If you own a female cat, you're likely aware of spaying's benefits, from preventing the lady kitty from becoming pregnant to reducing pesky urine spraying behaviors. Pediatric spaying -- getting a cat fixed before sexual maturity -- has some advantages over spaying in adulthood. Think minimizing breast cancer risk.
For an era, the youngest age a kitten could be spayed was generally accepted to be around 6 months. But that's changed in recent years: The ASPCA says spaying procedures in clinics and hospitals are routinely conducted on female kittens as young as 6 to 8 weeks old -- well before the onset of the first heat cycle, which doesn't usually occur in cats until age 4 months at the earliest.
Kittens are generally eligible for spaying once they hit 6 weeks of age as long as they weigh enough. Female kittens must weigh a minimum of 2 pounds in order to get fixed. Make sure your cat is the appropriate weight before she undergoes the procedure.
The ASPCA says benefits exist to spaying a kitten well before she goes into her first estrus. Early spaying surgery not only stops female cats from having to deal with the taxing bodily stress of carrying kittens, but in some cases it can inhibit the emergence of potentially dangerous or deadly diseases, including breast cancer and uterine infection.
At the opposite end of the spectrum, some unfavorable effects of pediatric spaying may be a possibility. Reports by the University of Minnesota indicate that before allowing a young kitten to undergo anesthesia, a full physical examination is necessary to ensure strong health and lack of any internal parasites. A full exam makes it easier to rule out which kittens are not suitable candidates for pediatric spaying due to the risk of certain effects, such as hypothermia. Hypothermia as a result of anesthesia may be more likely in young kittens; this is because the wee ones do not have as much fatty tissue as adults.
Case by Case
All kittens are not made the same, even within a litter, so you have to consider each kitten individually. It's vital to discuss with your veterinarians the safest possible spaying age for your cats. While 6 weeks of age may be healthy and effective for some kittens, this time frame may not be the wisest choice for others -- consider the runt. When it comes to the health and well-being of your little one, always proceed with the utmost care and caution.
- University of Minnesota: Early Spay-Neuter - Clinical Considerations
- University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine: Early Spay/Neuter
- ASPCA: Top 10 Reasons to Spay or Neuter Your Pet
- The Humane Society of the United States: Why You Should Spay or Neuter Your Pet
- ASPCA Professional: Pediatric Spay/Neuter
- AVMA: Pediatric Spay/Neuter of Dogs and Cats
- ASPCA: Early Spay/Neuter
- David De Lossy/Photodisc/Getty Images
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- The Recovery of Spayed Kittens