Early neutering of cats: the risk factors and benefits

01 April 2011
12 mins read
Volume 2 · Issue 3


Leading feline welfare bodies in the UK are encouraging veterinary suregons to neuter cats earlier to reduce the number of unplanned litters born that lead to many unwanted cats. Veterinary surgeons have been concerned that early neutering may lead to higher mortality rates from surgery, as well as higher incidences of urinary problems, obesity and growth plate fractures. It has been demonstrated that earlier neutering does not cause any long-term health implications, and that the procedure can be performed safely in young kittens as long as the patient is properly prepared, monitored and recovered.

The optimal age to neuter cats is a subject that has provoked much discussion and debate. Cat charities are encouraging veterinary surgeons to neuter cats much younger than has been done traditionally to minimize the number of unplanned litters of kittens born each year (Cat Group, 2008). However, many veterinary practices are still following traditional guidelines of neutering from 22 weeks of age because of concerns over long-term health issues and the safety of performing surgery on young patients. The concerns of urinary issues, physeal fractures, obesity and behavioural issues are investigated in this article to determine the long-term implications that early neutering may have (Murray et al, 2008). Additionally, nursing considerations with such procedures are discussed, including preparation, prevention of hypothermia and effective monitoring of the patient.

The issue of homeless and unwanted cats is becoming an increasing problem in the UK. It is estimated there are around 2.5 million stray cats in the UK, and neutering is vital to prevent this problem escalating; a single entire female can be responsible for 20 000 cats in 5 years (Cats Protection, 2009a). A 2007 survey found that 17.6% of cats had an unplanned litter (Murray et al, 2009). This is partly because many owners are unaware that the age a cat is sexually mature can vary, and may be associated with genetics as well as daylight hours; some cats may be sexually mature by 4 months of age (Yates, 2009). Ultimately, most owners do choose to neuter their cat. A 2007 survey found that 92% of cats over 6 months of age are neutered; however, only 66% of cats aged 6–12 months of age are neutered, leaving much potential for unplanned litters (Murray et al, 2009).

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