cat rubbing against owner

If you have an unspayed female cat that has reached sexual maturity, you’re probably familiar with the yowling, spraying, rolling around on the floor, and begging to go outside that tend to accompany her estrus cycle. Female cats in heat also frequently rub against walls, doorposts, and people; it’s a way of spreading pheromones and hormones to ensure receptive males know she’s ready to mate. It’s possible for female cats in estrus to sense human hormones and pheromones, which could lead some cats in heat to behave differently towards men than women.

What Happens When a Cat Is in Heat?

Being in heat is a natural part of an unspayed cat’s reproductive cycle. It’s the time when she has the right hormones coursing through her body to support a pregnancy, which stimulates mate-seeking behavior. Healthy female cats typically go into heat two times per year: in the spring and fall. Unspayed female cats can stay in heat from 1 to 19 days, but the average is 7 days. Cats typically reach sexual maturity around 6 months old.

How Do Female Cats Behave When They’re in Heat?

Felines in heat typically display increased needs for attention and affection. Some raise their tail and rub their perineum against people and objects, and others assume the mating position when petted. The mating position in female cats is called lordosis. It’s a pose where the cat raises her hindquarters and lowers the front of her body while moving her tail to expose her perineum. Other common indications a cat is in heat include genital licking and vocalizing. Loud and frequent yowling is one of the most common signs a cat is in heat.

In addition, many cats that generally don’t have litter box issues begin to spray frequently, and some indoor cats will begin aggressively attempting to “escape” in attempts to find a mate. Cats in heat are attracted to unneutered male cats that release testosterone. Human males also produce testosterone, and there’s a chance a female cat in estrus could spend more time investigating the smells and scents produced by male humans.

cat licking its genetals
Image courtesy of Shutterstock

Is Spaying Necessary?

Spaying your cat is the best way to eliminate the behaviors that often irritate humans. Unless you have the training to breed cats, there’s little benefit in having an intact female as a pet.

In fact, for almost all pets, the benefits outweigh the risks. Spayed cats have much lower chances of uterine and mammary cancers, and they typically live longer. They don’t yowl or become aggressively affectionate, and indoor cats will not escape searching for mates.

In addition, it’s the only way to prevent your cat from becoming pregnant and contributing to the growth of feral colonies and pet overpopulation. If cost is an issue, several free and low-cost options may be available in your area. The North Shore Animal League has a comprehensive and easily searchable list of veterinarians and organizations offering free and low-cost spay and neuter services in every state across the nation. Also, you can visit shelters like the Dumb Friends Aminal League in Denver that provide spaying or neutering, microchipping, and vaccinations in their affordable adoption fees!

Featured Image Credit: Shutterstock