For the sake of ease, I am using the term "desexing" which refers to both male and female cats. Some countries use the term "spaying" for female cats and "neutering" for male cats.
What is desexing?
Desexing is the removal of the male cat's testicles and the female cat's uterus and ovaries to prevent reproduction. It is a simple procedure which is performed under general anesthetic.
What age should a cat be desexed?
A kitten can be desexed from as early as 8 weeks of age, and should definitely have the procedure done before they reach 6 months old as they can come into heat at this time.
Most cat breeders and shelters prefer to send kittens to their home already desexed. Many breeders prefer to wait until the kitten is between 1-1.5kg in weight prior to desexing. So smaller breeds such as the Siamese may be a little older before they are desexed and ready to go to their new home.
Kittens recover very quickly from surgery and are almost always fine to go home the same day.
Each veterinarian is different, ten years ago there were many who still preferred to desex at 6 months of age, but you will find the majority will now perform the surgery on younger kittens.
Do I need to get my cat desexed?
Unless you plan to become a registered cat breeder then yes, it is a good idea to have your cat desexed. There is already an enormous cat overpopulation problem, in particular, moggies, and adding to it is not helpful. There are also many medical benefits to your cat including:
- Less chance of roaming.
- Less likely to contract FIV or FeLV.
- Eliminates the chances of developing pyometra (infection of the uterus).
- Your female cat won't come into heat. This is quite an experience, she will call, roll, and do anything possible to get out of the house and mate.
- No chance of birth and post-natal complications.
- You won't have a litter of kittens to find a home for.
- Reduced chance of mammary (breast) cancer.
- Eliminates the chances of testicular cancer.
All the cats I have adopted over the past 10 years have been desexed prior to me bringing them home, which suits me fine as I don't have to worry about organising it. Plus shelters and cat breeders pay less money for desexing, which is passed on to us. The research I did last year showed that the average cost to desex a female cat was $223 and a male at $140.
If you do adopt a cat who hasn't been desexed, I recommend having the desexing and microchipping performed at the same time, and as early as possible, so that your cat doesn't get the chance to go into heat and/or mate with another cat.
If you are looking to adopt a cat, find out if it will come desexed, if it isn't, phone your vet to discuss desexing with them. The majority of veterinarians are happy to perform early desexing.