Should a female cat experience parturition before being spayed?

Parturition is the act of giving birth. According to research conducted in 1996 by a scientist, Luke, about 20% or one fifth of the American public believe that a female cat should be allowed to give birth to kittens before being spayed (ovariohysterectomy). Are they correct? The surgery includes the removal of the uterus, fallopian tubes and ovaries.

Twenty percent of the American public amounts to more than 60 million people (2012). Their attitude, right or wrong, contributes to the cat overpopulation problem because female cats on average give birth to 2.43 litters of 4.3 kittens before being spayed. That is a lot of cats. Some will end up in shelters and live a short, unwanted life before being ‘euthanised’.

Their attitude has profound consequences. It would be nice to find out why people think this and whether they can change their views. Or whether they should change their views. Luke says the research did not provide answers.

However, he speculates that the reason why people have this attitude is:

  • ‘..a tendency to anthropomorphize their parental instincts onto their pets’. I can understand this. First, I wonder whether it is mainly women who have this attitude. I certainly don’t like the castration of male cats because I like a male cat to be fully male. I am not sure that is anthropomorphizing a cat. I think it is just that an intact male domestic cat has the full range of male wildcat behaviors that are attractive but…I understand the practical reasons for sterilising. Do women think that to spay a female cat before she has gone through pregnancy and birth will rob her of some of her femininity? Will it change her behavior and make her less sweet natured?
  • Some people believe that it is good for a female cat’s long term health if she gives birth before being sterilized.
  • The belief that cats should reach sexual maturity before being sterilized. Vets used to give advice that cats should be at least 6 months of age before undergoing the operation. However as at 2007 vets have revised their advice and early age spaying and neutering is now accepted. Is it fully accepted by all vets? Does early age neutering stunt growth and behavioral development?
Feral or Stray Cat Being Spayed

Adult Feral or Stray Cat Being Spayed. Photo: by Rocky Mountain Feline Rescue

Doctors Eldridge, Carlson (father and daughter) and Giffin write in their authoritative book1 that a “queen does not need to have a litter of kittens to be psychologically fulfilled or to ‘settle down’ behaviorally”. They recommend spaying at 5-7 months of age before her first heat. The operation is easier on a young cat and it can be done at 7 weeks of age, they write. They go on to say that studies have shown that (a) there are no health problems (b) no long term behavioral issues and (c) the cat might be taller because ‘bone closure rates are delayed” (e) cats are not fatter but the operation might slow the cat’s metabolism so less food is required (and more exercise). Note: indirectly, spaying might, therefore, make cats fatter?

Also by spaying before the cat’s first heat there is a reduction in the occurrence of:

  • mammary tumors (by 90%) and the..
  • elimination of the possibly of infections and cancers of the uterus.

They also say that spaying a female cat:

  • will not change her ‘basic personality’. Note: the authors have hinted that a female cat’s personality might or will be changed in that statement.
  • will make the cat less irritable ‘at certain times of the year’
  • reduces urine marking
  • eliminates heat cycle behavior

Other sources

The Veterinarian’s Guide to Your Cat’s Symptoms says that spaying before first heat ‘is thought to prevent mammary tumors”. So, less certain. As to long term effects they that early neutering ‘has so far’ proved to be safe and effective. But they make the point that this is a relatively new procedure. However the book was published in 1999.

I have found it difficult to find a study that was carried out recently, say in 2012 or 2011 that would shed some light on the long term effects of early spaying of female cats. The AVMA (American Veterinary Medical Association) reported back in 2000. They concluded at that time that “prepubertal gonadectomy” (early spaying) was safe in terms of long term effects at least until 3 years after the operation. I suppose they were playing safe. In a later report of 2004, probably the most recent that we have to hand, the AVMA recommend spaying before 5.5 months of age. They say that both male and female cats were more shy after an early operation.

I couldn’t find anything at all about it on the British Veterinary Association website. As at 1993 British vets had mixed opinions about early sterilisation of cats2.

P.H.Kass referring to Olsen’s study of 2001 and writing in The Welfare of Cats says that long term studies ‘may yet reveal’ health concerns for early spaying.


