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The Truth About Spaying or Neutering Your Cat

By Sandy Eckstein
WebMD Pet Health Feature
Reviewed by Audrey Cook, BVM&S

An estimated 5 million to 8 million animals are euthanized in shelters across this country every year. Many organizations are working to decrease that number by opening low-cost spay/neuter clinics that will prevent more litters of cats that need homes. One such organization is LifeLine Animal Project, an Atlanta-based nonprofit shelter and clinic where more than 25,000 spaying and neutering procedures have been performed since 2005. Here, executive director Rebecca Guinn answers the most commonly asked questions about spaying and neutering cats.

Q: Why should I have my cat spayed or neutered?

A: Shelter euthanasia is the number one killer of companion animals. Spaying and neutering is the only way to reduce or eliminate that. It’s also better for your pet’s health. And having a cat that’s spayed or neutered will make your life easier.

Q: Shouldn’t I let my cat have a litter before I spay her?

A: No. It greatly reduces the risk of certain cancers if you have her spayed before the first heat and certainly before she has a litter.

Most places are overrun with kittens. There are millions of cats and kittens that need homes and millions more that are abandoned. There simply aren’t enough homes for all the cats that get born every kitten season.

Q: Should I let my cat have a heat before I spay her?

A: It’s a myth that animals should have a litter or a heat before they are spayed. There are no health benefits to that at all, and it’s a much easier medical procedure if you spay before the first heat. All the benefits you get from spaying or neutering your pet are magnified by spaying or neutering before the animal reaches puberty.

Q: Is it OK to spay my cat when she’s just a kitten?

A: Yes, as long as she’s at least eight weeks of age and weighs at least two pounds. Pediatric spaying and neutering is widely accepted. Those ideas about needing to wait are really antiquated and the evidence is to the contrary. Even the American Veterinary Medical Association supports early spaying and neutering.

Cats can go into heat very early. They can have a litter at six months of age, and they can have three litters a year. Also, if you’ve ever been around a cat in heat, you know it’s miserable for people. They yowl loudly and continuously. They want to get out. It really alters their behavior. And every unneutered male cat in the neighborhood will be at your house spraying your front door. Your whole house will reek of cat spray. It is a really regrettable experience. 

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