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What is the best age for cats and kittens to be desexed?

Cats are delightful animals, and one of Australia’s most popular pets. Prior to welcoming a cat into your family, there are certain responsibilities and expenses to be aware of. One of these is desexing.

What is desexing?

Desexing refers to the surgical neutering of male and female animals. The procedure is always performed by a veterinarian under a general anaesthetic with pain relief.

In male cats this procedure is known as ‘castration’ and involves the removal of the cat’s testicles. In female cats this is called ‘spaying’ and the uterus and ovaries are removed. After desexing, a cat is not able to come into season or ‘heat’, become pregnant, or produce a litter of kittens. There are many health and behavioural benefits of desexing cats at a younger age, before they reach sexual maturity.

Why are cats desexed?

Desexing companion cats is considered to be an essential duty of all responsible pet owners by veterinary and welfare groups. Cats are desexed to stop unwanted litters of kittens, to reduce certain behaviours (such as urine spraying or sexual behaviour) and to minimise the risk of cats roaming, getting into fights and suffering wounds and infections. Thousands of cats are taken to RSPCA shelters each year. By preventing unintended breeding by your own companion cat, you are helping prevent the sad reality that there are many more cats in Australia than there are caring and safe homes.

What is the best age for a cat to be desexed?

The RSPCA and veterinary associations recommend kittens are desexed prior to puberty, before four months of age. Traditionally, kittens weren’t desexed until around six months of age but this meant some kittens were already becoming pregnant and producing unwanted litters that added to the ‘cat overpopulation’ issue. Research has shown that pre-pubertal desexing is safe and has long term welfare benefits. Kittens and cats adopted from reputable shelters are usually already desexed which is a key advantage to adopting a shelter animal.

If your kitten is not desexed, it is important to discuss desexing age with your veterinarian and make an informed decision based on what is considered best for your individual kitten.

Advantages of desexing your cat before puberty

There are many advantages to having your cat desexed before four months of age, including:

  1. Desexing before puberty eliminates the risk of unwanted litters. A female cat can become pregnant from a young age and produce multiple litters per year. It can be difficult finding homes for these kittens and sadly, many kittens are relinquished to shelters each year or abandoned.
  2. Cats desexed before puberty have a lower risk of certain health problems such as mammary tumours and uterine infections.

Cost of desexing a cat

The cost of desexing a cat can vary between clinics and is generally cheaper for a male cat compared to a female cat. If you have pet insurance, certain policies may even allow you to claim part of the cost of desexing.

The cost of desexing is small when compared to the potential benefits, including having a healthier cat with a potentially longer life to share with you.

Doing what’s best for your cat

The RSPCA encourages the desexing of companion animals and considers that desexing your cat is an important part of being a responsible pet owner, along with identification (e.g. microchipping) and containing your pet on your property.

To help protect your companion cat with cover for accidental injury and illness, consider pet insurance. And if you’re with RSPCA Pet Insurance, a portion of first-year premiums go towards supporting the valuable work of the RSPCA.

Dr Catherine Tiplady bio image

Dr Catherine Tiplady

Dr Catherine Tiplady studied veterinary science at the University of Queensland. After graduation, Dr Catherine worked in veterinary practice whilst undertaking postgraduate research in Animal Welfare, gaining additional degrees in Bachelor of Applied Science (Animal Studies) (Hons 1) and a PhD. Dr Catherine has published widely in peer reviewed scientific journals and has also authored a book, ‘Animal Abuse: Helping Animals and People’. Currently working in small animal practice, Dr Catherine also has her own business performing gentle in-home pet euthanasia and provides veterinary care and desexing services for animal welfare charities. Dr Catherine brings her passion for animal welfare, love of writing and scientific training together to contribute quality content to RSPCA Pet Insurance’s Pet Care blog.