When should you spay or neuter your cat?

male cat

At five to six months of age, a cat can be neutered or spayed.

However, there’s more to it than meets the eye. For example, certain breeds of cats can get their first estrus (heat) by four months of age.

So, what is the suitable time to neuter or spay your cat?

What are neutering and spaying and why are they important?

Neutering means removing the testes in a male cat or tom. Spaying stands for the removing of ovaries and the uterus.

Getting a tom neutered is a fairly short process and your cat will walk home the same day. Spaying can, however, sometimes be more complicated. It not only takes longer but your cat might need to stay the night after the surgery to recover from any arising complications.

Neutering and spaying help the world by solving its pet homelessness problems. At the same time, not everyone is ready to have more kittens in their homes.

Also, spaying removes the risk of multiple health issues including pyometra and breast cancer, which can be very aggressive in felines. 

Besides population control and the reduction of health risks, neutering or spaying your cat further helps in curbing certain behaviors that are a result of sexual maturity, for example:

  • Female cats will “call” during the season to find male cats
  • Male cats become more aggressive and start to mark their territory with a pungent smell, fighting those that enter their territory.
  • Male cats would also stray very far sometimes or leave altogether.
  • Queens can have three litters per year. So, that’s about 6 to even 15 kittens. 
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cat surgery

When does a cat reach sexual maturity?

Usually, it’s considered that the average age at which cats attain sexual maturity and are ready to mate is 5-6 months old.

However, certain breeds can attain sexual maturity way before, as early as 4 months.

It also depends on a number of other reasons besides the breed, like the time of the year born and individual development.

Once a cat goes into heat, she will “call” and show related behavior every three weeks until she becomes pregnant.

cat with cone 2

And when are you supposed to neuter or spay your cat?

Neutering and spaying should be done before your cat goes into heat the first time.

Now, of course, you cannot be absolutely sure about the age at which your cat will get in heat for the first time, so it’s usually a good idea to consult a vet and find out when it’s safe for your cat to undergo surgery.

There are still three different times at which spaying or neutering might be performed:

  1. First of all, it can be done as early as 6-8 weeks of age. This is also called early or pediatric spay or neuter. 
  2. Five months of age is okay for anesthesia and surgery for any healthy cat. This is the most popular choice for cat owners. Sometimes, six months of age is more suitable in case of certain breeds.
  3. The third option is letting your cat have his/her first heat and then performing spaying or neutering. This can be done anywhere from 8 to 12 months of age as well, in case you want to wait longer or have one litter. Make sure you take good care of your kittens!
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All in all, you can go for a number of options

So, as you see, there are a number of choices that any cat owner has.

Spaying or neutering your cat is important because it allows you to get rid of your cat’s erratic behavior usually associated with sexual maturity, helps you control pet overpopulation, removes certain health risks (therefore increasing their lifespan), among other things.

Both male and female cats can benefit hugely from neutering and spaying, respectively, making them more peaceful indoor pets.

Now, there was a time when it was not considered so good to spay a female cat before the first heat. Usually, vets too recommended letting your cat become a mother at least once. But now there’s no consensus like that as there’s no medical or psychological improvement in a cat’s body after she becomes a mother once, neither is there any reason why not to spay a cat as early as possible.

You can go with any option from the above but let your vet make an informed decision first of all. Vets will be able to determine when it’s a good idea to perform surgery and when your cat is ready to stay under the effects of anesthesia and have a speedy recovery from the surgery.

But as a general rule of thumb, you can be sure that your cat can be spayed or neutered around 5 months of age without any side-effects or complications.