How Long Are Cats In Heat?

If you’re a parent of a female cat, you’ve probably heard the phrase ‘in heat’ before. In short, it refers to when your feline friend is fertile and ready to mate. It also comes with behavior changes that can be difficult to deal with if you’re not prepared.

If you’re asking yourself, “how long are cats in heat?” in exasperation, we’re here to help! Keep reading to find out how long your cat will be in heat, what symptoms to look for, and how to keep them comfortable throughout their cycles.

How Long Do Cats Stay in Heat and How Often?

On average, a female cat can be in heat for 4 to 7 days. If your cat is in heat for as short as 2 days or as long as 3 weeks, that is also still considered in the normal range. Cats go into heat numerous times a year, which is known as polyestrous. Importantly, only unspayed female cats of reproductive age—also known as queens—can go in heat.

What It Means For A Cat To Be “In Heat”

There are many factors to consider when trying to work out whether your cat is in heat or not. These factors include internal hormonal changes and external physical and behavioral changes.

Signs & Symptoms

Female cat in heat marking indoors with urine. Bicycle in the background.

Internally, a female undergoes many hormonal changes throughout her heat cycle. However, It is easier to track a female cat’s heat cycle by looking for physical and behavioral signs, which may include:

  • She verbally cries out, which is distinctly different from meowing.
  • Exhibits flirtatious behavior, such as rolling around on the ground and rubbing on objects with her tail behind high in the air.
  • If an indoor cat, she tries to escape and if an outdoor cat, begins to roam farther than her normal route.
  • When petting, she raises her rear end into the air and treads with her back legs
  • She may urinate more frequently or even mark by spraying urine on upright objects, which is an attempt to attract male cats.

How Long Are Cats In Heat: Cycle Breakdown

There are 5 stages that are part of the estrus cycle. The number of cycles or the order of cycles may change if your female cat becomes pregnant while in heat. The stages include:

  1. Proestrus – 1 to 2 days
  2. Estrus – 2 to 14 days
  3. Diestrus – occurs when a female cat is pregnant, 12 to 13 days after mating
  4. Interestrus – 2 to 3 weeks
  5. Anestrus – dormant period (light dependent)
Graphic showing the five cycles of feline estrus.


The proestrus stage lasts 1 to 2 days. This is where queen “attacks” unneutered male cats, also known as toms. Even though she attracts them, she isn’t receptive to any mating just yet. In this stage, the queen doesn’t physically show any signs.

Estrus (heat)

Estrus cycle is a fancy way of saying heat. Heat can last between 2 to 19 days, but generally 1 week. This is when a queen physically attracts males and is receptive to mating. You should be able to notice whether or not your cat is in this stage—-she makes it very obvious! This is when you will notice her rolling around and rubbing on things, elevating her rear end and being very vocal.

A lot of internal changes occur during this stage. When the queen mates during this stage, it automatically induces ovulation through hormonal changes.

Did you know that a queen generally needs to mate about 4 to 6 times during estrus to become pregnant? This certainly doesn’t mean that the queen only mates with one male; the queen can mate with numerous males before giving birth, and a litter of kittens can be born with different fathers.

It only takes 1 to 2 minutes for cats to mate. This can also happen multiple times in a short space of time. Once ovulation has occurred, the female cat will transition out of heat within 1 to 2 days.



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