We have to conclude that at present, when taking into account all the benefits and known and unknown detriments to early pre-first heat spaying, that it is regrettably the right thing to do. Cat caretakers who think it is wrong need to change their minds.

Associated article: Neutering Cats.

1.Cat Owner’s Home Veterinary Guide page 426 – ISBN 978-0-470-09530-0
3. Original Flickr photo.

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Should a female cat experience parturition before being spayed? — 28 Comments

  1. Thinking it’s right to allow a cat to have a litter of kittens for any reason before being spayed, is an old wives tale and must contribute greatly to the number of unwanted kittens and cats in the USA. For every kitten born, another cat is deprived of a home because most people would choose a kitten over an older cat. Sadly when the kitten grows up he/she is often relinquished with the excuse I saw many times in the Shelter studies ‘We’ve got a new kitten and the cat doesn’t like it’
    Off with the old on with the new causes healthy adult unwanted cats to be killed.
    I don’t think enough research has been done on spaying kittens very young and the anaesthetic needed must surely be a greater risk to their tiny lungs. The UK vets I know still recommend a kitten be 5/6 months old for neutering either sex.
    That’s something that puzzles me, they say spay/neuter in the USA yet neutering covers both sexes, spaying a female, castrating a male so why not say spay/castrate or simply neuter as we do here.
    You are right Michael, cat caretakers need to change their minds and have their cats neutered before they add more to the numbers already unwanted, but I still think 5/6 months is early enough in most cases.
    I used to worry about all the cat neutering we did daily at the vets I worked with, I said one day to a very wise old vet in the 1970s that surely the time will come when if all cats are neutered the species will die out ….he assured me that will never happen because the irresponsible people who don’t get their cats neutered will ensure it doesn’t. He was right!

    • Your wise vet is spot on. Thanks for adding to the post. Very informative. I wonder if there is a more pressing need to neuter in the USA (because of the bigger unwanted cat problem) which has encouraged earlier neutering of female cats in the USA. It surprised me that 20% of cat owners don’t neuter their female cats until they have had 2 litters! There must be a segment of society who want their cat to breed. Perhaps they think they can sell the kittens. The reason might be about money rather than the cat’s personality being changed.

  2. Doesn’t matter how old they are, or if they’ve given birth once or not. EVERY cat; kitten to adult, male & female, collared or not, stray or feral; that touches paw to my land gets instantly sterilized with a .22. Problem solved 100%. The added benefit is that after about 12-15 of those it might even train those cats’ owners into being responsible pet-owners and respectable neighbors/citizens. Though where I live, I had to literally shoot and bury hundreds of their cats before the moronic criminally irresponsible cat-lovers started to figure out what they’ve been doing wrong all during their sorry, useless, and pathetic lives. At least they finally learned! NO CATS FOR OVER 2 YEARS NOW!

    Love ’em or Lose ’em!

    • Well, there are people like you in the world. People who like to shoot innocent animals rather than talk to the owner of the animal. People who are rather arrogant and unpleasantly aggressive at heart. For that reason I published your comment.

      I agree with you on one thing. There are a good number of foolish and frankly ignorant cat owners who don’t think and who don’t have a concern for their neighbors. These people share the blame for the death of the cat that you shot.

      • And there are people like you in the world. People who like to let their devastating predators roam free to skin-alive and disembowel-alive all other animals on this planet. Gives you a thrill, does it? You enjoy knowing that something you like goes out and wantonly destroys, tortures, and devastates all the native wildlife. Makes you feel like a BIG MAN, does it? Because you’re too much of a pussy to senselessly kill all those innocent animals yourself so you send out your cats to do it for you. Is that it?

        Don’t give me your “holier than thou” crap. You should be serving a life-sentence for all the animal-abuse that YOU have caused and now defend the right to perpetuate.

        • Woodsman, you have confirmed to me that you are insane. Completely off your trolley. My cat goes out. I supervise him. He is neutered. He does not kill any wildlife. So why are you insulting me with such anger and venom? Because you are bonkers.

