It is widely recognised that neutering is the key to controlling the cat population. But, despite the best efforts of the UK’s rescue organisations in providing subsidised neutering schemes, the cat population has continued to spiral out of control. Urgent action is required to increase the neutering rates of the country’s owned cat population and reduce the unacceptably high numbers of cats that end up in rescue.

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Cat Neutering Q&A

 I’ve just got a kitten. When should I have her spayed?  

Your kitten can get pregnant while she is still a kitten herself - so it’s important to have her spayed before she is four months old. Many people don’t realise this, and find themselves with unplanned litters of kittens. In fact 85% of litters of kittens are unplanned.

 Why do cats need to be spayed so young?  

At about four months old, your kitten’s hormones will start to give off signals to male cats (tomcats) who will want to have sex with her. Just as you protect her from diseases with vaccinations and microchipping so she can be returned to you if she gets lost, spaying will protect her from getting pregnant. She can then enjoy doing all the things cats enjoy doing, such as going outside and climbing trees without being pestered by tomcats. 

 I’m worried that my cat will be too young to be spayed. I’d rather wait until she older.  

Historically, the age for having a cat spayed was six months. In recent years this has changed to four months which is the age that cats reach sexual maturity and can get pregnant (to relate this to people, this would be when teenage girls start their periods and can get pregnant) 

The move to spaying at four months is supported by the British Small Veterinary Association and all the major animal welfare groups - Battersea Dogs & Cats Home, the Blue Cross, Cats Protection, PDSA, the RSPCA and Wood Green Animal Shelter. Research has shown that there are no adverse risks to spaying at a younger age, and that recovery times from the operation can in fact be quicker.

 I’ve heard that a cat should be allowed to have a litter of kittens before she’s spayed.  

This isn’t true - in fact, it’s just an old wives tale. There is no need for a cat to have a litter of kittens before she’s spayed. sooner she is spayed, the sooner she can enjoy doing all the things cats like to do - such as going out and climbing trees.

Happy cat

 I would like my cat to have kittens - she’d make a great mum and my kids will benefit from the experience. 

Many people like the idea of their cat having kittens but the reality can be very different. Like babies, kittens will need to be looked after and can be very messy - there are likely to be lots of little accidents as they learn to use the litter tray. Then there’s the difficult task of finding loving new homes for your kittens. Saying goodbye can be really hard, for all the family.

 I think I’ll let her have one litter and then get her spayed 

This can be easier said than done. Once a cat has had a litter she will need to wean her kittens before she is spayed. This means she will have to be kept indoors until that time, which can be hard to manage, especially if you’re not around to watch her every move. This is why it is best to have her spayed before she is four months old.

 My cat doesn’t go outside, do I still need to have her spayed?

Yes, it is still advisable. Even if you intend for your cat to live indoors, she could still escape and get pregnant. She will also be very vocal when she’s in season and is likely to attract the attention of Tomcats to your garden. Having her spayed by four months can stop this.

 My vet says he/she won’t spay my cat until she’s six months old 

There are still some vets who prefer to wait until a cat is six months old. This is probably because this is what they have been doing for many years and are set in their ways. However, the British Small Animal Veterinary Association recommends that cats are spayed by four months of age, and more and more vets are now following suit. 

Cats Protection has compiled a list of the vets who will spay at four months. This list can be found at http://www.cats.org.uk/what-we-do/neutering/enr/menu-early-neutering. If your vet won’t then you should still be able to find a vet locally who will.

 I’ve got two cats from the same litter - one male and one female. Surely they won’t mate?  

When cats get the urge to mate, they are responding to a biological need. They will not be fussy about who they have sex with. Cat owners are often caught out by this and find themselves with an unplanned litter as a result of a brother and sister mating. Also, it is not uncommon for a local tomcat to father a litter of kittens and then go on to mate with his daughters. Inbreeding - for example brother and sister and father and daughter matings - can result in birth defects in the kittens. Spaying by four months can prevent this from happening.

 What about male cats? Do they need to be done?

Yes, there are very good reasons for having your male done. They need to have a simple opperation called the snip. This can stop him from spraying in your house to mark his territory, which can be very smelly and unpleasent, and getting nasty injuries from fights because he want to have sex. He will also be less likely to wander off and get run over as cats that are snipped tend to stay closer to home. 

Having your male cat snipped will protect him from a nasty disease called FIV - which is the same as HIV in people, but for cats. It is spread through cat bites, often between males fighting over a female mate. It can’t be caught by people. 

 Male cat