As soon as your young female kitten reaches the age of approximately four months or as late as 10 to 12 months, if a cat has not been spayed (neutered), she will go through her first estrus cycle, which is the equivalent of the female human menstrual cycle. This condition is called being “in heat” and means that she is ready to mate and has reached sexual maturity.
Cats are “polyestrous,” meaning they can go through several cycles of being in heat every year. Your unneutered cat can have up to five litters a year, each consisting of as few as one kitten for a first pregnancy, up to an incredible nine kittens each time they give birth. Unneutered female cats usually have an average of three pregnancies a year. Springtime is also known as “kitten season”, as that time of year seems to be a particularly auspicious time for cats to give birth.
There are some things you can do to help your cat in heat. Give them extra attention, with more than usual petting and brushing. She may value some extra playtime. Some suggest herbal remedies may help. Make sure all doors, windows, and escape routes are closed off. Keep her litter box as clean as possible. Maintain a calm atmosphere in the home, and play calming music.
Signs That Your Cat Is In Heat
The signs that your female cat is in heat are unmistakable. She will howl or meow loudly, intended to attract a potential mate’s attention, which is normal behaviour for an un-spayed cat. She may assume the mating position when stroked and petted, with her head bowed and hindquarters raised. She will typically display extra attention, rubbing up more than usual against you, other humans, or objects in the home. One distressing sign of being in heat for an unneutered female cat is spraying urine around the house to mark her territory.
Your cat may lose her appetite. She may continuously lick her genital area, which can be engorged. She may also “self-nurse,” which means licking the mammary glands to stimulate milk production. Sometimes, your cat will exude a bloody discharge (like a period). Your feline friend is likely to continually seek open windows, doors, or other exits where she could escape to find a mate.
If your female cat is not pregnant, she will re-enter the estrus cycle a few weeks later and on and on until either she is spayed or becomes pregnant. This cycle also restarts around six to eight weeks after her kittens are born or just after weaning. Each estrus cycle will last from several days to two weeks.
If your cat mates but this does not result in a pregnancy, there is an uncommon phenomenon known as “false” or “phantom” pregnancy, during which your feline will display signs of pregnancy for a few days or even weeks. In this case, the only way to find out if your cat is pregnant is to take her to the vet.
Sometimes, false pregnancy symptoms can also be symptomatic of a more serious, underlying medical condition. Signs of false pregnancy can include enlarged mammary glands, swollen abdomen, vomiting, weight gain, nesting behaviours, and “mothering” other pets or objects. Your vet may recommend hormonal treatments if this false pregnancy keeps reoccurring, or maybe ovariohysterectomy, meaning removing the ovaries and uterus.
Pros Of Spaying (Neutering)
The only way to prevent this ever-repeating estrus cycle from occurring is to have her spayed by a competent vet. Spaying is a standard procedure that usually involves removing the ovaries and uterus. This operation happens when your cat is not in heat due to swollen blood vessels’ danger, potentially leading to heavy bleeding if the procedure occurs during that time.
The pros of neutering are many and extremely beneficial for your cat. Spaying is a standard surgical operation that eliminates the risk of unwanted pregnancy. As described above, cats are very successful breeders, and female cats can give birth many times over their lifespan. Spaying reduces the risk of her having an unwanted litter and resolves the problem of rehousing young kittens. As any animal shelter will tell you, they are inundated with unwanted kittens all year round, and it is challenging to re-house these many unwanted cats.
Neutering your cat will make her calmer and quieter. Her heart rate should go down after spaying. She should be less likely to bite. Your cat won’t always be calling out for a mate. Her temperament after spaying will almost certainly be calmer, and she will be more affectionate.
Spaying females means that there can be no cancer of the ovaries and uterus, pyometra, or uterine infection, so her health will improve. She will also be less likely to suffer from abscesses. Spaying also prevents breast tumours, which are malignant (cancerous), in around 90 per cent of cats.
Another improvement is that spayed female cats are far less likely to mark their territory by spraying urine. Your cat will be much less likely to seek exit routes and be more content to stay inside the home. Indoor cats don’t run the same accident risks, such as being run over or limb injury, as outdoor ones. They also are not so prone to getting into injurious catfights that outdoor cats suffer from.
Cons Of Spaying
There are a few cons to spaying, other than your cat may get too heavy. The risk of obesity is three times higher in sterilized cats than in non-neutered ones. Since your cat is calmer in temperament after neutering, you will have to control her diet more carefully. She will not be roaming around looking for a mate, so she will not burn off those extra calories.
Cost Of Spaying
It is worth checking whether a supplemented neutering program operates in your area. Specific clinics perform spaying for a highly reduced cost to their owners as a service to the general community and as part of a low-cost spay program. This procedure reduces the number of unwanted kittens born yearly in various neighbourhoods.
For example, the ASPCA operates a low-cost spaying program in various communities, links to which can be found on their website (details provided below). Spaying services may be free in certain areas for low-income households where individual states consider a household’s income when offering subsidized spaying services.
Using a private vet will cost considerably more for this service, around $100 upwards. The recommended age for spaying a cat is after their first injections, at approximately four months of age.
Feral cats are defined as cats who have never been in close contact with humans, unlike strays, which once had a home but then entered the wild for whatever reason. While strays could potentially be re-adopted, feral cats remain entirely unsocialized for human beings.
Many cities have adopted TNR programs to reduce unwanted feral cats in communities and stabilize the existing cat population. It is a catch, spay, and release program, a humane way of controlling the number of cats in the wild. Feral cats are caught in box traps and brought to a vet for sterilisation. After the procedure, the vet will clip the cat’s ear as a universal sign which shows they have been vaccinated and neutered. Afterwards, the cat is returned to its home in the wild.
Trap-Neuter-Return programs are much more viable and humane than catch-and-kill policies, which are cruel and ineffective since other cats move in to fill a vacuum when the cat population in one area has decreased.
The TNR process costs around $50 to $60 per cat instead of around $100 to euthanize a cat. Of course, TNR also saves these cats’ lives and is a much-needed and useful program in the communities that use this system to control their feral feline population.