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Should I have my cat desexed? Myths and facts

We love our pets in Australia – and for good reason! But with thousands of dogs and cats being left homeless on the streets or being abandoned to animal shelters every year, owners who fail to desex their pets may be contributing to this growing problem.

The RSPCA strongly advocates for both cats and dogs to be desexed. Not only because it helps control the pet population, but it makes your life as a pet owner so much easier! How? By lowering the chance of certain illnesses and diseases (such as mammary cancer in females and prostate problems in males), making them less likely to be aggressive, and reducing their desire to roam – which could possibly lead to them being hit by cars or becoming lost.

There’s so much misinformation about male and female cat desexing, so let’s bust some of the common myths!

Myth #1: Indoor cats do not need to be desexed

Fact: It’s true that your cat may be an indoor cat, but many cat owners know a determined cat can be quick to make an escape, and sometimes be gone for days at a time.

Cat desexing reduces behavioural problems like roaming (particularly in males), and female cat desexing in particular prevents mating behaviour – which means they are less likely to want to escape your home and seek out a mate.

Myth #2: My female cat needs to go into heat before she’s desexed

Fact: Female cat desexing is one area people need more knowledge about. It’s a very common myth that cats have to go into heat or even give birth to a litter before they can be desexed. The reasoning from owners is usually that they are worried their cat’s personality will change, or they will become inactive and end up overweight. The good news is this is totally wrong – your cat should be desexed before the age that they start breeding. Desexing your female cat will not only remove the risk of pregnancy and unwanted kittens but can help reduce the risk of certain health problems and pregnancy complications such as eclampsia, as well as certain behaviours associated with being in season such as ‘yowling’.

Remember that, unlike a dog who first goes into heat between seven and nine months old, a cat can go into heat from as early as four months. That’s why it’s important to speak with your vet when your cat is still young to make sure they are desexed at the right time, which is before they reach sexual maturity (called pre-pubertal desexing).

Myth#3: Desexing cats at a young age leads to behavioural problems

Fact: Again, this is a common myth where the truth is actually the opposite. There is no evidence that desexing your male or female cat at a young age causes behavioural problems. Some studies have found that cats desexed before puberty are less likely to be hyperactive.

Myth #4: Cat desexing is a risky procedure

Fact: Male and female cat desexing is so much less risky when performed before the animal has reached their sexual maturity (i.e. gone into heat). This is because their reproductive tract is still small at this age and the blood vessels are also smaller.

Because of this, pre-pubertal desexing is highly recommended by both the RSPCA and vets, so speak to your veterinarian about the best time to get your cat desexed. You may also want to factor this cost of desexing your cat into the upfront costs of pet ownership. When you adopt a cat from the RSPCA, you don’t need to worry about the cost of desexing, as it’s done before the adoption process.

Myth #5: The cat desexing cost is always the same

Fact: Another myth about the cost of cat desexing, is that it’s always the same. The cost of having a cat desexed may vary. The cost of desexing your cat can vary by state, territory and region, and may vary suburb-to-suburb in many of Australia’s largest cities.

Generally, male cats are less expensive to desex than female cats, due to the surgery being more complex in females. Figures from the RSPCA indicate that desexing cats costs approximately $115-$300 depending on whether your animal is male or female.

You always want the best for your pet, so why not reduce their risk of illness, disease, aggression and tendency to sneak out of the house at all hours? Cat desexing at an early age is the best solution.

Knowledge is power as a pet owner, and you can read plenty more pet care tips to make your life – and your cat’s life – much more enjoyable.

Image of Dr Rosemary Elliot

Dr Rosemary Elliot 

Dr Rosemary studied veterinary science at the University of Sydney after having established her career as a clinical psychologist, and has qualifications of BVSc (Hons), MANZCVS (Animal Welfare), MPsych (Clin), BA (Hons) as well as previously establishing her career as a clinical psychologist. Her experiences during veterinary training fostered an ambition to focus directly on animal welfare and ethics, with a particular interest in animal sentience and the human-animal bond. Currently working in small animal practice, Dr Rosemary combines her psychology background and veterinary skills to contribute to and promote animal welfare, and regularly contributes quality content to RSPCA Pet Insurance's Pet Care blog.