Male cat neutering is best done at 7 weeks of age. True or False?

Male cat neutering
Male cat neutering. Photo: O’Dwyer and Jones vets.
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The age at which a male cat is neutered depends on a number of factors which are discussed here and stock answers are unhelpful.

However, veterinarians will provide you with a stock answer about when male cat neutering should take place giving the impression that the decision is settled and straightforward. I don’t think it is because the answer depends upon the circumstances and, in fact, theoretically, a male cat need never be neutered provided there was no chance that he could procreate and provided that the cat’s caretaker accepts the behaviour of an unneutered male cat.

The age at which a male cat is neutered is subject to various forces. On the one hand there is a desire to retain the natural body shape and confirmation of a male cat. Neutering him can alter that because of a lack of testosterone (how it affects a man). On the other hand there is a desire to stop male cats breeding because there are too many cats. Shelters, for example, will be eager to neuter a male cat as early as possible in an effort to combat the overpopulation of cats. In fact, many veterinarians and animal shelters are doing spaying and neutering on kittens as young as seven weeks of age (prepubertal gonadectomy). The North America veterinary associations support prepubertal gonadectomy. However, it may be too stressful for a kitten and it may trigger FIP (apologies but I have lost the reference). Note: neutered males can be fertile 4-8 weeks after the operation.

However, the usual or perhaps old-fashioned attitude is that the best time to neuter a male cat is when he is six or seven months of age. This is the time at which he is mature enough that his bone structure and his growth will not be affected by the neutering.

Today, I was at the veterinarian appointed by the rescue organisation which provided me with Gabriel (my cat) as a foster cat and the chief veterinarian there almost demanded that Gabriel was neutered there and then. He was booked in for a neuter but I wished to change it to a vaccination because I felt he was too young to be neutered. I argued my case successfully because he’s barely 4 months of age and I am keen to retain his physical appearance as a male cat as much as possible. In fact, I lean towards seven months of age for neutering in order to maximise the possibility of my cat retaining typical male body confirmation.

If the cat’s owner is responsible and ensures that his male cat does not have the opportunity to mate then I see no reason why a veterinarian cannot accept a request to neuter at six months of age if the owners so desires. The veterinarian does not have the right to dictate the time of neutering provided the owner complies with the contract between him and the rescue organisation. As it happens the contract that I have is defective because the time before which neutering is stated to take place has been left blank. However, the pamphlet provided by organisation states that it should take place between four and six months of age. As stated, I prefer the six months end of that timeframe.

Apparently, many vets feel that early neutering does not have any detrimental effect upon the male cat in terms of the way he appears but it is said that the main differences seen with early neutering include “slightly taller size due to delayed bone growth plate closure and the inability to extrude the penis” 1. Also if a boy cat is fixed before six months of age, or more accurately before the development of secondary sexual characteristics, “his penis may remain small”.

The veterinarian who I spoke with (in fact I argued with her) stated that in Britain the age at which a male cat is neutered has been revised downwards from six to four months. I asked why this had happened. She said that the younger cat is more able to deal with the operation such as issues regarding bleeding (the younger cat can recover better from the operation). In short, she was stating that the benefits of neutering at the younger end of the timeframe outweigh the detriments of doing it at that age. She did not discuss the potential detriments of early neutering.

As can be seen, however, there are benefits and detriments and neutering is weighing up these factors to find the best answer. The decision depends upon the specific circumstances. There is no one stock answer in my opinion.

A good book that I have on veterinary matters says that early neutering does not appear to increase any incidences of urinary tract problems. The urethral diameter appears remain the same. Studies indicate no long-term behavioural effects from early neutering. In contrast, neutering an older male cat may leave his sex drive unaltered although it is uncommon1.

Another excellent book I have, The Welfare of Cats, states that at one time there was concern among the experts that early neutering may cause stunting of normal growth patterns. Although there was little hard data to support this concern. However, the book does say that future, long-term follow-up studies may present to us issues hitherto unforeseen which arise out of very early neutering of male cats.

Of course, it all depends upon the level of concern by the cat’s caretaker. Sadly, in many cases early neutering is preferable when bearing in mind the habit of some cat owners to be indecisive about sterilising their cat until after a cat breeds and produces a litter. A small percentage of people believe that cats should be allowed to have a litter before be neutered/spayed but this simple desire is a major reason why there are so many unwanted cats.

My personal feeling is that neutering at 6 or 7 months is preferable because it pays more respect to the integrity of the male cat whereas pre-puberty neutering focuses heavily on preventing the bad habits of people (letting their cat breed) taking effect while overlooking possible health and development consequence affecting the cat. Early male cat neutering is human-orientated.

19 thoughts on “Male cat neutering is best done at 7 weeks of age. True or False?”

  1. I adopted a kitten from the local shelter and the shelter insisted on spaying before adoption based on the 3 pound weight. The kitten was approximately 2 months old…maybe 3 at most. When the staff weighed her, they said she could be spayed immediately. I asked how much she weighed. The staff girl that weighed her said: “8 pounds.” I told her there was no way she weighed 8 pounds…another staffer went back to weigh her again. When I asked how much she weighed, I was told it was not my business and that all I needed to know is that she was ready to be spayed. So they sent her off to the clinic for spay surgery (not neutering, but actually spay surgery.) When I asked the doctor about her weight, I was told she was 2 pounds something. I understand the importance of spay and neuter. But, although I am an advocate of this, I do not think it is ok to spay too early and put the kitten at risk. For neutering, I do not think this should be done before 4-6 months. For spaying, I think the kitten should be at least 6 months. It is difficult to continue to support vet’s offices and shelters that push for immediate spay-neuter surgery and put animals’s lives at risk.

