How early do I desex my cat?

Desexing your pet is an important part of responsible pet ownership. It’s a procedure that can help ensure their long-term health and happiness, as well as reduce the number of unplanned litters in our community.

Desexing, also known as spaying and neutering, is a surgical procedure that renders an animal unable to have offspring.

In the summer, SPCA can see more than 1,500 kittens a month come through its doors, many of them as a result of unplanned litters. Desexing your pet is the best way to help reduce this number and ensure fewer cats are living on our streets.

When should I desex my cat?

Dr Rosalind Holland (BVSc) says “Wherever possible cats should be desexed before puberty, for most cats that means desexing at or before four months of age. Many cats are desexed much earlier than this, from eight weeks of age, and there is no good quality evidence that this has any negative effects.”

According to the Code of Welfare for Companion Cats, responsible cat ownership includes having cats desexed at or before puberty. A cat may reach puberty any time after 4 months of age, and usually between 5 and 7 months of age. Early desexing at 8-12 weeks of age does not adversely affect the physiological or behavioural development of cats.

SPCA advocates for pre-pubertal desexing, that is desexing before the animal reaches puberty and is able to reproduce. Early-age desexing typically has an with less stress and discomfort than older animals.

In some rare cases, a vet may advise the cat owner to delay desexing until later in life due to medical reasons. If your vet gives you this advice, it’s important to follow their recommendation as they may have identified a potential health issue that requires attention before the pet can undergo surgery.

Other considerations when planning your cat's desexing, include:

  • Their size: traditionally it was recommended that cats be desexed at 5 to 6 months. While some veterinarians still recommend this, kittens can be safely desexed as soon as they reach 1kg (usually at 8-12 weeks of age) and early age desexing has multiple benefits.
  • Their medical history: if your cat has any pre-existing conditions, they may require special considerations. For example, heart related issues or conditions may alter or limit use of anaesthesia. Or your vet may recommend a different eating schedule for the pre-surgery preparation of diabetic cats.
  • Their lifestyle: cats that have access to the outdoors are more likely to have unplanned litters. SPCA encourages people to keep their cats safe and happy at home. 

Should my female cat have a litter before being desexed?

Well-meaning people may tell you that your female cat should have a litter or experience a heat cycle/season before she is desexed. However, female cats that have not been desexed are at a higher risk of developing infections and cancers of the uterus, ovaries and mammary glands, as well as suffering complications of pregnancy and birthing.

What are the benefits of desexing your cat?

In addition to avoiding unplanned litters, desexing has multiple benefits – both behavioural and physical. Dr Rosalind Holland (BVSc) says that “Desexed animals overall have longer life expectancy, this is at least in part due to changes in behaviour, such as less roaming and fighting, from reduced sex hormones.” 

Desexing male and female cats

According to Dr. Rosalind Holland (BVSc), desexing has benefits for both the cat and owner. “For female cats, spaying also eliminates the risk of developing pyometra, a very serious and potentially fatal infection of the uterus, and prevents ovarian cancer. Spaying also decreases the risk of mammary (breast) cancer in female cats. "Importantly, it also prevents female cats from coming into heat (also called season or oestrus) and expressing behaviours that can be unpleasant for owners.”

The benefits of desexing are still significant for male cats, and Dr Rosalind Holland (BVSc) suggests that “male cats urine odour is decreased, making them much easier to live with. Male cats will also fight and roam less, resulting in them being less likely to catch infectious disease and suffer from traumatic injuries.”

Behavioural benefits include reducing the likelihood of fighting, roaming and marking behaviour. Intact, sexually mature cats become more vocal and active in their search for a mate. Desexing before sexual maturity reduces the risk of these challenging behaviours.

Preparation is protection

Desexing is a great way to ensure your cat’s long-term health and happiness, as well as help reduce the number of strays in our community. When deciding the best time to desex your pet, it’s important to factor in age, size, and medical condition.

While SPCA Pet Insurance does not cover desexing, it can help to take the edge off eligible vet bills for accidental injury and illness. Consider getting a quote today and help to protect your beloved feline!