An estimated 5 million to 8 million animals are euthanized in shelters across this country every year. Many organizations are working to decrease that number by opening low-cost spay/neuter clinics that will prevent more litters of cats that need homes. One such organization is LifeLine Animal Project, an Atlanta-based nonprofit shelter and clinic where more than 25,000 spaying and neutering procedures have been performed since 2005. Here, executive director Rebecca Guinn answers the most commonly asked questions about spaying and neutering cats.
There is currently no research to suggest that spaying healthy kittens at 6 weeks old poses a greater risk than spaying kittens at 8 weeks old. There are actually many animal shelters who routinely spay and neuter healthy kittens safely at 1.5 pounds. There is no reported increase in anesthetic or surgical complications in 6 week old kittens versus 8 week old kittens. Research shows that pediatric spay and neutering is safe in kittens, and the Association of Shelter Veterinarians’ 2016 Medical Care Guidelines for Spay-Neuter Programs as well as the American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP) support the spaying and neutering of animals as young as 6 weeks of age.
Veterinarians who spay or neutered kittens at 2 pounds (typically 2 months old) report that it is an easier, faster procedure. The patients recover quickly and it is the highest level of prevention of litters. Pediatric spay/neuter produces the most prevention per dollar invested. As a species, cats tend to be underrepresented in scientific literature, especially in terms of case controlled studies, and Dr. Demos notes the need for more data. The task force’s review of available study results, however, found that early neutering in cats is not associated with serious health problems and does not appear to adversely affect skeletal, physical, or behavioral development.
For an era, the youngest age a kitten could be spayed was generally accepted to be around 6 months. But that’s changed in recent years: The ASPCA says spaying procedures in clinics and hospitals are routinely conducted on female kittens as young as 6 to 8 weeks old — well before the onset of the first heat cycle, which doesn’t usually occur in cats until age 4 months at the earliest.
Kittens are generally eligible for spaying once they hit 6 weeks of age as long as they weigh enough. Female kittens must weigh a minimum of 2 pounds in order to get fixed. Make sure your cat is the appropriate weight before she undergoes the procedure.
Benefits Of Spaying Or Neutering Your Cat
The ASPCA says benefits exist to spaying a kitten well before she goes into her first estrus. Early spaying surgery not only stops female cats from having to deal with the taxing bodily stress of carrying kittens, but in some cases it can inhibit the emergence of potentially dangerous or deadly diseases, including breast cancer and uterine infection.
Female cats that are spayed before their first heat have a reduced risk for malignant mammary tumors later in life. Spaying also helps to reduce your cat’s chances of developing an infection of the uterus, and of developing cancers of the reproductive organs.
Undesirable behaviors in female cats can be reduced with spaying, including; increased and overly intense affection, intense rubbing on objects, marking territory with urine, the desire to wander and heat-induced howling. Neutering male cats also offers a number of benefits. It reduces unwanted behaviors such as cat aggression and roaming which can help to reduce your cat’s risk of injury. Your male cat’s risk of developing testicular and prostate cancer are also reduced with neutering.
Cat overpopulation is a serious problem. Spaying and neutering helps to reduce the number of unwanted cats in your area. More cats are born each year than there are homes available for them. Homeless cats frequently wind up on the streets, and can ultimately end up being euthanized in shelters.
General Features Of Cat Neutering
There’s also a benefit if you look at it from the approach that we tend to do a kitten vaccine series and generally wrap that up by 16 weeks of age,” Dr. Demos says. “If we can tie an early spay or neuter in with that rather than asking a client to come back 2 months later for spay or neuter surgery, we might get better compliance with cats actually becoming sterilized.” This could mean better control of the feline population because of fewer unwanted litters or that fewer cats would end up in shelters because of unwanted behavior problems related to a lack of sterilization, such as urine marking and spraying.9
Some veterinarians still worry that sterilization before 6 months of age is too early. According to the AAFP website, concerns include the safety of anesthesia and surgery in young kittens as well as potentially detrimental long-term effects on development. Opponents cite obesity, a decreased immune
What Is Cat Neutering?
Neutering means surgically preventing cats from reproducing. In males, the operation is called castration and in females it’s called spaying. With castration both testicles are removed which takes away the main source of the male hormone testosterone. With spaying, both the ovaries and the uterus are removed which means the female is unable to become pregnant.
What’s Involved In The Cat Neutering Process?
Both operations are carried out under general anaesthetic. Every surgical procedure has some risk but modern techniques are very safe. Because it involves surgery, there will be some discomfort but cats are given drugs to control this and most of them are up and about just a few hours after they’ve had their operation.
Is It OK To Spay My Cat When They Are Just A Kitten?
A: Yes, as long as they are at least eight weeks of age and weighs at least two pounds. Pediatric spaying and neutering is widely accepted. Those ideas about needing to wait are really antiquated and the evidence is to the contrary. Even the American Veterinary Medical Association supports early spaying and neutering.
How Much Does Neutering A Cat Cost?
Costs vary quite a bit depending on the sex of the cat and the individual vet practice so check with your local vet. Several charities, including Blue Cross, offer low-cost neutering so contact your nearest one to find out more.
What Age Can Cats Be Neutered?
Cats become sexually mature from the age of around five months. In order to prevent unwanted pregnancies, it’s recommended that cats are neutered at around four months old, after they have completed their primary vaccinations. Some vets still recommend spaying at five or six months and it’s quite safe to neuter older cats.