When a cat goes into estrus, also referred to as "heat," she's ready to mate with a male cat to produce a litter of kittens. To let local male cats know that she's ready to produce kittens, she'll vocalize by crying and meowing loudly to announce this to the world.
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Unfortunately for you, this could mean that your cat in heat will cry and meow incessantly for around a week every time she goes into heat, which could be as often as every two to three weeks. The only way to fully stop your cat from crying while in heat is to get her spayed, but there are a few other things you can do to discourage her excessive vocalizations.
The feline heat cycle
Once your cat reaches between 4 and 6 months of age, she will reach sexual maturity and start experiencing heat cycles. Each heat cycle has five stages: proestrus, estrus, interestrus, metestrus, and anestrus. Estrus is the period in which your cat will be most vocal. It's during this period, which lasts between three and 14 days, that your cat will roll around, meow and cry frequently, seem more affectionate than usual, and have a decrease in appetite.
If your cat doesn't mate during the estrus period, she'll go into interestrus, which lasts around two to three weeks, before going into estrus again. While many cats are seasonal breeders, going into heat in the spring and fall, indoor cats can experience continuous heat cycles year-round.
Why cats in heat cry
So, why is your cat crying so much while she's in heat? In the feline world, the only way to advertise your availability to mate is to vocalize to the neighborhood. That's why your cat is crying and caterwauling so much. She's not actually experiencing any pain, but her hormones are prompting her to become very vocal so she can locate a male cat and make a litter of kittens.
You may also notice that your cat is spraying urine around your home because in addition to vocal signals, cats urinate as a way to communicate with other cats. Their urine contains pheromones that let other cats know that they are ready to mate.
Spaying to quiet your cat
The only way to truly stop a cat in heat from crying incessantly is to have her spayed. This operation involves the removal of your cat's uterus and reproductive organs. Once spayed, your cat will no longer go into heat and won't cry loudly due to her hormonal urges.
Your vet can spay your cat before her first heat at four months of age. There is absolutely no medical reason to allow your cat to go through heat and mate before having her spayed. Plus, having her spayed prevents any unwanted litters and reduces the risk of certain health problems, like cancer.
How to quiet your cat in heat
While your cat is in heat, you'll need to keep her indoors at all times to prevent her from mating with another cat. Mating only takes minutes, so that means absolutely no trips outside. During this time, if her caterwauling is becoming unbearable, you can take steps to keep her crying to a minimum.
The main way to keep your cat's crying in check is to tucker her out with several play sessions during the day and right before bedtime. This will ensure she's sleepy and ready to get some rest instead of incessantly meowing through the night.
In addition, provide your cat with plenty of puzzle toys to feed her. These toys require your cat to roll them and otherwise engage with them to get to the food inside. They will keep her occupied and won't allow her time to sit crying.
- American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals: Meowing and Yowling
- VCA Hospitals: Estrous Cycles in Cats
- Companions Spay & Neuter: Five Stages of the Feline Heat (Estrus) Cycle
- Senior Cat Wellness: How to Stop a Cat in Heat From Meowing and Yowling
- Preventive Vet: How to Stop Your Cat From Waking You Up in the Morning
- Merck Manual Veterinary Manual: Reducing the Risk of Cancer