When a female cat goes into estrus, also referred to as "heat," she is ready to mate with a male cat to produce a litter of kittens. To let local male cats know that she is ready to produce kittens, the female cat will vocalize by yowling, crying, and meowing loudly.
Unfortunately for you, this could mean that your cat will 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.
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Cats meow during the feline heat cycle
Meowing is a way for cats to communicate. Once your cat reaches 6 to 8 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, which lasts between three and 14 days, is the period of the cat's heat cycle in which she will be most vocal. Your cat will roll around, meow and cry frequently, seem more affectionate than usual, and have a decrease in appetite. She will often display a behavior called lordosis, where she arches her back in mating position.
If your cat doesn't mate during the estrus period, she will go into interestrus for 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.
Is it normal for cats to meow when in heat?
Yes, meowing and yowling is normal for a cat when she is 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 is not in pain, but her hormones are prompting her to become very vocal so she can locate a male cat and make kittens. These behavioral changes are absolutely normal for an unspayed female cat. Tomcats (as unneutered male cats are sometimes called) respond to the hormonal scents female cats make.
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. Her urine contains pheromones that let other cats know that she is ready to mate.
How to stop a cat in heat from meowing
While your feline friend is in heat, keep her indoors to prevent her from mating with another cat. If she is an outdoor cat or escapes, she is at risk of becoming pregnant. 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.
- Play with your cat: Keep your cat's crying in check by tuckering her out with several play sessions during the day and right before bedtime. This will ensure that she is sleepy and ready to get some rest instead of incessantly meowing through the night.
- Give your cat food puzzle toys: These toys require your cat to roll them and otherwise engage with them to get to the food inside. The toys will keep her occupied and won't allow her time to sit crying.
- Use a calming cat pheromone diffuser or spray: Cat pheromone diffusers and sprays, such as Feliway, contain synthetic versions of pheromones that mother cats naturally produce to keep their kittens happy and calm. Some adult cats will respond to these chemicals by relaxing, which might help mitigate meowing. Follow all directions for proper use of these products.
- Experiment with catnip: Certain cats will respond to catnip by becoming calm and mellow, so providing catnip might help quiet a cat in heat. On the flip side, catnip can also be stimulating and cause hyperactivity, so experiment in advance by giving your cat some catnip when she is not in estrus to see how she reacts.
- Create a soothing environment: A calm, quiet environment is likely to result in a calm, quiet (or at least quieter) cat. In addition to pheromone diffusers or sprays, provide heated cat beds in a tranquil, dimly lit room. Close curtains or blinds to block distracting views. You can also find music that is specifically created to calm anxious cats, and playing it softly in a space with inviting bedding can reassure and subdue a cat in heat.
- Be nice to your cat: It should go without saying that although dealing with a cat in heat can be frustrating, you should always treat your cat with kindness. This means no yelling, rough handling, or otherwise mistreating your cat. Giving your cat extra attention and affection, including gentle petting, will help soothe and calm her and in turn can help quell excessive meowing. Treating your cat badly to make her shut up is not OK and will only result in more anxiety for the pet (which often means even more vocalizing).
Spaying to quiet a cat in heat
Cat owners should know that the only way to truly stop a cat in heat from crying incessantly is to have her spayed. This surgery involves the removal of your cat's uterus and reproductive organs. Once spayed, your cat will no longer go into heat.
Your veterinarian can spay your cat before her first heat at 5 to 6 months of age. There is no medical reason to allow your cat to go through heat and mate before having her spayed. Plus, having her spayed prevents unwanted litters and reduces the risk of health problems, like pyometra (a uterine infection that can be life-threatening) and cancer.
There is no way around it: A cat in heat is loud. An unspayed female cat in estrus will generally vocalize and meow at top volume. Cat yowling can be quite disturbing to any pet parent, but it is normal cat behavior. The only surefire way to prevent it from happening is to have a veterinarian spay your cat before she reaches 7 months of age. If your cat does go into heat, you can try various methods to distract and quiet her, including playtime, treat toys, soothing pheromones, catnip, and a comforting environment.