Heat, oestrus... loud and insistent meowing, overflowing affection, strange behaviour: you may think your cat has suddenly gone mad! No, it's just heat. How can you recognise when your cat starts their heats cycle? When does it occur? This article answers all these questions.
The breeding season
The breeding season is influenced by daylight. It begins as soon as the days lengthen in late winter, and extends into the spring and summer. In the Northern Hemisphere, the breeding season extends from February to September, with a winter break (called anoestrus). It should be noted that indoor cats can be in heat all year because of artificial lights. During this period, the cats actively seek males. The latest brawl with each other for the right to mate.
Cats, unlike dogs for which the heat (or estrus) occur once every six months, will be repeatedly in heat during the breeding season. In scientific language they are said to be "polyoestriennes ".
At what age begins the first heat ?
Heat cycles begin as soon as the cat reaches puberty, around the age of 6 months to 9 months. The age of sexual maturity varies among individuals and breeds. If in some cats the first heat may occur at the age of 4 months, in Persian cats for example, it usually occurs much later.
How long does the heat last?
An oestrous cycle, which consists of oestrus ( heats ) and diestrus ( inactivity ), lasts 18 to 24 days. Estrus is the phase during which the cats change their behavior and are ready to mate. This phase lasts from four to more than 10 days, depending on the individual. If it does not mate, the cat keeps coming into heat every two to three weeks on average.
Behavioural changes during estrus
During her heat, the cat suddenly changes behaviour. She becomes unusually emotional, rubs herself against the furniture against your legs, rolls on the ground and becomes agitated. She will spend a lot of time meowing loudly at the door to leave. The insistent meowing can last several days. Cats can adopt a particular posture, head down, bent back, the back of the body and tail raised (" lordosis " position). Faced with these multiple changes, some homeowners panic and call the vet urgently. Yet all this is perfectly physiological!
What is happening during estrus ?
The oestrus phase is related to the production of oestrodiol, a hormone produced by the ovarian follicles. The cat is a species with induced ovulation. Ovulation does not occur without mating or manual stimulation. If the cat does not mate during estrus, hormone levels decrease and the cycle continues until it is repeated two to three weeks later.