Heat Cycles and Decisions

Here’s a question I’m often asked:

Is my cat pregnant?

If she has not been spayed and she has been outside, then yes. Your cat is pregnant.


Cat Fertility Facts

  • Cats are ‘seasonally polyestrus’.
    • ‘Estrus’ is a beautiful word that means going into heat. Please feel free to use it when you name your next child.
    • The word ‘poly’, of course, means many. So, if you have twins (or other amounts of many children at once), now you have two beautiful names to use: Poly and Estrus. And honestly, I had no idea how helpful this page was going to be. I should get to name more things.
    • In this case, ‘seasonal’ does not mean why-is-Costco-selling-Christmas-trees-in-August, although this is an important topic on its own. A cat’s ‘season’ is when she is fertile, is ready to mate, and can become pregnant. ‘Seasonal’ is not a cute baby name, but if you really want to use it, maybe use it as a middle name.
    • By putting all of our cute baby names together, we understand that cats have many heat cycles during their breeding season. Etymology is fun, and so is getting to name other humans.
  • A cat’s fertility is tied to environmental factors, such as:
    • day time temperatures.
    • amount of sunlight: when daylight hours are longer than night-time hours, hormonal changes in females are triggered, and her estrus cycle begins.
    • the presence of other unaltered cats.
  • Cats who live in tropical areas, or who are mainly indoors and are influenced by artificial light, can go into heat year round.
  • In the Northern Hemisphere, a cat’s fertility cycle can begin in January and continue through November.
  • Kittens as young as four months old can go into heat and become pregnant.


Cat Heat Cycle Facts

  • If un-spayed, your kitty will go into heat for 2-7 days.
  • Then, you’ll get about a one-week break before she goes into heat again.
  • She will continue this cycle until she either becomes pregnant, is spayed, or daylight hours decrease.
  • Keeping your kitty indoors during her heat cycle is like trying to staple Jell-O to a wall. Go ahead and try it. I’ll wait.
  • During this time, you will be miserable. Your cat will be miserable. She will yowl loudly, and may urinate all over your house. You will not sleep.
  • Multiple heats increase the risk of infection and cancer for your cat.
  • There is no valid reason for letting your kitty go into heat, or to have a litter of kittens before spaying her. There are some in-valid reasons, probably invented by people who think that ham comes from hamsters, or that baby powder comes from powdered babies. We know better, and will do what’s best for our own sweet kitty regardless of what the weird ham-people say.
  • For more on this topic, see my article on Spaying/Neutering



So, your cat is pregnant. What’s next?

If your cat is very young (less than a year old), there is a risk that neither she nor her kittens will survive the delivery. Sad, but so, so true.

If they do survive, young cats may have difficulty caring for their kittens. They’re simply too immature to stay with their babies, keeping them warm, clean and fed. We see this over and over in the foster world: a young cat delivers her kittens, then takes off and abandons them. Are you prepared to bottle-feed a litter of kittens every two hours around the clock? Are you prepared for the heartache of kitty-birth with few survivors?

Please consider the health of your cat as you decide what the next steps are. Vets can, and often do, perform spay-aborts to preserve the life of a pregnant cat. There’s no judgement here. Talk with your vet, and do what’s best for your cat.

If you decide that your cat can handle pregnancy, labor, and delivery, begin preparing yourself both mentally, financially, and physically.


Your cat needs a calm, patient friend during this time. If you feel that you’ll be impatient and jumpy as she slowly approaches her estimated due date; if you freak out when presented with blood or slimy things; if you do not have the time or energy to bottle-feed kittens; if the thought of cutting an umbilical cord or handling placentas and amniotic sacs is nerve-wracking for you, you have approximately nine weeks to get over it.


Begin setting aside money now to cover the cost of future vet visits, vaccines, and eventual speuter surgeries for the whole litter (including mom). An emergency C-Section for your cat will cost thousands of dollars. About 50% of the mommy cats I’ve fostered have needed some emergency help, either before or after delivery. Retained placentas, uterine infections, uterine prolapse, kittens stuck in the birth canal, exhausted mommy cats who can’t push but still have kittens to deliver – this is nature, and nature is expensive.