Intro: This article was written about seven years ago but the content is still very relevant and useful. (Admin)
Good morning everyone. Today I’d like to talk about a subject I’m right in the middle of at this time. On Wednesday, April 6, my 5 month old girls Mandy and Cassie are to be spayed at our local clinic. So I decided to do a little research on the subject and at what age should a cat be spayed or neutered.
First let me add that Cassie was supposed to be neutered. Then the day after I made their appointment, Casper turned his little hiney up in my face as he was eating off of my plate and-you guessed it-Casper’s a GIRL cat! I never thought to look because the shelter had listed Cassie a boy. So Casper is now Cassie.
For those of you not familiar with the way shelters operate as far as spay/neuter is concerned, this will be an eye opening article.
So grab a cup of coffee, make yourself comfortable, and prepare yourself for spay/neuter in the 21st century combined with a history lesson on the subject.
Most shelters enforce the principle that spay/neuter be performed on all cats and kittens before they are adopted out. The exception is if the cat is not likely to survive the surgery due to various infections or is malnourished. This was the case with four of my kittens. Mandy, Cassie, Jasper and Sammy were in very bad shape when I rescued them.
One of my adopted kittens died when spaying was performed on her while she had a horrible URI. I blame the vet, who should have seen she was ill. I never knew this kitten and I’m fortunate Mia and Lucky (the mother and brother) pulled through. It took ten days on antibiotics, an office visit to my vet, and home nebulizer treatments of Albuterol.
When spaying began back in the 1940’s it was a much riskier operation. Most vets of that era dealt with farm animals. It was found that cats who had gone through one estrus (heat cycle) had reproductive parts that were easier to see.
During the 1950's, vets were beginning to embrace the concept of early spay and neuter.
Many older people will still tell you a cat should at least go through heat before having the surgery. They learned this logic by listening to their parents in the time period where the surgery was very dangerous for a cat. Especially when done by a vet with big hands and crude instruments that were usually used on larger animals.
Others believe a cat should have a litter to “know the joys of motherhood.”
Those dealing with TNR know the disaster this logic has caused. A female cat may go into heat and be impregnated as early as 5-6 months of age. My newest rescues, Sheela and Shirley, age nine months, were both pregnant when they were spayed by the shelter before releasing them to me.
This has also caused a jump in adoption fees. I remember the day when a cat was $10-$12 and the adopter had to pay for all vaccines and surgery out of pocket. The price for a cat package (which includes FIV/FeLV test, microchipping, spay/neuter and flea treatment) will run between $50-$100 depending on which part of the country you live in.
I don’t have a problem with spaying being done on a young cat. I realize most of you are too intelligent for me to have to say this, but here goes. A FEMALE CAT CAN BE GOTTEN PREGNANT BY HER BROTHER OR FATHER. Some people don’t realize this can happen.
Most vets are now in agreement that to prevent the reproduction of cats, a female should be spayed as young as possible. As a general rule, a two month old or two pound kitten is a candidate for surgery.
Let me say I’m in total agreement with spaying a female before the first estrus cycle. Kittens shouldn’t be having babies and the actions of a female cat in heat are totally nerve wrecking.
There’s also a lower percentage rate of cancer in spayed females.
I don’t imagine Mandy and Cassie will praise me for my decision Wednesday because it’s a painful operation for the female. I know I’m doing the best thing for my cats. Not to mention the cat population problem.
Now for the neutering of male cats, which is where I have my problem. While researching this subject I learned a four month old male kitten can impregnate a female cat in heat. Perhaps that is one reason shelters neuter the young males. It’s a much less painful operation for the males and post-op time is shorter.
I had Furby neutered at five months of age. I didn’t HAVE to since he was rescued by me out in the middle of nowhere. I chose to do him young before he started spraying to mark his territory.
Information on the internet basically backs up everything I’ve learned over the years as to the age this starts. Keep in mind spraying is not a litter box problem and is done as a way to show dominance in a household. The cat may be anywhere between 5-12 months old when this starts.
Mia’s son Lucky was neutered at three months old before being rescued at GCAC in Greenville, SC.
Chances are if any of the readers in the U.S. go into a shelter to adopt a cat or kitten, the surgery is required or you can’t adopt the cat.
Now I’d like to explain my problem. Sit down readers and prepare yourself for a good laugh as to why I’m complaining. My problem really isn’t funny, but a part of me can’t stop laughing.
Furby has a little head. His head never grew after he was neutered. And Lucky is even worse. He has gone from being a chunky little kitten to a very sleek and slim cat with one exception: a TINY head. My daughter and I have even nicknamed him “Little Head.” And he even answers to that now.
There’s nothing physically wrong with Furby and Little Head-I mean Lucky. They play the same, they eat the same, they sleep the same.
References I’ve checked on the internet confirm the small head is caused by neutering at a young age. Without getting into a bunch of medical terms, the head doesn’t grow and the skin doesn’t get thick, whatever that means.
Now for my dilemma. Jasper and Sammy, brothers to Mandy, need to be neutered. But at what age should my cats have the operation? They’re five months old now, not spraying yet, and after Wednesday there will be no unaltered females in the house. The males I cared for in the past were done at around a year old.
There’s no reason not to do them as far as safety is concerned. It’s a very easy procedure these days. The clinic I use can operate on more males than females during clinic hours and schedule appointments accordingly.
Take a look at the above photo showing Furby, Mia and Lucky. Lucky was a chunky kitten the day we brought him home in December. Now he reminds me of an Egyptian cat statue. Furby has a strange look on his face since this was the moment he met the new arrivals. They had been in quarantine for several days because of the URI and this was their first day out with the general population. We usually introduce newcomers over a plate of canned food. Everyone is too busy eating to fight.
Please advise me, dear readers. Sammy is the normal size for a five month old male. Jasper is a different story. He’s already larger than Furby. I don’t want to be dealing with a giant cat with a head the size of a baseball. It just wouldn’t look right.
Help me readers. Do any of you have bobble-headed cats from neutering too young? Does the U.S. perform the surgery at too young an age (one friend of mine said we do)? Should shelters allow adopters to wait on neutering male cats? I'm curious at what the readers at pictures-of-cats think.