          • Woodsman, being a human, which I assume you are, you are why the rest of the world hates America for a start. You probably think god gave you your land or something stupid like that. You are the reason why I am embarassed to be human, especially in the eyes of animals. How do you treat women in your mind? I shudder to think. This has nothing to do with cats actually. You are just clearly a bad person. I never used to believe in bad people but I have been forced into it by the likes of yourself. I used to try and be diplomatic in the way I argue, but I have also given that up with the likes of you on this planet. Infact I can be very reasonable when it comes to arguing but when somebody like you shows up I dont see the point. The world would be a much better place without you, and there is no question of that. Go ahead and die, I doubt many people would miss you. You probably have a few beer drinking women hating gun slinging friends who would miss you but then they should probably go with you. And so should your parents, for having you in the first place. Or did they get rid of you because you are such a total dick. Everyone is probably polite to you and writes you off as crazy. Sorry, not me. Since you are such an angry idiot, I figure if I can make you more angry, all the better. Why dont you go out and shoot some cats to make yourself feel better now eh. Or maybe, even better, this will appeal to your sense of humour because I am angry and you like that. WOW what a great life you must have if you get off on that. Seriously man, did your father abuse you? I hope so. Seriously, dont go to the cinema, you might scare people. Oh, sorry, you probably live somewhere people are inbred because there aren’t enough women. Seriously, have you slept with your mother. Maybe you had to hold a gun to her head to shut her up eh. Go away and dont come back. Go to a mental home. It might help. PLEASE dont have children. The poor woman, and poor children. You would be better to go live away from all people for the safety of your community, if you even have one. Oh wait. Do you sleep with animals? Sorry, I make too many assumptions that you are infact human. I hope you dont abuse children too. That really is the worst. Animals and children are innocent. Please just stay away from them and keep your **** in your pants okay?! Please. Can’t you shoot targets or something? Is that not enough? Oh wait, maybe you arent fully human because maybe your mum didnt go with a man, but one of those dogs you probably have chained in your backyard. Thats it! I got it now. You really should talk to your mum about that because its just not clean. Her face is on the side which is covered in scars and bruises, incase you were wondering. STOP hitting her anyway. Isnt it enough that you and the guys get with her every weekend. Enough is enough man. Whats gonna happen when your buddies arent attracted to her anymore. Back to the animals I guess. Always the innocent ones. And while you are at it. Tell your dad to go turn himself in for creating you. Because you really suck so badly there are no words to say it like it is. Infact your form of sterilizing could be quite useful. First your parents, then your kids, wife (if a woman can stand to live with you which I doubt very much, especially because you drink too much) – and of course lastly, yourself. Because you probably should know that if you ‘sterilize’ yourself first, you wont be able to do the rest of your familly. Do you know why that is? Huh? Clever man! Did you go to school? I bet you didnt even live near a school. Were you homeschooled? Did you leave when you were 16? I bet you gone dun sum purdy dum shit in yo life boy. Thats probably why you drink so much cuz you dun feel so good about yourself and all those women who leave you. Are you sad and alone, or do you spend alot of time with the guys. You should shower with them too. People need hugs you know. Just dont bend over for the soap cuz you cant trust those guys. I bet you are a god fearing man. How else could you forgive all those bad thangs you did. God is good for that. He will let you do just about anything and forgive you after. If the nearest church wasnt 50 miles away you could go and get touched by the priest like when you were little. I know it was because he loved you. It was love. Pure love, I know. He just had to touch you so that you would know how much he loved you right.
            Or did you sterilize him too. The one thing I truly dont understand, is how you manage to use a computer. But then the jokes on me, because clearly you are more clever than I could have thunk.

            SORRY michael. I am sick of reading about patroitic gun slinging Americans who behave like gods in the face of nature and I am tired of politely turning away from them which I have always done until about 6 months ago when I just got tired of neandertholes with guns. Take thiert guns away and they wont feel like men anymore. I’d love to see this guy try and get near a cat. No gun and he is nothing. I have been shamefully rude and feel free to delete this because I wont be at all offended, it’s terribly offensive what I have said.

