Whether you have just adopted an adorable kitten or are still toying with the thought of becoming a cat parent, you might have wondered: do cats have periods just as humans do?
The short answer is yes – but there are quite a few differences between what is called menstruation in human beings and estrus (or “being in heat”) in female cats!
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Do Cats Bleed?
The biggest difference is, that while the most obvious sign of human menstruation is the blood, this is not the case in cats.
Menstrual blood results from the shedding of the uterine lining, which is something that does not happen to cats.
Therefore, while you might find a small bit of blood, most likely in the place where your cat sleeps, it is more likely that there won’t be any blood at all.
In the case that you see a significant amount of blood, you should contact a vet immediately since this is not supposed to happen and might be a sign that something is wrong!
The biggest factor of a cat being in heat is, basically, that your kitty is at the complete mercy of her hormones, and signs of this state will be very easy to recognize.
How Do I Recognize If My Cat Is In Heat?
During heat, your cat is hormonally receptive to intercourse and reproduction. This means that she is theoretically physically able to mate and get pregnant.
Just like human beings, cats start to have a menstrual cycle at the beginning of puberty.
Very much unlike humans, though, a cat can go into puberty at four to six months of age!
A cat in heat is much more vocal than you are used to her being. She is constantly, meowing, howling, and yelping, desperate to attract the attention of a mate.
She is likely also going to be much more demanding of your attention than usual and will want to be petted and played with constantly.
Her playing can also be much more aggressive than typical, so be sure to only provide her with toys that are either really sturdy or that you are okay with being shredded to bits.
Your cat will also rub against you as well as furniture a lot, and might even spray urine to mark her territory. Unfortunately, you cannot train her to not do this, at this point she is only acting on instinct.
Often you will see that her walk looks quite different, with her rear end lifted high.
Frequently, she will also assume a mating position called lordosis: with her front legs bent and her head down she will raise her rear end and her tail. When she is in this position, one leg will tread rhythmically.
Another sign of your cat being in heat might also be a loss of appetite. She has, quite simply, other things on her mind.
Her instincts and hormones all work together towards one common goal: finding a mate. Everything else just disappears into the background for the time being.
Also read: best cat toys for your cat.
When And How Often Does This Happen?
Cats are polyestrous breeders, which means that they go into heat multiple times a year. The cycle will continue until she is either spayed or mates and becomes pregnant.
Sometimes, if a cat mates during her heat, but does not get pregnant, she may exhibit signs of pregnancy – like enlargement of or secretions from the mammary glands – nevertheless, which is called a false pregnancy or pseudopregnancy.
Some weeks later she will be going back into estrus.
Typically, a cat will enter into her first estrus cycle in late spring or early fall.
A cat’s cycle can last from 7 days to about two weeks and can repeat itself every two or three weeks.
This can make it seem as if the poor kitty is almost always in heat. This is, of course, extremely demanding for both you and your cat.
It will feel as if neither her, who is undergoing all this turmoil, nor you, who is taking care of her, will ever be able to catch a break.
This is why it makes a lot of sense to spay your cat as early as possible.
Do Cats Have Periods Regardless of Their Sex?
No, only female cats undergo the estrus cycle.
Nevertheless, it is also important to neuter male cats, since they become sexually mature at the same early age.
Especially when you have an outdoor cat and cannot control where he goes, this is much safer for him and the female cats in the neighborhood.
A male pubescent cat that has not been neutered is more likely to take risks in approaching other animals – even big and potentially dangerous dogs – or run across streets that are frequented by fast cars.
As a female cat in heat would do anything to get to a potential mate, so does a male cat that has entered puberty.
The Process and Benefits of Spaying Your Cat
The College of Veterinary Medicine at Cornell University recommends that you spay your cat before she enters her first heat cycle.
Cats can get pregnant during their very first reproductive cycle, which means that in the worst-case scenario, a cat that, in size and behavior, is still practically a kitten herself might be forced to undergo pregnancy.
Just because a female cat is hormonally ready to get pregnant, does not mean that her body that is likely not yet grown into its full size can actually handle the demands of a pregnancy!
In the spaying procedure, a cat’s reproductive organs are removed, so that afterward she will not go into heat again and, of course, will not be able to get pregnant.
The operation itself takes just around 15 to 20 minutes.
It is important to keep in mind that your cat should not eat anything for at least three to four hours before the operation, since the general anesthesia that is always required for this procedure can lead to nausea and vomiting, which can be fatal for an unconscious cat.
Your cat is allowed to drink all the water she wants before the procedure, though.
About an hour after the operation your cat is likely to be fully stable and able to move around again. It is recommended, though, to keep her overnight at the veterinary hospital for observation purposes.
When you bring her back home you will have to make sure that she has a very quiet life for about a week after the operation.
If she moves about too much and too quickly, there is the risk of the closed incisions herniating.
Within just two weeks of the procedure, a spayed or neutered cat will be behaving exactly as it used to before the operation and you will not have to worry about either pregnancy or the estrus cycle ever again.
Aside from the fact that your cat will not have to go through being in heat anymore, there are other health benefits of spaying.
For example, cats are susceptible to ovarian, mammary, and uterine cancer. The chances of developing any of these illnesses are greatly reduced when a cat is spayed.
Aside from the benefits to the wellbeing of your cat, you also make sure that you will not add to the great number of homeless kittens abandoned on the streets and in shelters all over the country.
If You Want To Breed
In case you intend to at one point breed your cat and it thus is necessary to have her to live through her estrus cycles until she is big and strong enough for pregnancy, it is important to make the time when she is in heat as comfortable as possible for her.
Give her a lot of toys she is allowed to shred during this time, play with her often, and pay her a lot of attention.
Give her a cozy place to sleep in, ideally with a heating pad for warmth.
Catnip can help calm her down, and if nothing else seems to help you can try stress-relieving herb mixtures made especially for pets. You can find these in health stores or pet shops.
In any case, you need to put a lot of thought into the question if breeding your cat is really right for both you and your cat.
Both pregnancy and nursing the kittens are very demanding of your cat’s body and stressful for both you and her.
Only make this decision if you have the time to care for a cat that is pregnant and the resulting newborn kittens, which will be completely helpless for several days.
You should be able and willing to look after your cat and kittens at times both day and night.
Additionally, make sure that you know of safe homes for your kittens.
Being abandoned is not something a cat that has been kept as a pet is likely to survive and animal shelters are so full that euthanasia is unfortunately a frequent solution.
Also read: how long are cats pregnant for?
As you can see, cats do have periods, even though they look very different than those from humans and even other mammals.
Now that you what to look for, you are unlikely to take the symptoms of being in heat as signs of anything being wrong with your cat – it is a completely natural thing!
If anything worries you, vets will always be glad to help and advise you with regard to having your kitty spayed.