestrus, as they experience shorter days and colder climates. In contrast, those that live near the equator experience more consistent photoperiods and temperatures, so the anestrus is generally not activated.
Long-haired breeds are more likely to experience anestrus than short-haired breeds. The exact reason for this is not known, but it is theorized that they are genetically programmed for it. Regardless of their current geographic location, about 90% of long-haired cats experience seasonal anestrus, compared to less than 40% of short-haired cats.
Indoor cats that do not have natural light will still enter the anestrus if their artificial lighting is reduced to less than eight hours a day.
How can you help your cat in heat?
Unfortunately, there is not much you can do to reduce the symptoms of estrus. The cat’s desire to reproduce is so strong that she will likely interpret any of your attempts to help as annoyance.
Try not to stroke her back and rump, as these areas become very sensitive during heat and overstimulating them can cause her to scratch or bite your hand. The head and neck are much safer areas for your affection.
If your cat loses her appetite while in heat, you should feed her a higher calorie food, such as canned cat food, so she gets enough nutrition. If you stop eating for a long time, you can get very sick. Some studies suggest that kidney damage begins after just 48 hours without food.
Your cat will never feel the call of nature as strong as when she is in heat. Cats are agile, quiet and cunning, these qualities are manifested during heat. It will look for open windows and try to escape through the door each time it is opened.
Outside, your cat is always vulnerable to many dangers, but these greatly increase when she is in heat. The males she meets and mates with could transmit many diseases to her, and injury is not uncommon. For your cat’s safety, protect her at home while she is in heat.
Cats can be quite annoying when they are in heat, but it is important to be patient with your pet. She didn’t ask to be in heat, and a little patience and care on your part can help her get through it with a minimum of stress and discomfort.
Can a cat in heat be vaccinated?
There are scientific studies that warn against vaccination during changes in hormonal status in animals and, therefore, in cats.
In which situation there are important changes in the hormonal state:
- One or two months before the cat goes into “heat”.
2. During “heat”or a month later.
3. During pregnancy or in the postpartum period, three months after delivery with breastfeeding.
Vaccination during these circumstances is considered to contribute to uncontrolled immune insult and the precipitation of autoimmune disorders .
Vaccination is likely to be risky in other types of hormonal imbalance, like hyperthyroidism , etc.
Vaccination during pregnancy has been associated with abortion, and when live vaccines are used, the fetus or newborn kittens may be exposed to viral particles.
Some studies have associated vaccination during estrus with infertility.
Avoiding vaccination during major changes in female sex hormone status can reduce post-vaccination problems. If vaccines are to be administered during times of hormonal change, close monitoring and the administration of nutritional products that help prevent the spread of immune damage are required. In particular, antioxidant therapy with vitamin C and other antioxidants may be helpful.
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