Are cats in pain when in heat? Everything you need to know about heat cycles

Grey cat meows while lying on their back
(Image credit: Alexandra Jursova/Getty Images)

You're not alone if you’re wondering, ‘Are cats in pain when in heat?’. Anyone who’s witnessed a cat in heat will know just how loud they can be, so it’s unsurprising if you’re worried they’re in pain.

You might think this only occurs in adult cats, but vet Dr MacMillan confirms that females can be in heat from the age of just four months old. 

When a cat is in heat, they are usually very vocal and it may feel like the yelping will never end. And if you’ve given your furry friend everything they need (like the best kitten food or best cat food) you may be confused about why they’re making such a racket. However, this is just a mating call and is a perfectly normal sign of a cat in heat.

You might be familiar with some of the signs, but what does it actually mean to be in heat? Dr MacMillan says that being in heat is also known as estrus, a period of 14 to 21 days when a female cat is ready for mating and is fertile.

She says: “It starts with a brief period called pro-estrus which lasts one to two days. During this time the female might be attractive to male cats but is not yet ready for mating. Estrus (being in heat) comes next which lasts for three to 14 days. This is the time when most of the associated behavioral signs are noticed such as increased vocalizing, rolling around, and becoming more affectionate than normal. 

“If the female is not successfully mated during this time, then she will enter interestrus which lasts for two to three weeks, before she re-enters proestrus. During the spring and summer months, cats will continue this cycle over and over until they become pregnant. During the shorter days in the winter months, however, cats will usually go into anestrus, where their cycles become dormant and they are unable to become pregnant.”

If your cat is in heat, then you probably have lots of questions (especially if this is the first time). Whether you’re wondering if your cat is in pain or you’re not too sure if you need to take them to the vet, Dr MacMillan has the answers:

Dr Rebecca MacMillan
Rebecca MacMillan BVetMed BSAVA PGCertSAM MRCVS

Dr MacMillan is a veterinary surgeon with experience working in a first opinion small animal practice. She graduated from the Royal Veterinary College in London in 2009 and recently achieved a BSAVA postgraduate certificate in small animal medicine (with commendation).  

Are cats in pain when in heat?

 You’ll be pleased to hear that your cat isn’t in pain when they’re in heat, Dr MacMillan assures. She explains that as well as yowling, crying, and calling, your cat might also show symptoms like rolling on the floor, pacing, attention-seeking, trying to escape, sticking her rear end in the air, trying to escape and urine spraying. These are all ways how to tell when a cat is in heat

Cat poking her rear in the air on a bed

(Image credit: Anna Gorbacheva/Getty Images)

Do I need to take my cat to the vet if they are in heat?

When your cat is meowing all day long, you might feel a little concerned about their health and wonder if you need to visit the vet. After all, at any other time, these symptoms would be out of the ordinary.

But if your female cat is showing these signs while in heat, a trip to the vet isn’t necessary. However, Dr MacMillan says that if you’re feeling worried that something isn’t right or there could be another issue at hand, then it’s a good idea to get them checked. 

Ginger and white cat meowing

(Image credit: Jean-Philippe Tournut/Getty Images)

How do I stop my cat from constantly meowing and spraying?

The constant meowing might be a little frustrating to listen to all day long (especially if you’re working from home), and you might be desperately searching for a way for it to stop. So, we asked Dr MacMillan if there's anything you can do.

She says:If your cat is in heat and they are constantly meowing, then try to distract and calm her with a new toy or offer her some attention. Unfortunately, you may just have to put up with it until she finishes being in heat! 

“Similarly, urine spraying will be hard to stop altogether while your cat is cycling. In my experience, providing multiple litter trays in different locations can help, as well as using an enzyme-based pet-safe cleaning product to disinfect any sprayed areas.”

However, if you think your cat might be feeling anxious or stressed, this guide on how to calm a cat has some useful tips.

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Spraying is bound to happen if your cat is in heat, which is why it’s good to have a quality cleaning product to turn to. This enzyme-based product promises to remove bio-based odors and can be used to clean up stains. 

Should I have my cat neutered?

You won’t have to worry about these unwanted symptoms if your cat is neutered, but this is completely up to you of course. As well as putting an end to your constant headache, it will also stop unwanted pregnancies and prevent some cancers from occurring.

Dr MacMillan says: “Neutering your cat will prevent her from having estrus cycles in the future, eliminating all these associated undesirable behaviors. Spaying also removes the

risk of unwanted pregnancies, ovarian and uterine cancers, and uterine infections. So, there are multiple benefits to be had by having your cat spayed. The procedure is straightforward, and most cats recover quickly, so speak to your vet about booking your cat in.” 

If you still have questions like, ‘Do cats have periods?’ check out this feature. If your cat is pregnant, this article on newborn kittens might come in handy.

Megan Milstead
Staff Writer

Megan is a Staff Writer on PetsRader, covering news, features and buying guides. She has a wealth of experience looking after animals, having grown up with dogs, cats and horses all of her life. She’s particularly interested in pet happiness and behavior, which she loves to research in her spare time. You’ll often find her watching webinars on reactivity in dogs or researching cat body language. She loves going the extra mile for her cats Chilli and Nala (who also help out with testing the best products for our buying guides). 

Megan studied BA Journalism at the University of Westminster, where she specialized in lifestyle journalism and was editor of Smoke Radio’s online magazine. She also graduated from West Herts College with a Level 3 Extended Diploma in Journalism. Before joining the PetsRadar family last year, she worked on the editorial team at Harrods and has spent most of her career writing for specialized titles, like RunningShoesGuru, Licklist and Mr. After Party. 

Megan works alongside qualified vets and accredited trainers to ensure you get the best advice possible. She is passionate about finding accurate and helpful answers to your pet-related questions.