While no new cat parent wants to imagine their cat under a surgeon’s scalpel, being a responsible pet owner means making sure our cats don’t add to the overpopulation problem. For most of us, the question isn’t whether we’ll get our cat fixed, it’s when. Should we get them spayed or neutered as tiny kittens, or wait for the more traditional six month or one year marks?
I’ve been through the fixing process twice (once with an adult cat and once with a kitten) and the truth is, dropping your catbaby off for surgery is hard no matter what their age. I made teary promises through the bars of the travel crate both times, and honestly, I probably could have used a bit of sedation myself.
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My first kitty, Ghost Cat, was spayed shortly after my husband and I brought her home from a shelter. At eleven months old, she’d already had kittens before being rescued and went into a howling heat soon afterward.
Every night around nine o’clock she would start wailing at the top of her kitty lungs while staring out the window. I was shocked when my new pet went from being an adorable cuddle companion to acting like an alarm system I couldn’t turn off. After several nights of listening to cat wails echoing through our studio apartment, I was ready. Although the idea of surgery scared me, I couldn’t wait to get Ghost Cat fixed.
It was a different story with our second cat, Specter, who came to us as a kitten so tiny she needed bottle feeding. According to the ASPCA (American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals), kittens who aren’t even two months old can be safely fixed, but even when Speck outgrew her bottle I still saw her as my little baby, and booking a spay surgery felt less urgent than it had with Ghost Cat.
Tinny baby Specter
I just wasn’t comfortable with sending my little fluff ball for surgery when she was still small enough to sit in my hand, so we decided to wait until Speck was six months old and make sure our indoor cats didn’t somehow get outside. I’m sure I’m not alone in hesitating to sign my kitten up for operation at just six or eight weeks old, but experts say early fixing is actually good for individual kittens and the whole cat population.
The most obvious benefit of a pediatric spay is the prevention of accidental litters. We may not like it, but kittens can have kittens (just look at my Ghost Cat — she was a mom before her first birthday). Vets say cats can get pregnant at just four months old — that’s only a few weeks after they’ve stopped nursing from their mother!
Early-age spay or neutering can also be beneficial for a cat’s health. Female cats spayed between the ages of three and six months have a drastically reduced risk of mammary cancer and other reproductive diseases. Male kitties who get snipped early are protected against testicular cancer (and won’t feel the need to run around the neighborhood chasing girls).
Many vets also suggest kittens bounce back from surgery faster than older cats, and this has certainly proven to be true in my household. Ghost Cat was about a year old when she had her surgery, and she had a much harder time than Specter did. My older cat’s stitches wouldn’t heal and she needed antibiotics, but my little one recovered right away with no issues.
According to the ASPCA, many vets find that pediatric spay or neutering is quicker, easier and less stressful for both the cat and their doctor. That’s just one of the many reasons why the ASPCA, the American Veterinary Medical Association, and the American Association of Feline Practitioners all support it.
If I had to do it all over again I wouldn’t hesitate to get Speck fixed sooner. I put off her surgery because I didn’t want to traumatize my little kitten, but research suggests an early spaying or neutering is actually less physiologically stressful (for the kitten anyway — no research has been done on whether cat lovers require more or less wine when spaying their kitten earlier).
How do you feel about getting your cat fixed at a young age? Share your thoughts in the comments below!