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Early Spay and Neuter of Cats

The Need for Early Spay and Neuter

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6.5 week-old kitten

At 6 1/2 weeks, this kitten would be a good candidate for early neutering.

Franny Syufy

Although the concept of early spaying and neutering of both cats and dogs is not new, its use by veterinarians in the mid-20th century was limited because of a number of misconceptions:

  • That for some reason, it was better to let a female cat give birth to one litter of kittens before spaying.
  • That a female cat should not be neutered until after her first oestrus period.
  • That growth metabolism might be stunted as a result.
  • That the eventual urethral diameter might be constricted, particularly in male cats, causing eventual urinary tract problems.
  • That female cats in particular, might later develop incontinence as a result.
  • That certain behavioral problems might result.

Most people should know by now that failure to spay & neuter is the number one cause of the pet population explosion. One unspayed female cat and her offspring, can be responsible for the birth of 73,000 kittens in six years. Indeed, female cats barely kittens themselves commonly give birth, and male cats as young as four months have been known to impregnate willing queens. Cat caregivers who wait the traditional six to eight months for the surgery are playing a game of Russian Roulette, and only serving to exacerbate the problem.

Humane Societies to the Forefront

Because of the exponentially increasing feline overpopulation problems, with humane societies and other shelters bearing the brunt of the consequences, these groups rose to the forefront in taking positive action.

People who run shelters know that the kittens they adopt out today can spawn descendents who will refill the shelters in short order. In the past, in an effort to prevent this, shelters have tried a number of tactics, from contracts (which run stastically to between 10% and 50% noncompliance), deposits for later spay/neutering (which are readily forfeited), and other equally non-productive incentives.

A number of shelters decided to stop relying on the adoptive "parents" and to guarantee spay/neutering of kittens by having it performed prior to adoption, either with veterinary staff or by cooperating veterinarians. In the twenty or so years of research that followed, in both the U.S. and Canada, shelter operators and veterinarians were able to dismiss the previous misconceptions one by one. It was found that in cats altered as early as six to twelve weeks, compared to cats neutered at six to twelve months, there was the:

  • Same metabolic rate
  • Same type of growth
  • Same urethral diameter at adulthood
  • Same behavioral patterns.

Read Further > Hidden Benefits of Early Spay and Neuter

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