It’s that time of the year again, love is in the air for our furry feline friends. Most kittens in Tasmania are born between the months of October to April with many of these litters unplanned. If your female cat has not yet been desexed she will naturally go through a heat cycle and if your cat is ‘in heat’ it means that your cat is fertile and ready to mate.
It’s important to remember that in Tasmania, from 01 March 2022, all cats over the age of four months must be desexed.
A female cat’s first heat cycle happens when she hits puberty between four and twelve months of age, the precise time depends on a cat’s breed, health, and the time of the year. An un-desexed female is aptly referred to as a ‘queen’. A queen is usually in heat for about a week and, unless she becomes pregnant, she will be in heat again in roughly two weeks. This cycle will continue throughout the breeding season (from Spring to late Summer) and your cat can become pregnant during any of her heat cycles, including the first.
So, how can you tell your cat is in heat?
Extra affection - Your female cat may become unusually affectionate; this will be easy to spot if your cat is normally a bit aloof. She may rub up against furniture, stuffed toys, other cats, or maybe even you! She does this so she can spread her scent around the house to advertise she is ready to mate.
Displaying the mating position - Cats in heat often assume the mating position, head down, forelegs bent, buttocks raised, and tail up and held to one side of the body. When your cat assumes this position, she might also move her rear legs on the spot like she is tap dancing.
Excessive grooming - While your cat is in heat her genital area will become swollen but, unlike to humans, there will be no blood present. This swelling might be uncomfortable for your cat and she might spend a lot more time grooming this area. If you notice this behaviour, please keep an eye on her. Excessive grooming of the genital area can also be a symptom of a urinary tract disorder or infection which can be serious if not treated quickly. If your cat is grooming excessively without exhibiting any of the other common signs of heat it’s best to arrange a visit to the vet to make sure she isn’t suffering from a urinary issue.
More vocal than normal - The first thing you may notice if your cat is in heat is how much she vocalises. Crying, yowling and loud meowing are all often heard from a cat in heat. These vocalisations are to get attention and to let other cats know that she is in heat. Unfortunately, her calling might even keep you awake at night.
Spraying - A female cat in heat may spray walls, furniture, or other vertical household items with strong-smelling urine to let male cats know she is available. This urine contains both pheromones and hormones which act as signals of her reproductive status to other cats. This is the reason that a cat in heat attracts intact (undesexed) male cats.
Begging to be let outdoors - Often a cat in heat will express an urgent and repetitive need to be outside, even if she is usually an indoor cat. She may even resort to attacking windows and doors in an attempt to get outdoors. Mating between cats doesn’t take long, so if she slips out, she doesn’t need to be out long to become pregnant.
Getting your cat desexed is the best way to stop your cat from going into heat and it eliminates these unwanted behaviours.
Unfortunately, our state has an overpopulation of domestic cats, and preventing cats from becoming pregnant is one of the ways we can reduce the pressure on our cat management facilities and shelters and improve cat welfare.
If your male or female cats haven’t been desexed yet, they will need to stay indoors until they can be desexed. If you have both a male and female cat and neither has been desexed there is a high chance of pregnancy, even if they are brother and sister. They should be kept apart until at least one of them has been desexed. We know many cats are normally allowed to roam so check out www.tassiecat.com for tips on how to keep your cat safe and happy at home.