If you're wondering whether one
time is better than another to spay or neuter your cat, you're not
alone. Vic Spain, DVM, a PhD candidate in epidemology at the Cornell
University College of Veterinary Medicine, wants to know, too.
As part of the Cornell Cat Health and Behavior Study, Dr Spain is
surveying owners in New York State who have adopted cats from animal
shelters. The purpose is to find out how often cats get problem
behaviors, how often they get cancer and other diseases, and how
long people keep cats after they're adopted. As part of the study,
Spain is looking at the spaying and neutering practices for cats
to determine whether the time a cat is neutered (for the purpose
of this discussion the word neuter refers to both female and male
cats) has any effect on long-term health.
The surgical act of neutering involves
the removal of the reproductive organs in female cats and the removal
of the male cats' testicles. The process is performed while the
cat is under anesthesia, and most of the time he or she will go
home the same day.
Benefits may outweigh negatives.
"Most of the issues that arise over early neutering can be
grouped into four general questions," Spain says. He wants
to know whether the anesthesia and surgery are safe for young kittens;
if neutering early affects the physical development of cats; whether
neutering early leads to any health problems or benefits; and if
early neutering leads to any behavior problems or benefits.
While it's too early to report on
the findings of the study, Spain says that research conducted by
Texas A&M University, early age is actually the safest time
with regard to anesthesia and surgery.
Veterinarians, who recommended owners
have their cats neutered between four and twelve months of age,
did so because they thought there would be many health problems
in cats neutered any earlier. One erroneous theory is that the early
surgery and associated stress and the lack of hormones would impair
immune system development. Others proven false include the idea
that behavioral problems would intensify, and problems with other
body systems would rise.
In fact behavioral benefits of early
neutering, especially neutering before puberty. Male cats neutered
early, for example, tend to be less aggressive and less likely to
spray or exhibit other territorial behaviors. Female cats that are
neutered early, avoid behavior normally exhibited while they are
in heat (crying and yelling, and nervous behavior), avert the chances
of accidental pregnancies early in life, and may have less incidence
of mammary cancer. In addition, hormones activated during puberty
tell the long bones of the body to stop growing so bones in both
male and female cats neutered early grow a little longer with no
adverse impact on overall health.
Early surgery requires special skills.
Healthwise there do not appear to
be any problems with early neutering. The disadvantage, if there
is any says Spain, is that some veterinarians are not comfortable
with neutering a young kitten. "There are different surgical
techniques and tools required for early neutering," he explains.
Young kittens do not have to be fasted before surgery, different
anesthesia is required to operate, and special surgical instruments
are sometimes needed, depending on the skill of the veterinarian
and the technique used. Young kittens, too, are more prone to hypothermia.
Thus, the veterinarian must make extra effort to keep the cat warm
to ensure he or she does not become overly chilled. Often, warm
water bottles are used.
Other good reasons to spay or neuter:
It may be that neutered cats live
longer, healthier lives. As Spain's study progresses, the theories
- for example, that early-spayed female cats have reduced risks
of breast cancers and that male cats have reduced risks of urinary
blockage -will be proven or not. While most veterinarians agree
that behavior problems are avoided with early neutering, the longer
cats are followed the more that will be confirmed.
There are other good reasons to
neuter is that the healthier pet means less costly veterinary bills.
Pet overpopulation is a problem, too. According to the Humane Society
of the United States, in just seven years, one female cat and her
young can produce 420,000 kittens. Every day, tens of thousands
of kittens are born; compared to the 11,000 human births each day
it's easy to see how there can never be enough homes for all these
pets. Shelters can ensure adopted cats are neutered, and breeders
can ensure the integrity of their purebred cats is maintained.
Once you've decided to have your
cat neutered, consult with your veterinarian about having the procedure
Dr Andre Charlebois does all our pediatric spay and neuters...read