Should I neuter my kitten?

Find out more why vets recommend all kittens are spayed or castrated, and what age you should book your kitten in for this important yet simple operation.

Kitten neutering is part of being a responsible cat owner. By preventing your cat reproducing, you won’t be adding to the growing crisis of animals needing to be rehomed. You’ll also reduce the risk of your pet causing a neighbourhood nuisance by fighting, spraying and yowling. There’s also less chance of them straying too far from home and getting lost or injured.

Neutering is surgery that permanently prevents an animal from reproducing. Female cats are spayed – an operation to remove the ovaries and/or the uterus. Male cats are castrated – a quick and easy procedure to remove both testicles.

For a female kitten, spaying:

  • Eliminates the possibility of pregnancy and the health risks associated with it
  • Greatly reduces or eliminates the chances of her getting mammary, uterine and ovarian cancers, and womb infections throughout her life
  • Reduces the number of unwanted litters needing rehoming
  • Stops her coming into heat, noisily calling and attracting caterwauling, brawling toms to your home every few weeks

For a male kitten, castration:

  • Helps keep him safe, as he’ll be less likely to roam, get hit by a car or have bite and scratch wounds from fighting with rival toms
  • Reduces aggressive behaviour
  • Makes him less likely to spray urine (a smelly way of marking his territory) around your home
  • Reduces his chances of catching life-threatening conditions including FIV and FeLV from mating or fighting with other cats
  • Eliminates risk of testicular cancer
  • Reduces the number of unwanted litters needing rehoming

Neutering surgery is quick, taking just five to ten minutes for male cats and around half an hour for females. Usually, you drop your kitten off at the vets in the morning and take them home later the same day.

Both spaying and castration are carried out under general anaesthesia, so your kitten won’t be allowed to eat or go outside for a few hours beforehand. There’s an element of risk in all anaesthetics and operations, but modern techniques are very safe and your kitten’s heart rate and breathing will be carefully monitored by a veterinary nurse throughout.

The incisions made during a castration are so small that a male kitten won’t need stitches. Female kittens usually have a shaved patch of fur on their left side, with a small incision repaired with stitches or surgical glue which dissolves within a couple of weeks. If you have a cream-coloured kitten – a Siamese or Birman for instance – the shaved patch and wound may be on their tummy so it’s not noticeable if their fur grows back a slightly different colour.

The anaesthetic will probably make your kitten drowsy for the rest of the day, but they should bounce back the next morning. They may feel a little uncomfortable for a few days, but your vet will give painkillers to help ease this.

Some kittens ignore their surgical wound, but others try to scratch, chew or lick the scar or stitches, putting them at risk of infection or re-opening the incision. If your kitten won’t leave their wound alone, they should wear a buster collar, bodysuit or lick-proof dressing until the skin has healed.

After neutering, keep your kitten indoors until their wound is healed and you’ve had the all-clear from your vet – usually a few days for male kittens and up to a fortnight for females. If you notice any blood, pus, redness or swelling around the surgery site, contact your vet straightaway.

The best age to neuter a kitten is around four to five months old, after their first full course of vacinations. There’s no upper limit. You can have an adult cat neutered at any age, although they might take slightly longer to recover than a kitten. Ignore anyone who tells you a female kitten should have one litter before being spayed. There are no benefits to this.

The price varies depending on where you live and the sex of your cat. Typically, you’ll pay around £40 to £100 to neuter a male kitten and £50 to £150 for a female. If you adopt a kitten from a rescue centre, neutering will likely be included in the adoption fee. Be aware that pet insurance does not cover the costs of neutering your kitten and this is something you will need to budget for.

Kitten neutering costs are small compared to the likely lifelong increase in vet bills if your cat repeatedly gets pregnant or fights with rival tomcats. If you’re struggling with the expense, several pet charities have schemes to help people on low incomes neuter cats affordably.

Neutered cats generally need a little less food than non-neutered ones, so adjust quantities accordingly. Neutering won’t change a cat’s personality, but they’re less likely to trouble you with antisocial or risky behaviour. Your neutered kitten will still do all the things they enjoyed before – playing, climbing and generally making mischief!

Spaying or castrating your kitten is usually a straightforward procedure, and your kitten will be bouncing around the house once more before you know it!

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