Spaying and Neutering Kittens

Spaying and neutering kittens offers health and safety benefits. It not only provides health benefits to individual cats, but it also helps control the overall cat population.

Younger Patients Can Be Altered

Current guidelines call for a kitten to be neutered or spayed when he or she is 8 to 16 weeks old and weighs at least 8 pounds. Improvements in anesthesia delivery have made it possible to alter kittens at an earlier age.

Veterinarians used to recommend waiting until the cat was at least 6 months old before performing the surgery, but some cats can produce kittens before this age, which adds to the pet overpopulation problem.

Health Benefits of Spaying and Neutering

Spaying a female cat provides the following health benefits:

  • Decreased risk of mammary gland tumors
  • Decreased risk of ovarian cancer
  • Decreased risk of uterine cancer
  • Decreased risk of pyometria (uterine infection following birth of kittens)
  • Three to five years longer life span

Neutering a male cat provides the following health benefits:

  • Decreased risk of prostate disease
  • Decreased risk of prostate cancer
  • Risk of testicular cancer eliminated
  • Three to five years longer life span

Behavior Benefits of Spaying and Neutering

Although the surgery does not change a cat's basic behavior, having your pet spayed or neutered can eliminate some less-desirable behaviors associated with intact animals.

Spaying a cat provides the following behavioral benefits:

  • Eliminates heat cycles
  • Eliminates yowling, pacing or other behaviors that attract males
  • Lessens the cat's desire to roam, which makes her less likely to become lost or injured if she escapes from your home

Neutering a male cat provides the following behavioral benefits:

  • Reduces or eliminates the chance of the cat marking his territory by urine spraying and marking
  • Lessens the cat's desire to roam, which makes him less prone to getting lost or being injured in a cat fight or car accident

Spaying and Neutering Helps Control Pet Population

In theory, a single female cat and her surviving offspring could be responsible for 420,000 cats being produced during her lifetime. Although the actual numbers may be lower, pet overpopulation is a serious problem as evidenced by the number of cats that are euthanized each year in U.S. shelters. Although actual numbers are difficult to pinpoint, estimates indicate that between 2.5 and 6.8 million cats are put to sleep each year because suitable pet homes cannot be found for them. To help combat this feline overpopulation problem, a number of veterinary and humane organizations are in favor of early neutering of kittens.

How the Surgery Works

When a cat is altered, he or she has an operation to remove reproductive organs. Male cats have their testicles removed, which is called neutering, and female cats have their ovaries and uterus taken out, which is called spaying.

The operations on kittens often go faster than those on adult cats because surgeons do not have to cut through additional fat layers that are often found on adult cats. Kittens also recover from anesthesia more quickly than do adult cats. Studies have shown that kittens are awake and playful 15 minutes after the surgery, while adult cats are still groggy an hour after the operation takes place. Research has also shown that kittens recover from these surgeries quicker than adult cats.