Cat Heat behavior

pregnant cat
Cat on heat behavior can result in a pregnant cat
photo copyright and by Cory Blundon

A more scientific word for "heat" is "estrus" or "estrous" or indeed "oestrous". I'll use the shortest of the three, "estrus". A female cat is on heat at regular intervals. This is called the "estrus cycle". The estrus cycle is managed by the cat's reproductive hormones. For female humans it is called the menstrual cycle. Cat on heat behavior is very noticeable (the phrase can also be "in heat").

During estrus the female is receptive to the male cat looking to procreate. The length of time that the female is "in heat" is from 14-21 days (src: Wikipedia). Although Robinson's Genetics says it is normally 5-8 days but sometimes lasting for up to 20 days.

During this period of time the females behavior is distinct. It allows the cat breeder to gauge when to allow the male to meet the female.


Pre-estrus -- first phase

Just before the estrus stage (pre-estrus or more accurately called "proestrus") female cats become affectionate and demands more than the usual amount of attention. She will rub against things and be playful. She may also howl which is calling the males. It is a long and noticeable howl. These are classic signs of cat on heat behavior. The howling varies from breed to breed.


Estrus -- second phase

During this phase the female cat demonstrates behavior indicating that she is ready to have sex. She will tread the ground and adopt a position to receive the stud boy. This is a flattening of her back and a raising of her hind quarters. It is called the "coital crouch". It can be stimulated by the presence of the stud boy or by a gentle stroking of her genital region.

Cat in lordosis - photo by Sidereal (Flickr)

She is ready for sex to use vernacular language (usual language). After sex the female will growl (the male's penis is serrated, or spines pointing backwards, and removing it hurts the female).

Savannah Cats Mating
Male trying to mate with female unsuccessfully
Photo by Michael Broad (Flickr)

If sex ("coitus") does not occur the female will re-start the cycle again in about 12-22 days. This may be irregular. In the northern half of the world, the time of year over which the female demonstrates cat on heat behavior is usually from January to July (but can be longer). It is the availability of daylight that affects this period of time. Artificial lighting can reduce the time, in the winter, when the heat cycle pauses.

Related posts:

Cats mating

Cat pregnancy

Sources:
  • Wikipedia
  • Robinsons Genetics for Cat Breeders and Veterinarians
  • http://www.cat-urine.net
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