            I think this article is very interesting and poigniant. I have a friend who is one of those 20% and am trying to slowly turn her round because I love her cats very much and I feel they suffer from giving birth every year. She needs to know that if she wants to procreate, she doesn’t HAVE to have babies because humans in the modern world dont anymore. So why should her cats HAVE to have babies if they want to satisfy what is a far more physically consuming urge. We live in Switzerland, and there are not enough cats to go around and people always take her kittens. If it were the USA I would have given it to her straight and said no way, stop it now. She refuses to ‘take away their womanhood’. However if this was the 16th century and there was no such thing as contraception, then perhaps she would look at it a little differently. I have managed some changes in her, warning her about the dangers of cancer etc for her 2 lady cats. I love them very much and will no doubt be much sadder than she when they die. She is a very nice and open person, she just has not thought about it properly I think. She is also a friend and lets me bring her cats healthy food and attention they crave so I dont want to upset that balance because her ladies need me now. She will otherwise just feed them biscuits because, get this, her vet says its fine to only feed dry food!! This makes me very angry and I have warned her without being pushy and now he gives them wet ‘as a treat sometimes’. But she also doesnt want to spend much money. I could argue forever and a day that this is a total failing on her character and bad karma since the rest of her is very commendable as a person but like I said, I dont want to push the balance. I need free access to her cats and kittens so I can give them what they need under the guise of wanting to ‘give them extra special treats’ that she may not deem necessary. Of course in my opinion, to live with an animal who depends on you is to be taken far more seriously such that one should try to know everything there is to know and give the best possible to said animal.

            Sorry again for being so rude Michael. It doesnt suite this site actually. In all honesty I shouldnt fly off the handle. Well, at least I might be closer to speaking his language so some genuine communication might have happened. I probably made his day. He is probably going to laugh.

            • Great comment, Marc. Love it. Don’t apologise. Woodsman is what is wrong about America and as you say, and as I have said in the past, the reason why some people hate America (by the way, despite Woodsman and his kind, I still like America). How did Woodsman get to where he is? His parents and their parents taught him all this rubbish. It is deeply engrained and the sort of attitude is one reason why declawing in America is part of cat ownership in what should be a much more civilized country. Declawing and shooting cats is a blot on the American landscape.

          • @marc on July 31, 2012 at 9:47 am

            LOL!! I don’t believe I’ve seen someone project so many disturbing and twisted ideas from their own mind onto others as much as you just have! LOL!!

            According to you this must be just like all those deeply disturbed serial-killers in the making that are eradicating all those other invasive-species in N. America; like Kudzu, Purple-Loosestrife, Gypsy Moths, Emerald Ash-Borers, African Cichlids, Burmese Pythons, Brown Tree Snakes, and Eurasian Watermilfoil from their lands and lakes. MANY of which are escaped pets or were released from pets’ habitats (Eurasian Watermilfoil came from pet fish aquariums).

            Or how about all those sickos that run animal-shelters, they’re nothing but a bunch of child-murdering pedophiles because they have to euthanize animals every day. And every farmer and rancher that has to humanely put down an animal with a gun must be molesting and murdering everything in their county. Those damned sickos! And what about all those people in stockyards murdering all those cattle every day for your McBurgers? I bet they’re a hide-out for all the serial-killers that nobody can find! And all those hunters that provide food for their family by hunting, I bet they’re the worst of all!

            And of course, the ABSOLUTELY WORST, MOST MENTALLY-ILL OF ALL — all those people who are murdering all those animals to make your cat-food for you! A bunch of demented basket cases! (on this one I’d agree)

            I bet you’re onto something!

            Like your needing serious psychological help.

            Paranoid psychotic much?


        • Dear Woodsman, the wonderful thing about the internet is how much access it gives you to so many things. It was actually suprisingly easy for me to attain the address from which you have made posts on this here website. If you dont believe me go on google and read up on it. Perhaps you can learn a bit and find out too where I live. Personally I should’nt feel too comfortable sleeping at night now. I think it would be good if somebody would come and burn your house down. That seems fair. For taking so many of the ones we love. Next time don’t go showing off about the how awful the things you have done are. To me it is deplorable that you have shot and killed so many innocent animals. I am horrified and want to cry, but above all I am angry. I wouldnt even consider myself a real expert but it really is amazing just how much one can do with the internet with a bit of basic knowledge.

