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The statistics speak for themselves: When nature is allowed to take its course, one unspayed female cat and her offspring can produce 420,000 kittens in just seven years. A cat’s pregnancy lasts approximately two months, so you can see how the numbers can add up rather quickly if she (and her offspring) are allowed to reproduce. Spaying or neutering a kitten or cat will obviously help to curb the problem of animal overpopulation, but it can also guard against health problems, like mammary cancer and feline uterine infections.
“The number-one cause of death in cats in the U.S. is euthanasia because they are unwanted,” says Emily McCobb, DVM, director of Shelter and Community Medicine at Tufts University College of Veterinary Medicine. “Getting your kitten spayed or neutered at the right time is the best way to contribute to a future in which every cat is wanted.”
Kittens can be spayed or neutered as young as eight weeks (or weighing at least two pounds), but it is more common to wait until they reach about four months old. For females, it’s ideal for the spay surgery to take place before her first heat cycle, which usually occurs by the time she is six months old. There are no age restrictions for adult cats, but they will need to be healthy enough to withstand the effects of anesthesia. A vet exam and bloodwork will determine this.
Though it’s dependent on the area in which you live, the cost for spaying a female is typically at least several hundred dollars if you have the operation performed by your local veterinary clinic. To neuter a male will cost half that of spaying a female.
However, your local humane society or animal shelter can often provide information about any free spay and neuter clinics or low cost spay/neuter programs in your area. At a spay and neuter clinic, the cost can be considerably more affordable for a kitten or cat.
Behavior and Health Benefits
A significant advantage of spaying or neutering a cat – especially as a kitten – is that it can prevent unwanted behavior such as fighting, urine spraying or urine marking, which is fairly common in unneutered males.
Spaying your female kitten or cat will save her the unpleasant cycle of going into heat – as often as ten times a year – and doing everything she can to find a mate. The pacing, yowling and overt affection shown by a female cat in heat can get quite annoying to people, as well as miserable for the pet, who will spend most of her time on this quest. Her instinct to mate may even cause her to escape her home, adding an extra risk to not spaying your cat.