    Reply
    • Ruth, thanks for commenting and sharing your experience which supports the argument that shelters are firmly focused one thing: neuter and spay at any price because they are so committed to trying to reduce the number of unwanted cats. Their attitude seems brutal and dishonest. I don’t like it.

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  2. There are no cheap clinics here. We had Oozy and Jubilee done at between 4 and 5 months. Vet wanted to wait but as soon as Oozy started sniffing her hiney they went in the next week. Males are $90 and females $165 at the cheaper vet. They were still drunk here. Went in the cage and returned in the cage. I love those $25 cages.

    Reply
      • We have 2 of them stacked and use for feeding Sealy. Furby was asleep on top of the cages a few nights ago. He rolled off. I looked over and saw him hanging by his front claws and looking at me like it was my fault. Sealy went for all of his surgery visits in the cage. I think he felt more relaxed than being put in a vet holding cage.

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    • Oh Elisa.
      I’m shocked at the pricing for neutering in your area. I guess that there are no discount vouchers or TNR vets. Today, I pay $10 per cat which includes neutering, welllness check, rabies vaccine, earmite treatment, and flea treatment.
      Come on down, girl!

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      • Jesus. You are living in heaven. I think the charge for neutering Gabriel would have been around £55 ($83 USD) and spaying much more at around £165 ($250). The rescue organization paid on this occasion.

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  3. LoThe Greenville shelter I work with does surgery at 3 pounds. If you go in to adopt and the kitten is 3 lbs and you won’t allow spay neuter before adoption you can’t adopt.

    If kitten is under 3 lbs you can foster to adopt and state you’ll return at the weight to have kitten fixed.

    My personal vet recommends 6-7 months. Furby was neutered at 5 months and stayed a small cat with a little head. Lola was around 9 months because of the backlog at the clinic, but with Furby fixed she wouldn’t get pregnant. We wanted her done at 7 months but there was a 2 month backlog.

    Reply
    • Interesting on more than one front. To decide to neuter on weight is new to me. I don’t think it is possible to correlate weight with age or at least not accurately. Also Furby staying small is interesting but this may not be related to neutering.

      Thanks for that Elisa.

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  4. Marvin wasn’t neutered until he was possibly five years old. He was part of a colony that is all but gone now. He may well be one of two left after a TNR project. Born feral, he was smart and quick to learn that people give him food! Today he looks like a scrapper, with a huge head, lots of ripping on his ears from fighting days. I’m convinced that the late neutering is why he is such a big guy. Very masculine. Where as Bigfoot, RIP, was probably neutered very young. He was a tiny cat in comparison.

    Reply
    • Hurrah! Your comment supports my point of view. Thanks DW. I love Marvin. He is a splendid male cat. So male and so attractive because of it. He has male cat written all over his face and we love that.

      We like male cats to look male and female cats to look female. I love sweet looking, pretty female cats too.

      Neutering puts them in the middle: androgynous.

      The trouble with neutering is that it ignores what we love about male and female. I know “fixing” is important but I love the true male cat and the true female cat.

      Reply
      • I’m not convinced that all non neutered males will develop any differently than was determined by their genes.

        Over the years I’ve cared for stray/feral colonies and taken in a number of ex-stray males. None of whom had been neutered until they came into my care.

        Blackie and Horace, were estimated by the vet to be senior cats, possibly in their early/mid teens. Horace, short haired black and white, was your stereotypical tom cat. He had the jowls, stocky build and the damaged ears of a street fighter. Blackie was longhaired, a bit like the old style Persian. He didn’t have visible jowls, but I could feel little fat pads when I stroked the side of his face.

        Charley, shorthaired ginger and white, joined us after Blackie was put to sleep (cancer). The vet estimated him to be 1 or 2 years old. He’s tall, with a slender build and petite face, but no visible jowls. Nor can I feel them when I stroke his face.

        Sophie was larger in height and build, than all of the boys. Yet she was spayed at just 4 months old when she came into heat for the first time.

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  5. I think a male cat should not be neutered before his testicles are obviously large enough to prove he will soon be feeling the need to procreate. Certainly not before he is 5 months old!
    Each individual kitten is different, Walter was 6 months old when he was big enough, Jozef was 7 months old.
    I think the unseemly haste to neuter young kittens is wrong, why take their kitten hood away too soon? Why risk anaesthetic harming their young lungs? Maybe I’m old fashioned but if I am then our entire practice of vets is too, because they agree with me.
    It’s more important for a kittens vaccinations to be complete so that when he does go in for neutering, he is protected from any disease passed on from other cats in there on the same day.
    I’m glad you put your foot down Michael, you know what is right for your own cat.

    Reply
    • Thanks Ruth. I like your comment. It is very sensible. I don’t want to “modify” so radically such a beautiful companion, Gabriel, but because I have to, I want to do in a way that has the minimum impact on him, physically and in terms of health.

      Reply

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