As a responsible pet owner, providing food, water, and play enjoyment is understood to be necessary in caring for your pet. Spaying or neutering your new companion is just as important as the above necessities to protect him/her from stress, disease and unwanted litters.
Historically, cats became overpopulated because neutering a male cat was extremely painful for the cat. Safe methods of using anesthesia were not available for a neuter. Spaying was out of the question. Due to this, kittens were abandoned or worse. The cycle of birth continued creating unhealthy and unwanted felines.
As veterinarian medicine grew in knowledge and skill, anesthetics became safer for cats. Today, spaying and neutering your pet is a normal everyday procedure with a qualified veterinarian.
What’s the Best Age to Spay/Neuter?
It is generally accepted that a healthy kitten weighing two pounds or more at eight weeks old can be spayed or neutered with proper aftercare with little chance of complications.
Many veterinarians prefer neutering at about five months of age when the kitten is a good size to handle.
Waiting after a female’s first heat is not a good option as it opens the door for ovarian or uterine cancers and diseases.
In the male, behavioral problems, such as spraying and aggression, are minimized with pediatric (early) neutering.
Traditionally, six months was the age accepted by veterinarians to spay or neuter a cat. This has changed considerably with safer surgery methods. The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) Board of Directors endorses early spay/neuter if the kitten is healthy and the veterinarian feels it would be safe.
The Association of Shelter Veterinarians (ASV) also recommends the procedure to be done before a cat reaches sexual maturity. A female cat can have a litter as soon as four months old.
There have been few adverse effects on cats which are neutered or spayed young when done by a reputable veterinarian. In fact, pediatric spay/ neuter surgery is beneficial in many ways. Veterinarians report that it is an easier, faster procedure. Kittens which have the surgery before 12 weeks of age are reported to have 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 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.
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 with no one to adopt them. These animals will be euthanized after a given period of time.
Due to the overpopulation problem, top experts in sheltering have come together to offer guidelines for shelter spay/neuter procedures. Many shelters will have already spayed or neutered your new addition. In many cases, a shelter will give you a voucher to do the surgery in a timely and cost-effective way.
There also are non-profit agencies set-up in most US counties that offer help with cost if one of the options above is not available. These days, many cities have stand alone spay/neuter clinics and mobile units developed by vast funding programs that offer a spay or neuter at a greatly reduced cost depending on income.
The ASPCA maintains a database of low-cost healthcare providers and spay/neuter clinics that can help you if needed.
The benefits of spay/neuter greatly outweigh the costs by giving your cat a healthy, content life. You will be practicing kindness and doing a service to reduce feline overpopulation. Overpopulation creates enormous stress and hardship on the sheltering systems. It also adds to the numbers of free-roaming cats which are in constant danger and often pregnant.
All in all, spaying and neutering your cat helps prevent the 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 owner.
Always adhere to your veterinarian on the best age to spay or neuter your cat. He or she can assess the health and safety of the operation for your particular cat. With your veterinarian’s help, you can enjoy many happy years together.