Spaying or neutering your cat is important not only for preventing over-population, but also for your own cat's health. Altered pets have a much lower chance of developing reproductive cancers. They're also protected against injuries that may occur during mating or giving birth. But many owners are not sure just when the right time is to spay or neuter their cat. Read on to find out.
How early can a cat be spayed or neutered?
It's ideal to have a cat spayed or neutered before it reaches sexual maturity. This reduces the risk of an unwanted pregnancy. Male cats can begin fathering kittens when they are as young as 6 months in age. Females can become pregnant as young as 4 months in age. Many owners wait until their kittens reach about 4 months in age to spay or neuter them, but kittens can be fixed as early as 8 weeks in age as long as they are generally in good health. Kittens who are small, underweight, or weak may need to wait a little longer.
What are the benefits to spaying earlier?
In addition to reducing the chances of a surprise litter of kittens, early spaying or neutering helps prevent cats from developing the habit of spraying urine around the home. Contrary to popular belief, it is not just male cats that can spray -- some female cats also spray when they're in heat. For both sexes, this is a way of marking the territory and attracting mates. If your cat reaches sexual maturity and begins spraying, he or she may continue to do so after being spayed or neutered.
Younger cats also heal more easily from spaying or neutering. You'll be surprised how quickly a kitten bounces back. Most are up and bouncing around the same day as their surgery and completely back to normal within three or four days. The older they get, the longer they take to recover.
Can you spay or neuter an older cat?
If you adopt an older cat who is not fixed, you should still have it spayed or neutered. Cats can continue reproducing even when they are 10 or older, so don't assume your cat won't breed just because he or she is entering the golden years! Furthermore, pregnancy is risky for older female cats. Older male cats who are not neutered are more likely to sneak outside and become injured as they try to track down females.
If you have further concerns about spaying or neutering your cat, speak with a vet, such as those at Haverford Animal Hospital.