You might think that kittens used to first go into heat when they got to be 1-year-old and now it happens when they’re younger, but that never changed.
Cats can experience their first cycle at different times in their lives and also depending on the solar activity, how warm it is outdoors (or indoors), and subsequently, the time of the year.
In today’s article, we’re looking at everything you should know about heat periods in kittens – their first cycles, how they are likely to behave, and if they are likely to become pregnant.
When do kittens experience their first heat period?
Kittens go into heat for the first time at about six months of age. However, depending on when they were born, this can happen at anything between four and six months of age.
Some cats might go into heat a bit later, especially if it’s the middle of winter and there’s no solar activity whatsoever. It’s generally acknowledged that cats can go into heat from February or March to October or November (in the Northern hemisphere) and the end of August to the beginning of June (in the Southern hemisphere).
So, if you have recently adopted or bought a kitten and they haven’t yet gotten to the age of 4-5 months, you can expect your pet to experience a heat cycle sometime soon.
It might seem that a 6-month-old kitten is too young to become a mother, and there are risks involved with very early pregnancies, but that is just how the breeding of cats works sometimes.
How long does a kitten’s heat last?
The answer to this question is that it actually depends on whether you interfere or not. In the past, people didn’t have any options with regard to their kitten’s heat cycles, which meant that unless the animal found a mate and ended up being pregnant, they would continue to be in heat for a period of up to two weeks.
The reason it is so long is that it can sometimes take time for a cat to find a male to mate with, so she needs to continue releasing specific chemical smells that can attract suitors in that area.
However, these days there are some ways of managing a cat’s heat cycle, mainly by using medication prescribed by a veterinarian. Hormonal control of your cat’s heat is possible, and especially if this is the first time you’re trying to do this, your vet will probably have nothing against giving you the drugs.
These medications are not readily available online because, essentially, they are hormones, so they are considered risky. That is why they have to be prescribed by a veterinary professional.
So, how long does a kitten’s heat last if you give her pills? Usually, the duration of the cycle will be shortened after one or two doses. So, while the heat period should normally last for about 14 days, if you give your cat the medication after the first or second day of heat, she will stop showing symptoms.
Some injectable solutions are capable of delaying the estrus for six months, depending on the dosage.
Why do kittens seem to go into heat all the time?
There are two reasons why this happens. With climate change, the weather has become more unpredictable and generally warmer, which means that cats are getting the signals that they should go into heat earlier in the year.
While it used to be uncommon for kittens to experience a heat cycle sometimes even in March, if the winter was longer, these days, it’s not unusual for them to go into heat in February.
Moreover, they are kept indoors, which means that the weather is always warm for them, so they can go into heat year-round.
The second reason depends on the cat owner. If you consistently put a stop to your cat’s heat cycle using a medication, that could lead to certain hormonal imbalances and the development of follicles on the surface of the cat’s ovary that basically makes her go into heat repeatedly.
Are kittens distressed when they’re in heat?
While the period itself does not cause a cat any unpleasant symptoms (not physiologically, anyway), cat guardians might feel uneasy when they notice that their pets begin vocalizing all the time and generally being very anxious.
Kittens do not experience any pain whatsoever when they are in heat. There are clear changes, especially in terms of their behavior. Many remain awake through the night and continue vocalizing, therefore disturbing their owners’ sleep. Most will experience increased urination and marking, as well as a change in their urine scent.
They might be more affectionate and might also have some vaginal discharge, although the amount is so low that most pet owners don’t even notice it.
In any case, the heat period does not negatively affect a kitten’s health for the duration of the cycle.
Can going into heat be dangerous for cats?
Occasionally, yes. When a cat isn’t spayed, the uterus has a different activity, so if they go into heat and they somehow come in contact with a dangerous microorganism in their nether region, they might develop pyometra.
This is a condition that can be life-threatening, and it only affects intact animals. Spayed cats have zero chances of developing pyometra because there’s no uterus activity that makes it possible for their cervix to open so that they can be receptive to any potential mating.
So, if you were to have just one reason for spaying your kitten, that would have to be pyometra. To make matters worse, most pyometra cases need to be treated using surgery, where both the ovaries and the entirety of the uterus are removed.
Pyometra actually involves the uterus becoming filled with pus – and if your cat’s heat cycle has ended, the cervix is closed, so the pus has no way of getting out of her body.
When can kittens get pregnant?
Their age has nothing to say about the moment they become pregnant. Cats experience ovulation immediately after they begin to mate with a suitor, which means that the likelihood of them not getting pregnant is actually very, very low.
This is one of the reasons why the stray cat population across the globe is relatively high. Responsible cat guardians who know for sure that they do not want their kitten to get pregnant should spay their pet as early as possible (some vets can spay cats when they are 6-months-old).