How often do cats go in heat?

As the heat cycle ends, most female cat owners feel a great relief. But is it going to last? So, let’s look at how often do cats go in heat.

Checking cat heat cycle frequency in calendar
Could menstruation calendar be a way to track how often cats go in heat? Image by Yuliia Bahniuk

Heat cycles in cats are a bit more complicated than in dogs. Cat is a seasonal long day breeder, which means they can go in heat only if the day is longer than the night. Basically, this means – cats don’t go in heat during winter, though many still do. Likely this happens because of indoors lifestyle and artificial lights.

This results that, unlike dogs, cats have a mating season, which occurs from spring till autumn, and within that, they have repetitive heat cycles:

  1. Heat cycles occur with a frequency of 14 to 21 days within a mating season;
  2. The mating season lasts typically six months; rather often it can also last all year round for various reasons;
  3. If you spay your cat, the mating season lasts for zero days.

As mentioned above, there are exceptions. Some cats do come in the heat all year round. The length of one heat cycle can also be different from mentioned; it can be longer than 21 or shorter than 14 days. Most commonly, heat is shorter if a cat mates. Mating induces ovulation, and, even if the cat does not become pregnant, the heat cycle will stop.

Additionally, some cats may show significant signs of being in heat during the whole mating season.

Ovulation will influence how often cats go in heat

Let’s talk about what happens if a cat does mate. Additionally to cats being seasonal breeders, cats are also induced ovulators. It means, cats don’t ovulate, unless they have sex.

Why is this important? The ovulation will stop the heat cycle. Then, there are two alternative scenarios:

  • First, the queen becomes pregnant. The rest is pretty straightforward. Pregnancy in cats lasts for 63 to 69 days, and the cat will come in heat no sooner than several weeks after the birth. In most cases, it happens closer to six to eight weeks after it, or about the time when kittens stop suckling. In nature, it means the mom is ready for the next litter of kittens.
  • The second scenario is, the queen does not become pregnant, but she still ovulates. This can happen due to mating not being successful, or because she ovulated not because of mating, but it was induced mechanically in a veterinary setup.

In the latter case, the queen will go in the state of diestrus, also termed as false pregnancy. Unlike false pregnancy in dogs, cats rarely show other symptoms of actual pregnancy except for increased appetite, weight gain and swelling of teats. False pregnancy usually lasts for 35 to 40 days, after which the queen returns to regular cycling.

This article is a part of our series about female cats in heat. In the next article, you will find out why most female cats don’t go in heat during winter. And why many indoor cats do.