When Should a Kitten Be Spayed?

Matthew Nesbitt
By Matthew Nesbitt, Journalist specialized in animal research. July 7, 2024
When Should a Kitten Be Spayed?

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Spaying is a process of permanent sterilization of a female cat, meaning they can no longer reproduce sexually. In addition to preventing unwanted pregnancies, it has many benefits for the individual cat's health and overall well-being. The stage at which the cat is neutered will have an impact on these benefits, meaning there is an ideal time to neuter each cat. Each cat may have some variability as to the best time to neuter them, but generally speaking it should be done before they are sexually mature. This is means the best age to spay a female cat is when they are a kitten.

At AnimalWised, we look in more detail by asking when should a kitten be spayed? We look at what the spaying process entails, how age affects its effectiveness and anything else we need to consider when spaying a female cat.

You may also be interested in: Complications After Spaying or Neutering a Dog
  1. When is the best age to spay a kitten?
  2. When do female kittens go into heat?
  3. Benefits of spaying a kitten before her first heat
  4. Can a cat be spayed after her first heat?
  5. How much does it cost to spay a cat?
  6. Can you spay a cat in heat?

When is the best age to spay a kitten?

Neutering is the permanent sterilization of a cat, meaning they can no longer reproduce sexually. This is in contrast to temporary sterilization techniques such as the use of medication. In female cats, this process of permanent sterilization is known as spaying.

While there are some variations, the most common form of spaying is an ovariohysterectomy. This involves the removal of both the eggs and the uterus. Another variation is an oophorectomy, which is the removal of the ovaries alone. Ligation is a form of sterilization which blocks the sperm's access to the eggs, but it is not considered a type of spaying since the ovaries are not removed.

One of the reasons why an ovariohysterectomy is considered the most effective form of spaying is because it stops the cat's heat cycle. This is the reproductive cycle during which a sexually intact female cat is ready to be fertilized. It can cause the cat much frustration, especially if they are unable to mate with a male. Spaying stops the hormone production which causes heat.

When is the ideal time to spay a female cat?

The best age to spay a female cat is when they are still a kitten and before they enter their first heat period. This rate of development will differ according to the individual cat, but it generally occurs at around 5 to 9 months of age.

When do female kittens go into heat?

Generally speaking, female kittens will go into their first heat cycle between the ages of 6 to 9 months. After this point, the cat will be fertile. This means that kittens can become pregnant when they are still juveniles as early as 6 months of age, something which is not good for the mother cat or her future kittens. While this is a general estimate for all female kittens, there are certain factors which influence the onset of sexual maturity:

  • Cat's weight: when the cat reaches the somatic development of the breed, i.e. the point of maturation from kitten to adult cat.
  • Breed: long-haired cats usually have a later puberty onset at around 12 months of age, while other may have a precocious puberty. This includes breeds such as the different types of Siamese cat breed.
  • Hours of daylight: photoperiodism is the process by which the amount of exposure to sunlight affects the physiological development of a cat. If a cat has more exposure to sunlight during their development, it can cause the onset of sexual maturity to arrive sooner.
  • Presence of males: if a female cat is growing up around sexually intact male cats, it can also quicken the maturation process.
  • Date of birth: females born at the beginning of the breeding season reach puberty more precociously than those born at the end. Those born in autumn-winter are more precocious than those born in spring-summer when it is warmer.
  • Stress: if the prepubertal cat lives with sexually active dominant cats, it may not present puberty to avoid fights.

Now we know that cats should be spayed before their first heat and when this heat might occur, we can learn why this is best for them. Before we do, you may want to learn more with our related article on everything you need to know about a cat in heat.

When Should a Kitten Be Spayed? - When do female kittens go into heat?

Benefits of spaying a kitten before her first heat

Although it is best to spay a female cat before they reach sexual maturity, this can happen at different stages. Generally speaking, a female kitten is spayed at one of the following stages of development:

  • Early spaying: also known as pediatric spaying, this occurs between 8 weeks and 5 months of age.
  • Standard age spaying: this usually occurs around 5 to 6 months of age, before the kitten's first heat.

Pediatric spaying is not the norm for female kittens. It will usually only be carried out due to potential health risks. A kitten should be of a certain weight and health status to best prevent any complications from the spaying procedure. However, some may present risks such as the reduced risk of uterine tumors or other health problems.

Regardless of pediatric or standard age spaying, carrying out an ovariohysterectomy before they enter their first heat provides many benefits. These benefit the individual cat's health and well-being, but also provide benefits for their guardians, as well as the overall cat population. Physical and behavioral benefits of spaying a cat before her first heat include the following:

