Ask the Vet: All about pediatric spay/neuter.

by Dr. Sam Simonelli

If you are reading this newsletter, chances are you have a cat… or are planning on adopting one. Have you thought about when is the best time to schedule that all-important spay or neuter surgery? Shelter veterinarians have been performing “early” spays and neuters for years. What does that mean and is it safe for your kitten?

Pediatric, or early, spay and neuter is the surgical sterilization of an immature animal, usually between 6-14 weeks of age. This is a safe and effective procedure that has the support of numerous medical and humane experts, including the AVMA, AAHA, HSUS, ASPCA and the AAFP. Let’s look at some of the benefits of having your cat spayed or neutered early.

Community benefits

According to the most recent ASPCA data, 3.4 million cats enter shelters every year with 1.4 million of them eventually being euthanized. Spaying or neutering your cat when it is young eliminates the risk of unwanted litters of kittens. With fewer cats being surrendered, there is less shelter crowding and stress for the cats there, giving them a greater chance of them finding a loving home.

Health benefits

The time required to complete surgery can be much shorter for a pediatric animal, leading to decreased time under anesthesia and fewer surgical complications. Early spay can greatly reduce or eliminate the risk of malignant mammary cancer and pyometra, a life threatening infection of the uterus. According to data compiled in the2013 Banfield State of Pet Health Report, female cats live 39% longer when they are spayed and males live a whopping 62% longer!

Behavioral benefits

Behavioral issues are a huge reason cats get surrendered to shelters. Early spay and neuter can reduce or eliminate some unwanted behaviors such as urine spraying, inappropriate urination (i.e. outside the litter box), aggression/fighting and roaming (for indoor/outdoor cats).

Fewer euthanized animals, longer life for your cat, no litter box issues… that all sounds pretty good. Are there any risks to pediatric spay and neuter?

Possible risks

Your veterinarian must be comfortable performing surgery and administering anesthesia on these very small animals. Younger cats have a lower percentage of body fat and are more susceptible to hypoglycemia (low blood sugar). Care must be taken to keep these patients warm during surgery and in recovery. Pre-operative fasting time should be kept to a minimum and animals can be fed soon after surgery.

As always, it’s most important to have a conversation with your regular veterinarian about what is right for your pet. An early spay or neuter may be the best decision for your new kitten.