Desexing has many benefits, including health benefits for your cat and a reduction in nuisance behaviours.
What is desexing and how is it done?
A qualified veterinarian performs routine surgery to remove the cat’s reproductive organs in order to prevent breeding. In males this is called castration and in females it is called spaying.
At what age should my cat be desexed?
Your cat should be desexed before they reach the age at which they can start breeding (called sexual maturity or puberty). Cats can reach sexual maturity at 16 weeks of age. Desexing before a cat reaches sexual maturity is called pre-pubertal desexing.
Pre-pubertal desexing is done prior to the cat reaching sexual maturity and may be performed any time from the age of eight weeks when the surgery is simple and recovery is rapid. Desexing can be performed from approximately 8 weeks of age or when the kitten is 1kg or more in weight and most welfare organisations desex cats at this age. Veterinarians who perform pre-pubertal desexing for client owned cats tend to desex the cats at between 14-16 weeks of age.
Why should I have my cat desexed?
One of the key benefits is preventing unwanted kittens. Right now, thousands of unwanted kittens are born each year, and have to be rehomed across the country. There is no benefit in letting females have one litter before they are desexed. In fact, from an animal welfare perspective, there are more benefits associated with pre-pubertal desexing.
Pre-pubertal desexing also ensures compliance with desexing requirements in your area. Some states and local councils require that domestic cats are desexed by a certain age (the age varies between jurisdictions). You can find more information on which states/territories have mandatory desexing of dogs and cats here.
In addition to this, desexing your cat is an important part of responsible cat ownership and there are many possible benefits to you and your cat, including the following:
- Desexing your cat can reduce the risks of some potentially serious health problems. For example, desexed cats are less likely to get mammary cancer and will not get uterine infections.
- Desexing prevents reproductive cycle behaviours such as your female cat ‘calling’ when she is on heat/in season, yowling and crying, often at night. This can be very distressing, noisy, and unpleasant, particularly if your cat is in the house. Desexing your cat means that she will not display behaviours like this that are associated with being on heat/in season. She should be desexed before she comes on heat the first time (cats can come on heat as young as 16 weeks of age!).
- Desexing eliminates the risks involved with your cat being pregnant, giving birth, and raising kittens. Risks include eclampsia (in which the mother cat’s calcium levels become dangerously low causing weakness, muscle tremors, and even seizures), loss of the foetuses (which can also result in severe infection if the dead foetuses are retained in the uterus), a difficult birth (called dystocia, which can be due to problems with the mother cat or kittens and is generally due to either obstruction of the birth canal or a problem with the uterine muscle that makes the muscle unable to contract well enough to push the kittens out of the uterus; these complications may result in your cat needing a c-section where the kittens are removed from the uterus surgically by a veterinarian), and infections of the uterus or mammary glands.
- Desexed animals are generally less likely to roam, which reduces the risk of them being involved in a traumatic accident such as being hit by a car or getting into fights, and them being exposed to infectious disease through fighting.
- Desexed cats are less likely to show aggressive behaviour than undesexed cats, and are less likely to fight with other cats in your household. It also means that, if your cat is allowed to roam, they are less likely to fight with other neighbourhood cats, which can reduce noise and disruption in your community.
- If your cats are allowed outside, desexing them means that they are less likely to be exposed to injury and infectious disease (such as FIV/feline AIDs) through fighting with other cats.
- Desexed cats generally have a reduced inclination to roam, which means they are less likely to roam off your property and reduces the risk of traffic accidents. It also increases the likelihood that your desexed cat will adapt better to a live indoors. Find out more about why your cat can live a happier and safer life indoors here.
- Desexed cats are less likely to scent mark by spraying urine, compared to undesexed cats. It is highly desirable to minimise the risk of this behaviour, particularly if your cat is in your house all or most of the time!