  • Unwanted pregnancies: as we have stated, kittens can become pregnant as young as 6 months of age. If they are exposed to sexually intact males, they can be mated and result in pregnancy. The rising population of domestic cats means not all are able to receive the care they need and increases the number of stray and feral cats. Young pregnancies can also pose health risks to the mother cat and kittens.
  • Prevents heat: for the duration of a cat's heat cycle, a female cat will experience various problems. With the increase in sexual hormone production, she will have physical changes which cause her vulva to enlarge and result in discomfort. If they are not mated with a male, this period of discomfort will be prolonged in the cat.
  • Stops escapism: behavioral changes during heat occur due to the cat having an innate desire to mate with a male. Their desire is so strong, they can try to escape the home and become lost in the process. Especially if they are a house cat, they may also be ill-equipped to deal with the hazards of the outdoors.
  • Other heat behaviors: while the well-being of the cat is paramount, cats in heat can also carry out other behaviors which disturb the harmony of the home. These include meowing loudly at night, becoming overly affectionate, aggression, rubbing their privates against objects, overgrooming and urinating outside the litter box. Spaying can prevent these unwanted behaviors.
  • Reproductive diseases: one of the reasons an ovariohysterectomy is recommended is the comprehensive protection against reproductive disease. The risk of uterine tumors, infections and other diseases increase as the cat ages, but they can occur at almost any point after reaching sexual maturity. Removal of these sexual organs prevents them completely.
  • Other diseases: while not directly related to reproduction, the removal of the sex organs can help prevent other diseases influenced by the production of sex hormones. These include various cancers such as breast cancer in cats.
  • Recovery times: young cats usually recover more quickly from the spaying procedure. Adult cats may also present more health problems which can provide a risk during this procedure.

Learn more about uterine diseases which can affect a sexually mature cat with our article on why a cat is bleeding from her privates.

Can a cat be spayed after her first heat?

Not only can a cat be spayed after her first heat, it is recommended by veterinarians. This is because she will still gain many of the benefits of neutering a cat such as preventing diseases related to the reproductive system, as well as reducing the potential behavioral problems associated with the heat period.

The reason why a cat should be neutered before her first heat is because doing so afterwards can have certain disadvantages. Such disadvantages of spaying an adult cat include:

  • Prolonged risk: the longer we wait to spay a cat, the longer they are at risk of reproductive disease.
  • Greater risk: certain diseases such as mammary gland tumors can have a greater risk when an adult cat is spayed rather than a kitten before her first heat.
  • Surgical recovery: cats may have a slightly increased risk of spaying surgery complications if they are spayed later in life. Their recovery will also take longer.
  • Surgical complexity: if a cat has already experienced multiple heat periods, it can complicate the surgery. This can mean it is also more expensive to carry out on adult cats.
  • Behavioral changes: a cat spayed after her first heat may continue some of the behaviors present during her heat cycle. Although they should not be to the same degree, she may carry out certain sexual behaviors such as mounting or even escapism. Learn more with our article on why a neutered cat still humps.

Spaying an adult cat will still prevent unwanted pregnancies and prevent various physical health problems. The potential for behavioral issues should also be lessened, but doing so before a kitten reaches her first heat will optimize the benefits for the cat and her guardians.

How much does it cost to spay a cat?

The cost of spaying surgery depends on many factors. Location is one of the most significant. For example, the regulations of the country may influence the amount we need to pay for surgery. Another important factor is the age and health status of the cat. This is another reason it is better to spay a cat before her first heat. Adult cats usually have a greater risk for surgical complications and the cost of the spay may increase because of it.

Generally speaking, the cost of spaying in the United States of America is between $50 to $300. Different clinics will offer different services, such as a greater number of follow-up examinations. Some clinics can provide low-cost solutions to help encourage the neutering of pets. Some local governments may even provide spaying and neutering schemes as a way to help control domestic feline populations.

You can learn more about what to expect after a kitten is spayed with our article detailing the cay spay incision healing process.

When Should a Kitten Be Spayed? - How much does it cost to spay a cat?

Can you spay a cat in heat?

Although it is best to spay a cat before her first heat, it is best to wait for the heat period to finish if they have already started. You can spay a cat in heat, but it is generally not carried out by veterinarians unless in emergency situations. The reasons are due to potential complications:

  • Increased blood flow: when a cat is in heat, there is greater blood flow to her sexual organs resulting in vulval engorgement and even some mild vaginal bleeding. This increased blood flow can put the cat at risk of increased blood loss during the surgery.
  • Hormonal issues: if the cat is experiencing her heat cycle, they will have the aforementioned behavioral changes. This can mean the cat is not in the best emotional state to go through a procedure such as spaying. It can harm her stress levels and make the procedure more traumatic than it should be.
  • Surgical complications: in addition to increased blood flow, there are other issues such as tissue inflammation and reproductive tract changes which can make the surgical procedure more complex.
  • Recovery: spaying a cat in heat can prolong the recovery period.

For the above reasons, a veterinarian will usually wait until a kitten or an adult cat is no longer in their heat cycle if they are to carry out a spay. There may be an emergency reason such as a ruptured blood vessel, uterine infection or similar problem which means it is better to spay the cat immediately. In all cases, you will need to consult a veterinarian to determine the best age for your kitten to be spayed.

Now we know why we shouldn't spay a cat in heat, you may find more answers to your questions in our article asking is it safe to spay pregnant cats?

This article is purely informative. AnimalWised does not have the authority to prescribe any veterinary treatment or create a diagnosis. We invite you to take your pet to the veterinarian if they are suffering from any condition or pain.

If you want to read similar articles to When Should a Kitten Be Spayed?, we recommend you visit our Prevention category.

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When Should a Kitten Be Spayed?