Myths and Facts About Cat Desexing (Spay & Neuter)


Facts about desexing cats

Despite easy access to early desexing every spring shelters prepare for an increase in surrendered and abandoned kittens due to pet owners allowing their cat to produce kittens. Some people just don’t get around to it, other people perpetuate a number of myths surrounding the desexing (spay neuter) of cats.

Every year, hundreds of thousands of perfectly healthy kittens and cats are euthanised because there just aren’t enough homes for them. This is not, nor should it be the sole responsibility of shelters to deal with, the responsibility falls on all of our shoulders to do the right thing and ensure we don’t bring more kittens into the world.

A female cat should have a litter of kittens first

Why? I still can’t find an answer to this. There is no physiological or psychological benefit to a female cat having a litter of kittens before she is spayed.

Finding a suitable male cat to mate with, who has been tested (along with the female) for feline leukemia and feline immunodeficiency virus, along with genetic testing is difficult. Registered cat breeders will only permit stud cats to mate with registered cats of the same breed.

The other choice is letting nature take its course and letting the female mate with a local male. The dangers of that include the trauma of a car accident, attacked by a dog or other wild animal and catching an infectious disease or parasite.

A cat will get fat if it is desexed

Desexed cats are more prone to weight gain as they are less active than entire cats. This is easy to correct by adjusting the amount of food the cat eats and ensure they get plenty of exercise.

It is cruel to rob a male cat of his manhood

This appears to be a projection of some men. Male cats don’t miss their testicles and can and do live a perfectly happy life without them.

Entire cats are at a greater risk of bite wound abscess, FeLV, FIV, and testicular cancer.

Consider how frustrating it will be for an entire cat to have the inbuilt urge to mate but is prevented from doing so by keeping him indoors. A cat who has been neutered no longer has that urge and can enjoy a life relaxing in the sun and chasing flies.

A cat must be at least six months before it is desexed

It is possible to desex a cat as young as 8-10 weeks (juvenile or pediactric desexing). This procedure is performed by keyhole surgery which is minimally invasive.  Kittens recover far quicker than adult cats.

Also, it is possible for cats under the age of six months to reach sexual maturity and therefore reproduce. Early desexing removes this risk.

Cats won’t mate with their parents or siblings

Cats don’t care who they mate with. An entire male will mate with siblings or parents, and a female in season isn’t fussy. She will accept any male.

Desexing is expensive

I won’t deny that it does cost money to desex a cat, but there are ways around this.

  • Adopt a kitten from a shelter, as all shelters have already desexed their kittens as well as vaccinated, treated them for parasites and where necessary, microchipped them. This saves you time and money. Just this weekend, the RSPCA (in Australia) held an ’empty the shelters’ event, where all cats and dogs cost $29 to adopt.
  • Contact your local rescue organisation and see if they can help. Most have access to cheap desexing via their own veterinarian.
  • Consider an older cat who has already been desexed.
  • Bear in mind that the medical bills for an emergency caesarian, or to treat the medical conditions (listed below) will be way in excess of what it costs to desex a cat.

Early desexing stunts a cat’s growth and result in a narrower urethra in the male cat

In 1991 the Winn Feline Foundation funded a study to determine if this was, in fact, true. There were three groups of cats who were desexed at 7 weeks, 7 months and 12 months.

It was found that cats who were desexed at 7 weeks and 7 months were taller than cats desexed 12+ months. It is thought that desexing of the juvenile cat results in a delay in closure of the bone growth plate, resulting in taller and leggier cats.

The male urinary tract was the same in all three groups.

You can read the entire study here.

Desexing will change my cat’s personality

You’ve got me on that, it usually does. This is because an entire cat is generally preoccupied with finding a partner to mate with. A female cat comes into season every 3-4 weeks until she falls pregnant, and an entire male cat’s main goal is to find a female to mate with.

Once a cat has been desexed, its mind is no longer on finding a cat of the opposite sex to mate with. Therefore they tend to be more laid back, relaxed, and affectionate because they are no longer preoccupied.

A litter of kittens is a good experience for children

Kittens are cute, and it is exciting, but it’s not all fun and games. Things can and do go wrong, from the queen (mother cat) who needs an emergency c-section to the death of one or more kittens.

If you have children who want to experience life with newborn kittens, consider fostering for an animal shelter.

Desexing reduces the number of unwanted kittens

This is 100% true, there just aren’t enough homes for cats and kittens.

Desexing can prevent disease

  • Feline leukemia virus transmitted via sexual contact, feline immunodeficiency virus via saliva, which means it is possible for a male to infect a female when he bites her during intercourse. It is also possible for a male cat to become infected as a result of a territorial fight with another male.
  • Entire female cats are at risk of a serious and life-threatening disease called pyometra, in which the uterus becomes infected.
  • Mammary cancer is more common in entire female cats.
  • Male cats are at risk of testicular cancer.
  • Cats who roam to look for a partner often end up in cat fights. These can cause an abscess, which is a walled off collection of pus under the skin. This is painful and requires medical intervention to lance and clean the abscess as well as antibiotics.

Entire male cats spray and female cats call

Both of these behaviours are extremely frustrating to pet owners. Desexing completely eliminates calling in female cats and greatly if not completely eliminates territorial spraying.