Boy and girl cats reach sexual maturity at about the same time when they are six months old. Here’s everything you need to know about neutering a kitten.
Leave your kitten unneutered and you will have created a problem. It is a fact of life that cats who haven’t been castrated or spayed make kittens. A single female cat can potentially deliver 20,000 kittens over five years.
In the UK the stray cat population has reached a crisis point according to some animal welfare charities. In order to keep the population down (and give every cat a chance of a life) you must consider neutering your kitten.
Neutering is a routine operation that is carried out hundreds of times a day across the UK. It describes the removal of a cat's sexual reproduction organs: his testes or her ovaries (and sometimes her uterus). Neutering a male is known as ‘castration’ and neutering a female is known as ‘spaying’.
When can kittens be neutered?
Both male and female kittens become sexually mature at around six months old. You may however want to begin discussions with your vet about neutering from when the kitten reaches four months.
The age at which a kitten reaches sexual maturity varies considerably. You will be aware of a transition to sexual maturity because both tom and queen kittens are very vocal, and toms tend to forcibly spray urine around their ‘territory’.
When a queen (un-spayed female) kitten is around four months old she begins to attract the attention of tom (un-castrated male) kittens and cats. The toms are able to tell whether or not the queen is on heat and will want to mate with her. If this is allowed to take place your kitten will get pregnant. Unless you are a reputable and registered breeder of cats this outcome is to be avoided.
Arranging neutering with your vet
To have your kitten neutered is neither a complicated nor an expensive process. You should first book a consultation with your vet and after this you will be instructed to bring your kitten back to the vet closer to the date of the operation for a pre-anaesthetic health check.
On the eve of the operation you will be asked not to feed your kitten, but you can water it. In the morning you should not give your kitten food or water.
What is kitten neutering?
Neutering a kitten has multiple benefits for you and your pet in the long run. For example, as it gets older your cat will be less likely to contract certain diseases as well as avoid unwanted pregnancies.
Advantages of neutering a male kitten include:
• Control of aggressive and territorial behaviour
• Avoidance of injuries caused by fighting
• Avoidance of testicular cancer
• Control of cat population
Of a female kitten, the advantages of neutering are even greater:
• Protection from mammary and ovarian cancers: Spaying your queen kitten can reduce the chance of her developing mammary gland tumour (breast cancer) in later life.
• Protection from pyometra: Cats that haven’t been spayed have a bigger chance of developing cystic ovarian disease than cats that have; an associated infection of the womb is called pyometra.
• Reduction of vet bills: Neutering eliminates the possibility of your kitten becoming pregnant; in doing so the associated risks to health, and the expense, are avoided.
• Putting an end to ‘seasons’: Spaying will prevent your kitten coming into season (which is around every 3 weeks).
What happens on the day?
You are usually given the option of a local or general anaesthetic for your kitten. However, it is recommended that large and aggressive cats are given the latter to alleviate any unnecessary difficulties of control.
For tom cats an incision is made at the root of the penis closest to the scrotum and the testes are removed through this opening. The cut is then sutured, glued or stapled shut. If there are no complications the castration operation takes very little time; it is sometimes completed within two minutes.
You will be able to pick up your cat at the end of the day.
The neutering of a tom kitten is far simpler than it is for a queen: Spaying involves the removal of the cat’s ovaries under general anaesthetic. It is usual in the UK for the ovaries and uterus to be removed; this operation is called an ‘ovariohysterectomy’.
Some veterinary practices remove only the ovaries to lessen any physical disruption. The uterus will be removed only if a veterinary surgeon deems it to be abnormal.
Post-operative recovery from neutering
A straightforward operation is usually easy for a cat to recover from. 20 minutes after the operation a feline patient will usually be awake and well enough to walk unaided, although if there were complications during the procedure the recovery time will be longer. On average it takes about fourteen days for incisions to heal.
A vet will recommend a course of anti-inflammatory medicines to ease the pain, and they will probably have given your cat a dose of pain-killers as soon as the operation was over.
How much does it cost to get a kitten neutered?
The cost of the neutering operation is determined by the vet’s practice you choose to perform it. In the UK the average cost of tom kitten neutering is between £40 and £80. The average cost of neutering a queen kitten is between £50 and £100.
Despite there being subsidised neutering schemes through the UK, to assist cat owners on low incomes, the cat population continues to rise. This has resulted in cat shelters being either unable to take in stray cats or ordering their ever-burgeoning populations to be humanely culled. There is little excuse for any cat (or dog) to be put down simply because of over-population and, what is more, the situation can easily be avoided and reversed simply by responsible cat ownership.