EARLY SPAY & NEUTER
When is the right time to spay / neuter your cat? This is a controversial topic, and it is one that I see come up often. Many people seem to take the position that you should wait. And that is okay, everyone has different opinions and different ways of doing things.
Below are a list of reasons why it is important to spay/neuter your cat. This list is not exhaustive, as there are many many reasons it is beneficial:
** Elimination of hormonal behaviours including mounting, aggression, loud continuous howling noises, the urge to roam and of course urine spraying, which is especially problematic in male cats but can happen with females as well. These behavioural issues often result in cats being dumped in shelters when the owner can no longer tolerate the problems.
** Prevention of pyometra, hydrometra, uterine, mammary and ovarian cancers for females. Reduction in prostatitis, prostatic hypertrophy, prostate cancers in males as well as completely eliminating the chance of testicular cancer.
** Surgery and recovery is already completed by the breeder so a future buyer does not have to worry about the cost, time or effort involved. They can be reassured they are receiving a healthy, happy kitten that has already completed its major veterinary health care.
** Recovery has been shown to be much faster/easier in young animals, rather than older animals.
** Zero chance of a cat being accidentally bred, or a buyer purposely putting the cat into a backyard breeding situation. Some people think this makes the original breeder “greedy”, they believe this is about money. It’s not about money. My cats are all health tested, they are fed expensive high quality food, receive the best vet care available, they are registered pedigreed animals that live in veterinarian inspected facilities. I love them all dearly, I spend my days cleaning, taking care of them and loving them. I am horrified to even imagine one of my kittens ending up in a situation where they are being bred as many times a year as possible, where they are kept in dirty conditions, where they receive no health care. I never want to see my cat have the kittens they produce end up sold on Kijiji, where buyers are lied to and not provided papers, where animals are bred to mixed breeds, where a backyard breeder is just looking to make a quick buck. It isn’t about the money involved, it is about not having one of my cats end up in cage inside someone’s house living a life in a kitten mill. I want all of my kittens to go to the best, loving homes. By spaying/neutering before kittens leave my cattery I can sleep at night knowing that there are no animals living through the nightmares of a BYB because of me.
Personally, I will do ESN when my future kittens are minimum 10 weeks AND 2kg (which means some kittens would be later than 10 weeks depending on their weights).
I want to take a moment here to say something about the biggest myth surrounding ESN. People often say they want to wait because “they want the animal to have time to grow first”. The research shows that when hormones are cut off, the growth plates in animals close more slowly. This actually results in ESN animals becoming slightly bigger than those altered later in life (or not at all). Now, it is a very slight difference within the bone structure but they are also seen as bigger because altered animals often weigh more than unaltered animals. This is a fact no matter what age the animal is spayed/neutered. People tend to think that because altered animals grow bigger, they will have more fragile bones. There has been some science surrounding this issue and giant breed dogs. However, canines are not felines. Even a large Maine Coon is not the same as a 150+ Great Dane, not to mention they are different species entirely. You cannot take research about dogs and apply it directly to cats. Lastly, hip dysplasia is believed to be a genetic condition and has no link to ESN. Maine Coons are more prone to hip problems, but it doesn’t have anything to do with when they are altered.
So lastly, below is a list of resources to read about ESN from the experts. This includes research articles, position statements from Veterinary Associations, the major registry associations, and more. This list is also not exhaustive, as there is more & more information all the time about ESN.
Veterinary Task Force on Feline Sterilization Recommendations for Age of Spay and Neuter Surgery
Canadian Veterinary Medical Association Position Statement, “The CVMA advocates for pre-pubertal neutering of cats“: https://www.canadianveterinarians.net/documents/neutering-of-dogs-and-cats-position-statement
Research Article #1, study on 263 cats: “Compared with traditional-age gonadectomy, prepubertal gonadectomy did not result in an increased incidence of infectious disease, behavioral problems, or problems associated with any body system during a median follow-up period of 37 months.” https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/11110455/
Research article #2, study on 775 cats: “In this study, prepubertal gonadectomy did not increase morbidity or mortality on a short-term basis, compared with gonadectomy performed on animals at the traditional age. These procedures may be performed safely in prepubertal animals, provided that appropriate attention is given to anesthetic and surgical techniques.” https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/9215412/
Research article #3, study on 1660 cats: “Gonadectomy before 5.5 months of age was not associated with increased rates of death or relinquishment or occurrence of any serious medical or behavioral condition and may provide certain important long-term benefits, especially for male cats. Animal shelters can safely gonadectomize cats at a young age, and veterinarians should consider recommending routine gonadectomy for client-owned cats before the traditional age of 6 to 8 months.” https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/14765796/ & https://www.avma.org/sites/default/files/resources/javma_224_3_372.pdf (48 references included!)
Association of Shelter Veterinarian’s position: “Numerous scientific studies performed to evaluate the effects of early age spay-neuter suggest that the procedure is not associated with serious health issues and is medically sound.” This article cites 14 scientific resources for their statement: https://www.sheltervet.org/assets/docs/position-statements/earlyagespayneuter.pdf
Cat Fancier’s Association’s (CFA) position:
The International Cat Association (TICA’s) position statement (includes 10 reference sources): http://www.felinova.be/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/Brochure-TICA-Early-neutering-Pros-and-Cons.pdf?fbclid=IwAR1z1vuXR4iMoPPfGiZSTOgcdoT7Pb1ARVuHFlnSdXwFLOqs9Ex6X9Bp2-Y
American Association of Feline Practitioners position statement (with 6 sources included): https://catvets.com/public/PDFs/PositionStatements/EarlySpay&Neuter.pdf
CatHealthy.ca (Cat Healthy is the only program in Canada that was created by Canada’s six local board-certified feline veterinary specialists. This level of certification requires a degree in veterinary medicine, logging at least six years of full-time practice with cats, and passing several rigorous, comprehensive exams. Today, fewer than 100 veterinarians in the world and only six veterinarians in Canada have achieved this distinction): https://www.cathealthy.ca/protocols/surgical-sterilization-earlier-is-better/
Additional links from reputable organizations:
*Disclaimer*: I am NOT an expert and do not claim to be one. I am simply someone who has done a lot of research because I am passionate about my animals and want to make the right choices for them. I am continually learning new things, and as new information becomes available I am willing to change my opinion about subjects. Please do not take anything I’ve said as medical advice, and always talk to your veterinarian. There are still veterinarians out there that are operating under the old negative assumptions about ESN, but you can always share the CVMA position statement with them or simply seek out another vet who is more up to date with current research.
Thank you for reading, and thank you so much to Sarah Harrison of WildSkies Maine Coon Cattery for writing the above information.