Providing food, water, and play for your new pet cat is necessary for being a responsible pet owner, and shows that you care for your pet. Spaying or neutering your new companion is as important as these other necessities, in order to protect them from stress, disease, and unwanted litters.
Until the advent of the first kitty litter product in 1947 that made indoor toileting convenient and sanitary, cats lived outside. Even though they had many litters of kittens, few survived and overpopulation was not a problem. Some veterinarians began spaying and neutering pet cats in the 1930s, but this specialized experience in veterinarians wasn’t widely available even if pet parents wanted the option.
Over the past 70 years, a majority of pet cats in the United States have become exclusively indoor pets. As a result, unwanted behavior problems associated with intact felines needed to be addressed. However, many pet parents believed de-sexing cats caused pain or was unnatural, or even wanted children to experience the cat having kittens. Cost of the surgery also was a barrier. As cats became more popular and healthier, more and more unwanted kittens survived to be abandoned and reproduce even more babies. This continued to create unhealthy and unwanted felines.
As pet cat popularity grew, so did veterinarian medicine in knowledge and skill. More veterinarians offered cat-specific care, anesthetics became safer for cats, and feline-only practices arose. Today, spaying and neutering your pet with a qualified veterinarian is a normal, everyday procedure.
What’s the Best Age to Spay/Neuter?
It is generally accepted that a healthy kitten weighing two pounds or more at eight weeks of age can be spayed or neutered, all with proper aftercare and little chance of complications.
Many veterinarians prefer neutering around five months of age when the kitten is a good size to handle. Waiting to spay after a female’s first heat could open the door for ovarian or uterine cancers and diseases. In the male, behavioral problems such as urine spraying and aggression, are minimized with early neutering.
Traditionally, at six months of age, a veterinarian will spay or neuter a cat. This time frame has changed considerably with surgery methods that are also much safer. The American Veterinary Medical Association’ (AVMA) Board of Directors endorse early spaying and neutering, as long as the kitten is healthy and your veterinarian feels it’s safe.
The Association of Shelter Veterinarians (ASV) also recommends the procedure be done before a cat reaches sexual maturity. A female cat can have a litter as soon as four months old.
Pediatric spay/neuter surgery is beneficial in many ways. Veterinarians report that it is an easy, fast procedure. Kittens that undergo surgery before twelve weeks of age report faster recovery and fewer complications.
Each cat is different. In the end, the decision falls to you and your veterinarian.
Getting neutered isn’t all gloom-and-doom for your cat. In fact, there are plenty of health benefits. Here are a few:
- There are some ovarian and uterine cancers that can be completely avoided when a female kitten gets spayed.
- A particularly nasty uterine infection known as pyometra could be fatal for female kittens that didn’t go through the surgery.
- Just as with human pregnancies, giving birth for cats isn’t without risks. There are many potential complications involved with a cat’s pregnancy, some of which could endanger your cat’s life.
- Castrating a male cat eliminates the risk of testicular cancer. It also prevents possible behavioral issues. Bad behavior that tomcats (mature adult male cats) typically exhibit are loud vocalizations, escape attempts, picking fights with other cats or animals, and marking their territory, like your house, with urine. Neutering boy cats reduces the pungent odor of his urine.
Making the decision to spay or castrate your cat can be daunting but look at the bright side. It’s responsible, and it’s more humane to remove the urge to reproduce completely than to leave the urge but not allow it.
According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), an estimated 1.4 million unwanted cats that enter shelters end up being euthanized due to lack of shelter space and resources. Although shelter and rescue centers do their best to save as many animals as possible, there are still too many cats relinquished or picked up on the streets, languishing in shelters not getting adopted. These animals will be euthanized after a given period of time.
Due to the overpopulation problem, top experts in sheltering animals have come together to offer guidelines for shelter spay/neuter procedures. Many shelters will have already spayed or neutered your new pet. Or in many cases, a shelter will give you a voucher to do the surgery in a timely and inexpensive way.
There also are non-profit agencies in most US counties that offer help with your cost, if these other options are not available. Today, many cities have spay/neuter clinics and mobile units developed by large funding programs. They might offer a spay or neuter at a greatly reduced cost depending on your income.
The ASPCA maintains a database of low-cost healthcare providers and spay/neuter clinics that help.
The benefits of spaying or neutering greatly outweigh the costs, by giving your cat a healthy and content life. You will be practicing kindness and doing a service to reduce feline overpopulation, which creates enormous hardship on sheltering systems.
Spaying or neutering your cat could prevent a downward spiral of unnecessary euthanasia of healthy cats and kittens.
Together, once spayed or neutered, your new companion will be able to share a full life with you. You will have done a great kindness to your cat, and cats everywhere, by being a responsible pet owner.
Always adhere to your veterinarian’s advice regarding the best age to spay or neuter your cat. They can assess the health and safety of the operation of your cat. With your veterinarian’s help, you and your cat can enjoy many happy years together.