By Dr. Carol Fellenstein
Q: I recently found a young kitten and was wondering about getting her spayed. Is it important that I spay her and if so at what age should I do it?
A: Yes, it is very important to schedule a spay surgery for a young female kitten. This is also true for young female dogs and rabbits, as well as males for all three species.
In terms of cats, March marks the beginning of the feline mating season which typically continues through about October. This period of time is also known as kitten season. During these 8 months, there is a very dramatic increase in the number of kittens being surrendered to shelters and rescue groups across the country. Organizations like Animal Friends work hard to care for these kittens and find them loving families to adopt them. Unfortunately, not all kittens surrendered to shelters have the same experience.
Spaying and neutering is the most proactive and humane way to prevent overpopulation.
In terms of when to have your kitten spayed, it is best to have the procedure done before the pet reaches sexual maturity and goes into her first heat cycle. This first heat can happen as young as 7 months of age. Most veterinarians working in private practice prefer to perform the surgery between 5-6 months while veterinarians working in an animal shelter environment or at high-quality, high-volume spay/neuter clinics safely perform the procedure as young as 2 months of age.
In addition to preventing unwanted births, there are behavioral and health benefits to spaying and neutering your pets when they are young. There is a prevention of mammary cancer in females and prostatic cancer in males. Spaying and neutering at a young age also prevents behaviors like roaming, fighting, humping, marking of territory and wailing. These behaviors are driven by hormones at first as animals experience sexual maturity and it is at this stage that spaying and neutering can be very effective in eliminating them. If left unresolved by not spaying and neutering, these behaviors become learned and habitual. Once it reaches this point, they are more difficult to eliminate with surgery.