After Giving Birth When Can a Cat Go Into Heat Again?

If there isn't enough information about postpartum heat in cats, the life of the mother of the kittens may be endangered. Find out why here.
After Giving Birth When Can a Cat Go Into Heat Again?

Last update: 11 July, 2021

Maybe your cat has just had kittens, and you want to prevent this from happening again. You may also want her to reproduce properly in the future. In either case, you have surely wondered how the process of being in heat in cats works after giving birth. The reproductive cycle of these animals is very different from that of humans, so it’s necessary to get informed before choosing the moment.

Professional sources such as the Affinity Foundation affirm that the highest rates of abandonment in felids occur in the heat stages. Unfortunately, some owners don’t know how to handle this situation and take the worst possible decisions. With all this in mind, we’re going to describe how heat works in cats.

Reproduction in cats

First of all, it should be noted that female cats are seasonal polyestrous animals. This means that they present several estrus. These are phases in which the female is sexually receptive— throughout the year, spread over a specific season. In general, females are ready for fertilization between February and August.

Each heat or estrus has a variable duration, but the average is 6 days, as indicated by veterinary sources. If the female isn’t fertilized by one or more males at this time, the cat won’t be receptive for a while. Between both stages, it’s estimated that each estrous cycle in the cat lasts from 1 to 6 weeks. However, the average is 3 weeks.

Cats require stimulation

On the other hand, it should be noted that this species is guided by ovulatory induction parameters. This means that it’s the act of mechanical reproduction that induces the release of the ovules — this is different in humans. Most females require 3 to 4 encounters with males to begin ovulating and becoming pregnant.

The cat is seasonally polyestric, as it goes into heat every 21 days on average in specific months of the year.

A pregnant cat lying on a white background.

Can the cat go into heat after giving birth?

The gestation time of a pregnant cat is variable, but the average is between 9 weeks (63 days) and 10 weeks (70 days). Once she gives birth, the cat will be exhausted and will need some recovery time. Also, you should keep in mind that she has to suckle her kittens for 6 to 8 weeks. Of course, this is a daunting task that requires a lot of energy.

However, we can’t lose sight of the fact that domestic cats and other pets are still wild animals. For this reason, their main interest is to have as many offspring as is physically possible without having to endanger their lives or that of their offspring. In other words, after giving birth the cat can go into heat again.

How long does it take for a cat to go into heat after giving birth?

Contrary to popular belief, a cat can become pregnant while caring for her young. As professional documents indicate, about 4 weeks after weaning, the female is able to become pregnant again if she’s stimulated and it’s still the reproductive season. As you can see, heat after giving birth in cats is established quickly.

Weaning takes place a maximum of 8 weeks after giving birth. So, we can estimate that the female will be sexually active again around 12 weeks after giving birth. Also, as she will have been stimulated on previous occasions it may be even easier for her to get pregnant again.

How to prevent a cat from getting pregnant after giving birth?

Unless the cat is purebred or has breeding programs in mind – which must be certified – there’s no reason why a cat needs to have more offspring. As the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association indicates, in nature, the mortality rate of kittens in the womb or at birth is 6 to 12%.

With each kitten that dies before being born, the chances that the cat will die as well increase exponentially. A fetus being stuck inside the placenta can cause serious health problems in the mother. These can include systemic infections or internal bleeding. Therefore, the best idea is to sterilize the animal.

Even in breeding programs, you have to be very careful about crossing a cat too many times or breeding her with relatives, even if they’re distant. All of this increases the likelihood that the offspring will be born with congenital diseases.

Is it possible to sterilize a cat that’s breastfeeding?

There’s a false preconception that a newly spayed cat often leaves her cats unattended. This isn’t true at all.  Behavior and maternal instinct aren’t dictated only by the ovaries – structures that are removed during the procedure.

The main hormone in promoting lactation is oxytocin, which is produced in the nuclei of the hypothalamus (brain). For this reason, there’s no reason to believe that a neutered cat will produce less milk than a sexually active one.

Sometimes veterinarians prefer to wait to perform the procedure. This is only because the cat’s mammary glands can make it difficult to remove the ovaries.

Is heat after childbirth in cats possible?

Heat after delivery in cats implies responsibility

Going into heat after giving birth is possible in cats. Therefore, it’s the responsibility of the owner to prevent it from happening again. The first step is always to limit the cat’s outings, but to avoid any unwanted surprises, sterilization will be the definitive option that’s recommended in all cases.

According to studies in the journal Nature Communications, stray cats kill 22.3 billion small mammals each year in the United States. If we want to conserve the biodiversity that surrounds us, it’s necessary to keep pets under control at a reproductive level.

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  • Nutter, F. B., Levine, J. F., & Stoskopf, M. K. (2004). Reproductive capacity of free-roaming domestic cats and kitten survival rate. Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, 225(9), 1399-1402.
  • Loss, Scott R.; Will, Tom; Marra, Peter P. (2013). “The impact of free-ranging domestic cats on wildlife of the United States”. Nature Communications. 4: 1396. doi:10.1038/ncomms2380. PMID 23360987
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