VCA Animal Hospitals

How to deal with cats in heat

Published: Jul 05, 2012

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Female cats that have not been spayed eventually enter an estrus cycle, typically referred to as "heat." Pet owners should keep in mind that this is very different from heat stroke, which can also be a problem with pets in the summer time. Instead, when a veterinarian talks about cats in heat, they're most likely referring to the medical term for the behavioral changes that accompany the estrus cycle.

A cat will first enter heat when it reaches puberty or sexual maturity, which tends to be about 6 months after the cat is born. However, the exact timing can vary depending on the breed and time of year. Estrus cycles also line up with the cat's natural breeding season, which varies depending on a number of factors.

According to VCA Animal Hospitals, the breeding season for most cats extends from January to late fall. During this time period, the cat will endure multiple heat cycles. The breeding season may vary according to temperature and climate - cats in warmer parts of the country or who live almost exclusively indoors may actually have a permanent breeding season.

A cat in heat will cause a number of issues for the owner. First and foremost, the cat will naturally be inclined to try to get pregnant during this time period. The cat attracts a mate through urination. It's not uncommon for owners to see cats "marking their territory" on large vertical objects, such as trees or telephone poles. The pheromones released during this act will attract male cats. This can result in a number of unusual behaviors. Pet owners in the past have reported unknown male cats attempting to enter their house, or the female cat attempting to escape.

The female cat's behavior will likely change drastically while she is in heat. Female cats typically begin rubbing up against people or objects frequently during this time period. In addition, the cat may roll around on the floor. Most owners also report that the cat will become much more vocal, yowling in a way that many owners find irritating. The heat period may last up to a week, after which the cat will have 1-2 off weeks before starting up again.

Since estrus cycles are natural, the only way an owner can prevent this from occurring is through spaying a cat. This will end the estrus cycles and also prevent the cat from getting pregnant. VCA Animal Hospitals recommends spaying for all female cats in order to reduce pet overpopulation in the United States.


General Practice

We have over 540 animal hospitals in 41 states that are staffed by more than 2,000 fully qualified, dedicated and compassionate veterinarians, with more than 200 being board-certified specialists. The nationwide VCA family of general practice hospitals give your pet the very best in medical care, providing a full range of general medical and surgical services as well as specialized treatments*: Wellness, Spay/neuter, Advanced diagnostic services (MRI/CT Scan), Internal medicine, Oncology, Ophthalmology, Dermatology, Cardiology, Neurology, Boarding, Grooming

*services may vary by location.

Our family of pet hospitals stands out by delivering the greatest resources in order provide the highest quality care available for your pets. By maintaining the highest standards of pet health care available anywhere, we emphasize prevention as well as healing. We provide continuing education programs to our doctors and staff and promote the open exchange of professional knowledge and expertise. And finally, we have established a consistent program of procedures and techniques, proven to be the most effective in keeping pets healthy.

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Specialty Care

Sometimes sick or injured pets need the care of a veterinary medical specialist. When that happens, VCA specialty hospitals work closely with the general practitioner veterinarians who refer cases to us in order to provide seamless veterinary care to your pet. When your pet is facing any kind of serious illness or injury, our specialty referral hospitals will provide the compassionate and expert care your beloved pet needs.

Our goal is to make sure that when you and your pet are in need that you have access to board certified specialists who are up to date on the very latest developments in their field. In our state of the art hospitals, our specialists also have access to the most sophisticated diagnostic and treatment tools and techniques from ultrasonography and endoscopy to CAT scans and even MRI.

We have twenty-eight specialty hospitals across the US so there may be one near you. Our specialized services include: cardiology, critical care, dentistry, dermatology, internal medicine, neurology, oncology, ophthalmology, radiology and surgery.

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Emergency Care

In case of emergency, please call us immediately. If it is after hours, check with a local animal hospital emergency clinic.