“Help, can cats be in heat while pregnant!?”
You’ve probably already been told by your vet (and everyone else) that you need to get your female cat spayed to make your life a little more bearable during the mating season. You don’t want to welcome spring with your arms wide open and your cat’s legs wide open, too.
Unspayed female cats eventually reach a period of fertility typically referred to as “being in heat.” Unfortunately, things get heated in that period considering that female cats become hormonal, vocal, and restless from the moment the temperatures rise.
Now, a cat’s hormonal changes start at around four to eight months of age which means that even your kittens aren’t safe from heat. Your vet might recommend spaying or neutering them around that time too. What happens when you don’t, though? What happens when your cat gets pregnant?
Well, we know you’re hoping for a negative answer, but there’s a chance that pregnant cats can experience heat even though they’re pregnant, although that goes against everything we’ve ever known about the heat cycle. Read more down below!
What does it mean for a cat to be in heat?
Before we answer your burning questions, we need to address your cat’s hormonal cycle to ensure you understand what she’s going through when she’s in heat.
More often than not, pet parents think that being in heat means being interested in mating with every cat in the neighborhood. That’s true, but there’s more to that answer than meets the eye.
When we’re talking about your cat being in heat, we’re referring to a time during your cat’s reproductive cycle when she can become pregnant.
We mentioned that cats reach the age when they can become pregnant around the four-month mark, but that depends on your cat’s genetic makeup and breed. Other than the heat stage, there are four other stages of a cat’s hormonal cycle you need to keep an eye on.
Starting with proestrus, female cats typically start attracting male cats by yowling, rubbing themselves against different objects, stretching, exposing their bellies, and sticking their hindquarters in the air.
Moving on to the heat stage, estrus occurs after twelve hours to three days of proestrus and goes on for the following one to twenty-one days.
During the estrus stage, female cats experience a surge of the hormone estradiol which makes them even more restless and eager to mate – which typically results in pregnancy.
When the estrus stage doesn’t result in pregnancy, the cat experiences the interestrus stage which is a period of hormonal rest. When the estrus stage does result in pregnancy, the cat enters the diestrus stage and stops showing signs of being in heat.
At the end of the cycle, the cat experiences the anestrus stage which signifies the one stage of the cat’s hormonal cycle when she’s not in heat.
OK, can cats be in heat while pregnant?
Now that you understand the basics of the heat cycle, we can answer your interesting question.
We mentioned that there’s a chance for cats to experience the symptoms of being in heat when they’re pregnant, but that doesn’t mean that they’re biologically capable of being in heat when they’re pregnant. We aren’t making sense, right?
To cut the story short, cats can’t be in heat while pregnant. When a cat becomes pregnant, she enters the diestrus stage of the cycle and focuses on growing and nourishing the kittens.
The heat stage stops for the duration of the pregnancy and continues after the kittens are weaned. There are situations when cats experience heat when they’re breastfeeding, but not when they’re pregnant.
We do need to mention that there are exceptions, but they aren’t common. What makes you think your pregnant cat might be experiencing heat? We suggest throwing a glance at the tell-tale signs your cat might be going through the heat to ensure you aren’t misinterpreting her symptoms.
What are the tell-tale signs that a cat is in heat?
1. She’s meowing her heart out
When the mating season comes around, you almost expect your unspayed female cat to go a little “cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs.”
You’re used to her meowing at 3 a.m. when you’re asleep. You’re OK with her meowing her heart out every time she sees a bird, a bug, or a crawling creature running across the backyard. You’ve accepted her quirks and are more than happy to turn your head the other way when she starts acting up.
But when she starts caterwauling, yowling, and straight-up moaning for no freakin’ reason, know that she’s experiencing heat. She’s trying to attract male cats by calling them super, super loudly. Before you scold her, make sure to check the calendar, too.
2. She’s restless
When the two of you are hanging out, watching your favorite TV show, or grabbing a bite, she can’t seem to get comfortable. She keeps rolling on the floor, exposing her tummy, getting up, and sitting down.
She keeps meowing at someone or something, running to the kitchen, and coming back. She keeps throwing glances at you, begging you to pet her, and scratching you when you try to do what she wants. When cats are going through the heat stage, they’re known to become uncomfortable.
Being in heat doesn’t hurt your cat, but she might not know how to handle the surge of hormones she’s experiencing during this stage. Therefore, she might start acting up, fidgeting, and drawing attention – that’s another way she’s trying to attract male cats, too.
3. She’s showering you with affection
Cats do become more affectionate toward humans (and other cats) during the heat stage. When they’re experiencing the surge of hormones we mentioned beforehand, cats get the urge to be scratched, rubbed, and petted, particularly on their back and rear.
Because of that, you might notice your cat rubbing her body against the furniture, purring the moment you touch her, meowing for you to pet her, and showing you more affection than ever. But she might start lifting her tail or even occasionally assuming the mating position. Awkward, right?
4. She’s overgrooming
Contrary to popular belief, cats don’t bleed when they’re going through the heat stage. Cats don’t shed the lining of their uterus during their cycle the way humans do. Nonetheless, you might notice your cat grooming the area around her private parts more than before.
Overgrooming can become a serious problem and cause her coat to shed and her skin to become red, irritated, and infected.
On top of that, the more her coat becomes damaged, the more she’s going to continue grooming the area to soothe the itchiness and irritation. Overgrooming can be a symptom of urinary tract problems, too, and that’s why you do need to contact your vet the moment you notice her doing that.
5. She wants to go outside at all times
Maybe she’s waiting at the door when you’re getting ready to go to work even though she knows she’s not coming with you. Perhaps she storms out of the apartment every time she hears the door open even though she knows she’s not allowed to be outside without your supervision. Why does she do that?
When cats are in heat, their instincts are driving them to pounce toward the door when it opens because that’s where the potential suitors are. Cats can’t fight the urge to attract potential suitors and that’s why they become restless. When your cat starts doing that, there’s a chance she might be in heat.
6. She’s contorting her body
She’s rolling on the floor. She’s rubbing her body against your brand-new Urban Outfitters sofa. She’s putting her hindquarters in the air.
Whenever you throw a glance at your feline friends, she’s always doing something. We’ve mentioned that cats become restless during the heat stage, but there’s much more to that than you might think. More often than not, they’re doing these things to mark the territory, spread the scent, and attract a mate.
How can you tell whether your cat is pregnant or in heat?
Pregnancy symptoms correspond with the symptoms of a cat going through the heat stage and that’s what’s causing pet parents to wonder whether pregnant cats can be in heat. They can’t, but here’s how you can tell whether your cat is pregnant or in heat.
Most pregnancy symptoms are simple to spot. When your cat gets pregnant, her tummy’s going to get bigger and she’s going to experience morning sickness, increased appetite, and weight gain – same as humans. Moreover, she’s going to start nesting, sleeping more, and showing more affection, too.
Signs of a cat in heat are similar, but not the same. When your cat is in heat, she might experience increased appetite and weight gain, and start showing more affection. But she’s also going to start meowing, rubbing her body against different surfaces, grooming her private parts, and contorting her body.
Schedule an appointment with your vet to put your mind at ease.