Categories: neutering

Do private practice veterinarians desex cats later than shelters and if so why?

I have just been informed by the authors of a study on the impacts of pet cats on Australian wildlife that animal shelters desex cats when they are younger than four months of age because the focus is on preventing cats breeding and creating more cats, whereas in private practice, where the making a profit is a primary concern together with the health of their patients, veterinarians and their staff tend to desex cats later, at an age older than six months.

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

It is an interesting snippet of information. This apparent discrepancy is also compounded by a division among veterinary professionals in Australia and perhaps other countries and indeed internationally on the ideal age to desex cats. As mentioned early age desexing is popular in animal shelters. Traditional age desexing occurs when the cats are between 4-6 months old and mature desexing occurs when cats are greater than six months old. There appears to be a difference in professional judgements and the recommendations of veterinary associations combined with, as mentioned, the objectives of the organisation doing the desexing.

Shelters are not concerned with profit. They’re more concerned with minimising the creation of unwanted kittens so what they provide is a purist service unmodified by the need to make a profit. This is not to say that shelters are not concerned with financial matters. They are, but they simply need to break even as a bottom line objective. Whereas private practices have to make a good profit in order to pay their veterinarians and staff a decent salary which they feel they deserve as they are highly qualified individuals.

The interesting observation is that if this is true then private practice veterinarians are contributing to the unwanted cat population. It is essential unethical behavior. In Australia this is a serious matter because there is a lot of concern on that continent about feral cats preying on native wildlife. Unwanted domestic cats can sometimes become undesirable feral cats. It surprises me, therefore, that the local authorities, state authorities or the federal government have not intervened and laid down the law as to when cats should be spayed and neutered in Australia and any other country where there is great concern about feral cat predation.

It appears also that, in Australia, nurses and nursing students are more conservative than vets or vet students and therefore prefer to desex cats, especially females, after four months because they are concerned about the risk of them being harmed or killed by the anaesthetic or the circumstances surrounding general anaesthesia. This risk averse attitude in Australia appears to be a factor as to later desexing.

It also appears in Australia that veterinarians might be open to criticism for failing to explain on their websites the need for early desexing or at least providing the arguments as to early, late or traditional ages for desexing cats.

Sources: (1) We need to worry about Bella and Charlie: the impacts of pet cats on Australian wildlife published by CSIRO PUBLISHING and (2) Attitudes and Practices of Australian Veterinary Professionals and Students towards Early Age Desexing of Cats on the website.

P.S. There will always be a conflict in private practive veterinary clinics between patient health and making money. The latter can undermine the former. In North America this is amply demonstrated by the veterinary abberation that should never have gained traction in the 1950s, declawing.

Veterinarians involved in TNR under attack within their own profession?

Dr John Bradshaw in his book Cat Sense writes that some veterinary surgeons who are involved in managing the welfare ...
Read More

Cat and dog owners using coronavirus as a reason to put off going to their veterinarian

I fear that what is happening to sick people is happening to sick pets in equal numbers, but it is ...
Read More

President of British Veterinary Association advises incorrectly a second time on coronavirus

The President of the British Veterinary Association, Daniella Dos Santos, initially advised that domestic cats should be kept indoors in ...
Read More

Is it right that veterinarians are cheaper than doctors?

I was reading an article by Siamic on my website entitled: Benefits of Dental Radiography for Relieving Pain in Cats ...
Read More

Coronavirus may benefit companion animals and owners by encouraging remote diagnosis

In the USA, and I expect elsewhere to a lesser extent, veterinary telemedicine is being strongly encouraged by the inability ...
Read More

Coronavirus pandemic: Are veterinarians ‘key workers’ and are their businesses ‘essential’?

In the UK it is not clear that veterinarians working in companion animal practice can be considered 'key workers' (as ...
Read More

Can a vet determine cat breed?

You might think that the answer to the question depends on where you live but although the response will vary ...
Read More

Can I bring my cats in carriers to the vet with Uber?

Summary: As at the date of this post the answer is No. Except for Sydney and Brisbane in Australia or ...
Read More
Michael Broad

Hi, I'm a 71-year-old retired solicitor (attorney in the US). Before qualifying I worked in many jobs including professional photography. I have a girlfriend, Michelle. I love nature, cats and all animals. I am concerned about their welfare.

Leave a Comment

Recent Posts

Should I get a covered litter box?

The general consensus is that you should not get a covered litter box. Although I…

6 hours ago

What kind of water bowl is best for cats?

The kind of water bowl that is best for cats is either glass, ceramic or…

11 hours ago

Substantial number of people give Covid-19 to their companion animals

There have been a few studies on this subject unsurprisingly. It is obviously highly pertinent…

15 hours ago

People prevented from feeding stray cats in the UK

This is an extraordinary development as far as I am concerned. Councils in the UK…

15 hours ago

I can feel my cat’s spine when I pet him

If you can feel your cat's spine when you pet him, he might be underweight.…

2 days ago


The title is in Japanese. It means: 7 shironeko (7 white cats)...which is not true…

2 days ago