Early Prevention: The Importance of Spaying & Neutering Young Cats

February 18, 2021
cat health
kitten health
neutering
spaying

Did you know that just one unspayed female and one unneutered male producing four kittens twice a year could be responsible for over two million cats over a ten-year period? That’s a lot of great-great-great-great grandkittens!

Sadly, the majority of those cats won’t have the kind of home we want every cat to have. They may starve, get injured and suffer, or be euthanized because the shelters simply can’t find homes for every one of them.

Health Benefits to Spaying & Neutering Cats

In addition to population control, spaying and neutering cats is critically important for other reasons. “Fixed” males (and females) are less likely to roam and get into fights. They also make friendlier companions who are less likely to bite or spray inside the house. 

Female cats are less likely to get mammary (breast) cancer, especially if they are spayed before their first estrus (heat) cycle, and they are at lower risk for pyometra (uterine infection). Male cats are less likely to develop cancer of the testicles or prostate.

Fewer unowned cats helps wildlife! All of these reasons apply to our companions but equally to the many, many homeless and feral cats. In fact, without “fixing” these cats, feeding them just makes things worse. This is a huge part of TNR (trap, neuter, return) programs. 

When Should Your Cat Be Fixed?

Traditionally, males are neutered at 6-8 months and females are spayed at 5-6 months of age. 

Pediatric, or earlier age, surgeries have many advantages, however. When these procedures are performed between 8 weeks and 4 months of age, the surgery is quicker and easier, making for faster recovery. 

In fact, the American Association of Feline Practitioners, American Veterinary Medical Association, American Animal Hospital Association, and American Shelter Veterinarians advocate Fix by Five, while Cats Protection in the UK promotes gonadectomy by 4 months.

Myths About Early Age Surgery

Some of the common myths about early age surgery that you may have heard are:

  1. males that are neutered later have lower risk for urinary tract problems,
  2. later surgery is preferred, (for males and females), for healthy bones and joints, and
  3. having one litter makes cats a better mouser.

None of these are true.

After the Procedure

“So kitty has had his/her surgery. What should I watch out for?”

It isn’t unusual for cats to be a little slower for a day after surgery, but if they don’t bounce back to their normal energetic, fun-loving self by 24 hours, call your veterinarian. They should have a good appetite and be using the litter box normally by then as well.

Regardless of age, reduced levels of sex hormones results in an increased appetite and a tendency to gain body fat. It is important to only feed appropriate amounts. Obesity is the #1 health problem in pets. Unsure about how much to feed your cat? Learn more here about Feeding your Feline: Tips & Tricks for Managing Your Cat’s Diet.

When finances are tight, there are many organizations that help, including humane societies and SPCAs.  

When it comes to cats, spaying and neutering earlier is better. 

This article was written by Cat Healthy Feline Specialist Dr. Margie Scherk DVM, DABVP.

References:

Levy JK, Crawford PC. Humane strategies for controlling feral cat populations. Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association. 2004 Nov 1;225(9):1354-60.

Looney AL, Bohling MW, Bushby PA, Howe LM, Griffin B, Levy JK, Eddlestone SM, Weedon JR, Appel LD, Rigdon-Brestle YK, Ferguson NJ. The Association of Shelter Veterinarians veterinary medical care guidelines for spay-neuter programs. Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association. 2008 Jul 1;233(1):74-86.

Kustritz MV. Determining the optimal age for gonadectomy of dogs and cats. Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association. 2007 Dec 1;231(11):1665-75.

Kustritz MR. Pros, cons, and techniques of pediatric neutering. Vet Clin N Am Small Anim Pract. 2014 Mar 1;44(2):221-33.

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