by Jess Franklin, DVM
We recommend all cats kept as pets be surgically spayed or neutered. For male cats, we want to reduce urine spraying, reduce fighting, reduce urine odor, and reduce roaming. Female cats are also better adapted as pets if spayed. Intact female cats come into estrus multiple times during the year and may become pregnant. Heat cycles are annoying because cats are induced ovulators and will stay in heat until bred. Cats in heat may urinate in the wrong places, they yowl, and they may attract a group of suitors to your front door. Female cats also risk uterine infection or pyometra.
When is best?
Humane Society of Huron Valley is doing a great job of preventing unwanted kittens by a policy of surgical neuter or spay for all cats before release for adoption. This means many of our kittens have been neutered very young. These kittens seem to do very well. Complications are rare from surgery; illness is usually related to the battle to control infections, particularily herpes virus or rhinotrachetitis in a shelter.
For kittens needing surgery, we recommend finishing vaccines at 16 weeks and to plan surgery by 5 or 6 months old. Depending on the time of year, kittens may come in heat as early as 6 months. In contrast to dogs, if a cat does come into heat, we can plan surgery while in estrus.
When declaw surgery is also planned, we recommend that be done at the same time as a neuter or spay. Because younger kittens recover better from declaw surgery, we plan this combo surgery at 3-4 lbs, if healthy.
In contrast to the new trend to allow larger dogs to get older— 8-15 months depending on breed, before surgery— we do not see any advantage to allow cats be be older before sterilization. Waiting increases chances of unwanted pregnancy and urine spraying.
Editor’s side-note: A2AH offers Preventive Health Plans on a yearly basis that cover the cost of spaying/neutering at a 5%-15% discount.