If you've had a male kitten before, maybe you waited until he became an adolescent before getting him neutered. In the past, neutering was generally administered at about 6 months. Today, many vets and animal shelters perform early neutering on male kittens once the kittens reach a certain weight.
Before neutering, male kittens must weight at least 2 or 3 pounds, depending on the preference of the veterinary practice or spay/neuter facility performing the surgery. Neutering smaller kittens may result in difficulty manipulating the tissue during the operation. Most male kittens weigh 2 pounds by the age of 6 weeks and 3 pounds by the time they are 8 to 9 weeks old.
Both the American Veterinary Medical Association and the American Association of Feline Practitioners endorse pediatric spaying and neutering. For veterinarians, the procedure is easier than working on a mature cat, with kittens recovering from the surgery more quickly than males neutered at the traditional later age. While animal shelters often require adopters to spay or neuter kittens and may offer discounts or certificates for the surgery, many people do not follow up with it. Shelters adopting out kittens already spayed or neutered do not have to follow up with adopters to ensure compliance. These kittens won't be making unwanted babies of their own.
Becky Robinson, the founder of Alley Cat Allies, cites research that kittens neutered prior to reaching 12 weeks of age have fewer complications from surgery than kittens older than 12 weeks. Recovery for kittens is usually minimal -- your boy may not realize he's missing anything, and he's home from surgery the same day. If you bathe your cat, don't wash him for at least two weeks after the operation so the incision can completely heal.
As with every medical or veterinary issue, stories circulate about side effects that don't hold up to scrutiny. Neutered kittens grow to the same size as male cats neutered at an older age. However, it is true that these kittens may be less masculine in appearance. Kittens going through early neutering are not more predisposed to feline urinary tract disease because of blockages. No behavioral or physical problems appear more often in early-neutered kittens. On the other hand, early neutering doesn't prevent certain bad habits from occurring. Naughty cats are naughty cats, no matter what age they're fixed.
Jane Meggitt has been a writer for more than 20 years. In addition to reporting for a major newspaper chain, she has been published in "Horse News," "Suburban Classic," "Hoof Beats," "Equine Journal" and other publications. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English from New York University and an Associate of Arts from the American Academy of Dramatics Arts, New York City.