          • This just goes to prove again what I’ve suspected all along … the Toxoplasma gondii parasites in cat-lovers brains won’t let them think nor reason beyond wanting to ensure the proliferation of more T. gondii parasites throughout the whole food-chain and into more humans, by spreading their genetically-engineered, nature-destroying, INVASIVE-SPECIES cats even further. Even if they have to harm or murder humans that stand in their way. They are being controlled against all common-sense and reason by the cats’ parasites that have taken over their minds.

            Get tested for T. gondii if you are defending these invasive-species cats’ lives. You’re most likely obeying cats’ parasites in your brain now. You can no longer think nor reason like a human anymore, ignoring all logic and common-sense. Your thoughts demoted to that of parasitic protozoan awareness, where only its base biochemical survival matters, without concern nor regard for anything else in its environment. (Sounds just like every cat-lover, doesn’t it.) Though either way, even if you are not infected by this cat-parasite and still feel that it’s better to harm a human than a cat, seek professional help before you act on these blatantly clear psychopathic and sociopathic thoughts and values of yours.

            For just a few of the links on studies of how this cats’-parasite hijacks the human (or any animal’s) mind:

            “How Your Cat Is Making You Crazy”

            “Toxoplasmosis and psychology: A game of cat and mouse”

            “Crazy Cat Love: Caused By Parasitic Infection?”

            “Research Links Parasite In Cats To Mental Illnesses”

          • Michael, although I was born in France and grew up through the English boarding school system, my mum is from California and I have a US passport. I agree, of course its not all bad, and actually its a chap like woodsman here who does alot of other Americans badly. The US is a hard place for animal lovers. I woke up on the wrong side of the bed this morning and I have never actually in my life been so rude and I doubt I will again for a very long time. It has been a build-up of this mans attitude ovewr recent reading I have done that has gotten me to such an awful level of disdain. I would have been totally ok with a good telling off too and I know you would probably still agreed with me nonetheless about my remarks concerning the actual article. It hurts me so much to think about what he says he has done. To think of all those cats who have come accross his path. I lost it. And I begin to understand why often animal activists are angry and counter productive. We are human and when it comes to things we love the most – well, I lost control. In more sensible terms I put it down to a lack of decent education perhaps in some or many parts of the US. It would be illegal in England or here where I now live in Switzerland. Thank goodness. There are many great things about the US, infact I lived in Canada for 8 years to get an idea of life accross the pond. I lived with my first cat there. I saw the huge amounts of strays. I knew people who declawed thier cat and didnt even know it was a bad thing to do. Education is key. I’m lucky enough to have gotten a good education, but not everybody did, or could afford it so I shouldnt not be so mean like that. Very decent of you though to let me run with that. Wrong side of the bed today! I just lost a cat one month ago who I loved more than I have ever loved any human. It’s been hard, plus I had to go to England for work for a week and had little time to grieve at first. So I am sorry for taking it out on somebody who, albeit that they pushed that last button for me, was on your website. I appreciate your allowance of more extreme opinions and that you publish such anti in order to give a proper and balanced view of the world of people and cats. It is a valuable thing. We need to know about these kinds of people for our and our cat’s safety.

            • Hi Marc. Thanks for your comment. I publish strong comments sometimes because they express real feeling. You are right, people who care about animals are angry at the ignorance and heartlessness of some people. We need to express ourselves and it is OK. It is normal and human. Sometimes I feel I could kill..a human! :). If I saw someone hurt or kill my cat companion I don’t know whether I would be able to control my aggression towards that person.

  3. I don’t think Nature Advocate is a very fitting name for someone who destroys living creatures which are part of Nature’s plan. If you lived in the UK you’d be arrested and charged and rightly so.
    Sadly people like you punish the innocent rather than the guilty who you are not punishing at all because if they cared about their cats they would ensure they came nowhere near your precious land which is apparently more important to you than the lives of innocent creatures. Your cold heart makes me very very sad for those cats whose lives you so lightly took and that you boast of what you did.

  4. p.s. And don’t go telling me that I didn’t try to reason with the owners. I TRIED FOR FIFTEEN YEARS TO TRY TO REASON WITH THE CATS’ OWNERS. Not even the sheriff himself could reason with the likes of you. THAT’S when he himself advised that I just shoot every last one of your lousy invasive species cats. Not even HE could reason with people like you.

