When Should You Neuter a Cat and Why: the risks and benefits

When should you castrate or spay your kitten or cat? Are there any side-effects to early neutering or is early age desexing the best thing you could do for your cat?

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We castrate and spay our cats for many different reasons. The big benefits to your cat and us as their owners are many:

– Reduction in fighting
– Elimination of pyometra risk
– Reduced risk of FIV + FeLV
– Reduced roaming and so getting lost or injured
– Reduced spraying and marking behavior
– Elimination of calling
– Reduction in general stress
– reduced shelter population

The traditional age for a cat spay or castration is 5-6 months. This is fine if it actually gets done then and your cat stays indoors until that point. The age of sexual maturity though can be as young as 4 months of age. This clearly leaves a window of opportunity for your cat to get pregnant if they are female, or start competing and fighting for the attention of any entire female in the neighborhood if your cat is male.

What are the potential side effects of being spayed or castrated and does the age at which this takes place make any difference?

– Anesthetic death: in several studies there is no difference in death rate with those undergoing this procedure from as early as 7 weeks to the those cats being anesthetized as adults. Several different anesthetic techniques have also been looked at and all that were studied were found to be safe.

There is a risk with every anesthetic and surgical procedure but in reality this risk is very low at around 0.1% and the age at which a cat is neutered doesn’t seem to affect this risk. In fact, those cats neutered earlier actually seem to develop fewer minor surgical complications.

– orthopedic or skeletal issues: no evidence of any increase in risk

– urinary tract disease: again there doesn’t appear to be any association, certainly in male cats castrated early or later. Older cats and those that are fat are a higher risk with castrated males living longer and tending to be more overweight, but age at castration doesn’t appear to play a role.

– Finally, does early age desexing affect a cats behavior? Well again, no. In one study those neutered earlier had increased hiding behavior but this wasn’t found in a separate study and in both there was no difference in spraying, fearful behavior or aggression.

The bottom line is that it appears there are many benefits to being spayed or castrated but very few downsides of being neutered. Perhaps the only one being the risk of the surgery itself.

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The information provided on the Our Pets Health YouTube channel is not a substitute for the examination, assessment and advice given in person by a suitably qualified veterinary surgeon. The information is provided for educational and entertainment purposes only and does not constitute specific vet advice for any individual cat, dog or other animal of any species.
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