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Home > Cats > Can My Cat Get Pregnant When They Aren’t in Heat? Vet Reviewed Facts

Can My Cat Get Pregnant When They Aren’t in Heat? Vet Reviewed Facts

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Dr. Lorna Whittemore

Veterinarian, MRCVS

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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A female cat’s estrus cycle, or heat cycle, determines when she can get pregnant. Cats typically have multiple heat cycles in a year, so if they mate during their heat cycle, they have a high chance of becoming pregnant. With that being said, cats cannot get pregnant when they aren’t in heat.

If you haven’t yet had your cat sterilized, it’s important to familiarize yourself with her heat cycle to avoid any accidental pregnancies. Here’s what you need to know about female cats’ heat cycles.

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A Female Cat’s Estrus Cycle

Female cats will go into their first estrus cycle when they reach sexual maturity, which can be as soon as 4-6 months old1. Cats are polyestrous animals, and they can go through several heat cycles during their breeding season.

Breeding seasons will vary by geographic location and environmental conditions. They usually begin when the number of hours of daylight reaches between 14-16 hours. So, you can usually expect the breeding season to begin in the spring and end in the fall. However, cats that live in tropical areas may experience heat cycles all year.

A cat’s estrus cycle can be broken down into five phases2:

  • Proestrus
  • Estrus
  • Interestrus
  • Diestrus
  • Anestrus
red tabby cat in pain walking on grass outdoor
Image By: lagunabluemolly, Pixabay

Proestrus and Estrus

The proestrus phase lasts for about 1-2 days and usually goes unnoticed. The estrus phase follows the proestrus phase, and it can last between 2-19 days. Most cats have estrus phases that last closer to 7 days. Cats are fertile during this time and can become pregnant if they mate.

Female cats are induced ovulators, which means that mating will stimulate them to ovulate, or release eggs. They’ll usually mate several times and can mate with different male cats in one estrus phase, so one litter of kittens can have different fathers.

Interestrus, Proestrus, and Diestrus

If a cat doesn’t mate or ovulate during the estrus phase, she’ll enter into the interestrus phase. This phase typically lasts between 13-18 days. Once it ends, she’ll re-enter the proestrus phase. If she ovulates, she’ll enter the diestrus phase, which is also known as the luteal phase.

Cats will become pregnant if the eggs are fertilized, and pregnancy typically lasts 65 days. If she doesn’t become pregnant, she can go through a pseudopregnancy stage that can last for 40-50 days. She can also go through another heat cycle if it’s within the breeding season.

two cats fighting
Image By; Vshivkova, Shutterstock

divider-catSigns Your Cat Is in the Estrus Phase

A female cat may not display any changes in behavior during an estrus cycle except when she’s in the estrus phase. So, it’s helpful to observe and keep track of her behavior so that you know when she’s ready to mate.

Cats will display several common signs when they’re in heat. First, they can start to act overly affectionate that may appear to be almost flirtatious. They may also start rolling on the floor or rubbing themselves against the floor. They can raise their back legs and flag their tail, which is a signal to male cats that they’re ready to mate.

Female cats usually become more vocal and may even start yowling. It may sound like they’re in pain, but they’re really just making noises to attract a mate. They might try to escape as well because the estrus phase encourages cats to roam and search for mates.

abbyssinian cat meowing
Image By: New Africa, Shutterstock

How to Keep Your Cat Calm When She’s in Heat

The intensified behaviors that cats in heat display may be alarming to new cat owners. If a cat in heat doesn’t mate, she may continue to engage in these behaviors until the end of the estrus phase. While there isn’t a surefire way for you to keep your cat calm during the estrus phase, there are some things you can try out.

First, keep her away from any male cats. Cats in heat usually become more excitable when they find a potential mate and can become more vocal and active. You can also try to distract her by playing with her and giving her extra affection. She may also appreciate having some catnip or silvervine.

Cats may also respond well to synthetic pheromones or other calming scents.

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Conclusion

Cats can’t get pregnant unless they’re in heat. However, they can go through many heat cycles a year. While tracking your cat’s behavior can help you determine when they’re in heat, the best way to prevent any accidental pregnancies is to spay your cat. Consult your veterinarian to determine the best time to spay your cat.


Featured Image Credit: Anna Hoychuk, Shutterstock

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