    • I wouldn’t have let my cat go onto your land. That would be the last thing I would do. I would steer well clear of you. I am a responsible cat caretaker. Why can’t you be a more responsible person? And sheriffs in the US don’t have the best of reputations regarding cat and animal welfare do they? He advised you to commit a crime! 🙂

  5. Nice to see that you’ll approve the p.s, but not the reasons for the p.s.Insecurity much? (yes, we’ve all got your cat-loving number, and it terrifies you to no end that people can perfectly legal shoot your lousy cats to death).

      • The law in the USA is that it is perfectly legal to destroy any animal, someone’s pet or not, that is threatening the health, well-being, and safety of yourself, your family, your animals, or even your property. Also true even in most densely populated cities, firearms laws permitting, if not then 700-1200fps air-rifles are commonly used. The only animals exempt from you taking immediate action, legally, are those listed on endangered or threatened species lists, and any bird species under protection of MBTA (the Migratory Bird Treaty Act). Even then variances can be given should there be sufficient problem but this requires further study by authorities. Since cats are listed in the TOP 40 WORST invasive-species of the world in the “Global Invasive Species Database” ( ), this means they have no protection whatsoever from being shot on sight, they are not on any protected-species list anywhere in the world. Quite the opposite as a matter of fact. And if your area enforces and obeys invasive-species laws — as they should — then it is against the law to NOT destroy any cat on sight, someone’s pet or not. It is your civic and moral responsibility to destroy any invasive-species that is found away from supervised confinement and roaming freely in a non-native habitat.

        Shoot to maim is punishable under the laws that define animal-cruelty. But shoot to kill is a perfectly legal way to humanely destroy an animal. The same laws that apply to methods of humanely hunting animals also applies to cats. Unlike cat-lovers’ psychotic beliefs, the reality is that a cat is just another animal. It’s NOT their baby, their child, their offspring. Even if they do view their cats that way, letting them roam free is no less criminally irresponsible than them telling their child to go play in the freeway and then blaming the cars for their child’s death. If they let their cat roam free, NO MATTER HOW IT DIES, that is THEIR fault and they can be charged with all laws that clearly define animal-neglect, animal-abandonment, and animal-endangerment.

        In fact, here’s a publication from a study done by the University of Nebraska on the best ways to HUMANELY deal with a feral-cat problem wherever you live. This documentation INCLUDES the best firearms, ammo, and air-rifles required to HUMANELY destroy cats.

        Besides, what difference does it make if the cat gets shot or ran over by a car, attacked by another cat or animal, drowned, or poisoned by plants animals or chemicals (inexpensive 1-adult-strength generic acetaminophen (a.k.a. paracetamol) pain-relievers gaining in popularity, for being so species specific). The result is the same. The cause is the same — the fault of the criminally irresponsible pet-owner that let their invasive-species pet roam free. They’ve already proved that their animal is 100% expendable. You can either destroy their cat for them humanely, or let their lack of care cause it to inevitably die inhumanely. They don’t care one bit how their cat might cruelly suffer to death if they let it roam free. Humanely destroy their cat for them before that can happen.

        • Define “threatening”. Quote statute and precedent, please. Don’t waffle. It shows us your true colors. They are unpleasant. A domestic cat on someone’s property cannot be automatically considered “threatening”.

        • Now why should I try to educate a blatantly ignorant fool who wallows in a bliss of self-inflicted ignorance all their life by poking their own eyes out?

          You can’t deal in reality, that a fact that you’ve made most clear.

  6. to quote
    ‘You enjoy knowing that something you like goes out and wantonly destroys, tortures, and devastates all the native wildlife etc’

    So tell me do you think that people who hunt animals and birds, to use your words…… wantonly torturing and destroying them…… for their own pleasure, should be shot too? If not why not? They know full well that they are taking innocent lives for the simple fact that they can. Animals don’t reason, they follow their instincts and a cat’s instinct is to hunt to survive as is the instinct of all animal species. The invasive ones are the human animals not the animals who were here before us and God help all animals since people like you invaded their planet.

  7. Of course I’m paranoid, you said you killed and buried hundreds of cats. What part of that shouldn’t I be paranoid about.

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