If you just brought a fluffy female kitten home and are worried about spraying, your concerns are definitely understandable. Though spraying is often thought of as a tomcat habit, it is also very common in females. Thankfully, spaying usually takes care of the messy and pungent issue -- phew.
Female kittens do not begin spraying until they have become fully sexually mature, which occurs with the first heat cycle at roughly 6 months old. However, your cat can reach reproductive maturity as early as 4 months and as late as 1 year. Along with spraying, a female cat may exhibit other common signs of estrus, including affectionate behavior, uncharacteristic irritability and frequent vocalization. All of these signs point to one thing -- that your kitten is ready and able to mate and breed.
In many cases, early fixing prevents pesky spraying behaviors from ever starting. If your cat gets fixed at a young age before ever going into heat, her chances of ever spraying become less and less. Before determining when to spay your kitten, consult her veterinarian. Many hospitals start spaying cats as young as 6 weeks old. However, as all felines are different, the optimal time for one kitten may be totally different for another. Individual weight and health factors also come into play.
If your kitten has already started spraying, getting her spayed will probably not solve the problem overnight. It likely will take your little one a few weeks or a couple of months to fully stop the habit. After all, the sexual hormones need a little bit of time to taper off, understandably. Be patient in the meanwhile. In some cases, cats may continue spraying even after neutering, although this is very rare. If your kitten continues spraying even after spaying, speak to your veterinarian. The behavior may not be sexually motivated, and could actually be related to stress, anxiety or even a urinary tract infection.
In most cases, spaying a cat totally eliminates -- or at least greatly minimizes -- frustrating and yucky spraying behavior. However, that isn't the only benefit. The ASPCA also indicates that spaying young kittens helps reduce the risk of some potentially very dangerous medical conditions, including breast cancer. Not to mention, spaying your kitten prevents her from ever having to undergo the physical discomfort of being pregnant -- a great plus. Also remember that spaying helps keep feline overpopulation in check, a good thing with the epidemic of countless hungry and stray cats roaming the streets.
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