What Age Should You Spay or Neuter Your Cat or Kitten?

During the late 1800s, neutering was performed on male cats in ways that might seem cruel to us today. The castration operation would normally be carried out without anesthetic because doctors believed that the use of anesthetics was dangerous to the cat.

Spaying of female cats was initially considered inhumane and the alternative which was deemed acceptable at the time was to dispose of unwanted litters by drowning them. 

It was only about three decades later that chloroform started to become more prominent in usage for euthanasia.

Cat walking

Towards the late 1950s, although public opinion differed on what could be considered morally and ethically sound practice, one thing was agreed upon by all – neutering cats was necessary to control the cat population.

Fast-forward to present day.

Neuter a Cat, Save a Life

There are many things involved in being a responsible pet owner. Some of the most obvious are making sure cats have enough food, are getting enough exercise, and of course, have their emotional needs met.

But one of the most important things that most pet owners miss out on is neutering their cat or kitten. A lot of owners actually do not neuter their cat on purpose, believing that it is cruel or causes the animal unnecessary suffering. These notions are far from reality and are simply the construct of a loving owner’s mind.

Although it is understandable how owners feel, a little bit of education on the subject ought to open their eyes to the truth about the importance of neutering. There are a lot of stray cats in the US – between 74 and 96 million – roaming the streets and alleyways looking for a place to call their home.

However, according to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), an estimated 41 percent of stray cats that enter shelters end up being euthanized due to lack of space and resources.

Staff and facilities in these rescue centers are doing their best to save as many as possible, but there’s just too many cats being picked up and too few people willing to rescue them. Here’s where you come into the picture. Neutering your pet cat is something that you can do to help solve the problem of overpopulated shelters and the needless euthanasia of cats.

Most stray cats were abandoned by their owners due to financial incapability or other reasons. Besides helping to solve issues at your local shelters, neutering your cat also carries plenty of benefits for the cat itself.

What’s the Best Age?

But one of the biggest questions remains: what’s the best age to neuter kittens or adult cats? Should they be young or older?

The truth is that the question of when to neuter a cat is still being widely debated by leading veterinarians. In general, most agree that there are three options: neutering early on in the cat’s life when they’re only about 6-8 weeks of age, standard neutering which happens at about 5-6 months of age, or a late period between 8-12 months of age.

Early spaying before a female kitten reaches its first heat is beneficial in almost totally removing the risk of mammary cancer. This type of cancer is most especially problematic for cats because feline mammary cancer tends to be more destructive.

Experts advise spaying for female cats during their fifth month of age or shortly prior. To avoid any potential medical issues, the young kitty should weigh at least 2.2 pounds before going for surgery. It goes without saying that if the cat has any health issues, the veterinarian will not allow them to undergo the neutering procedure.

Here’s what Dr. Adam Denish of Rhawnhurst Animal Hospital at Elkins Park, Pennsylvania had to say about the subject: “I’ve performed thousands of neuters on cats that were about five months old and everything has always gone well. It works out better when they’re a bit older because the cats are normally-sized, healthy, and there are lesser chances of any complications.”

In the end, the decision falls to your veterinarian. Most vets will want to have it done by the cat’s fifth month, especially for females which become mature and can reach first heat by 5-8 months of age. The first heat will last for 21 to 30 days and you won’t be able to have it spayed during this time due to the medical risk involved. Your only option if you missed the window is to wait until it’s out of estrus.

‘Paw-sitive’ Benefits

Getting neutered isn’t all gloom and doom for your cat. In fact, there are plenty of health benefits to getting fixed. Here are some of them:

  • There are certain ovarian and uterine cancers that can be completely avoided when a female kitty gets spayed.
  • A particularly nasty uterine infection known as “pyometra” can also be potentially fatal for females that haven’t been fixed.
  • Just as with human pregnancies, giving birth for a cat isn’t without risks. There are many complications which could be potentially involved during a cat’s pregnancy which could endanger its life.
  • Castrating a male cat is beneficial in reducing the risk of possible testicular cancer later on in life. It also prevents behavioral issues from manifesting in your cat. Bad behavior that tomcats typically exhibit are loud vocalizations, escape attempts, picking fights with other cats/animals, and marking their territory (your house) with urine.

Making the decision to spay or castrate your cat can be daunting but look at the bright side. You’re doing your part as a responsible owner and if you think about it, it’s more humane to remove the urge to reproduce rather than to leave the urge there but disallow it.

It would be crueler and cause you more headaches to have to put up with your cats screaming inside the house as you carefully attempt to avoid letting them get out. By having a cat fixed, you’re doing your part to solve the problem.

The Price is Right

If you’re worried about having your cat or kitten neutered because you fear that the cost might exceed your financial capabilities, set your worries aside.

The ASPCA has maintained a database of low-cost healthcare providers and neutering clinics that can help you in your predicament. It understands that having the services more easily accessible will allow more owners to take advantage of neutering their pets and in the long run, decrease the population of stray cats on the streets.

There are many animal shelters that neuter their cats automatically once they’re picked up off the roads, so if you’ve adopted one, chances are that they’ve already been fixed.

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Miranda LaSala
Miranda LaSala

My destination ever since I was born was to be a cat person. When I had the chance, I took the course on Veterinary Tech from Pima Medical Institute, Seattle. For the last 5 years, I've worked as a kennel assistant, veterinary nurse, and a surgical nurse.

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