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When To Neuter a Cat: Is There a Best Time & Why?

By Bridget Reed


When pet owners take a new pet home, there are a million things to consider. You must remove all the toxic plants from the house and find nutritious, tasty food for your new feline. Once they settle in and you establish a routine with your kitten, you may want to think about getting them neutered or spayed. 

Both castration surgeries (neutering and spaying) are commonplace and incredibly safe. There are important health benefits of each that you should know about as a pet parent. Unfortunately, there are several popular misconceptions surrounding neuter/spay surgeries. 

This article will discuss everything you need to know about if, when, and why you should have your four-legged friend spayed or neutered. 

What Are Neutering and Spaying?

Both neutering and spaying refer to sterilization surgeries for animals where their reproductive organs are removed. Male animals are neutered, which involves removing the testicles. Neutering is simpler than spaying and involves two small incisions in a cat’s scrotum. In some cases, stitches are not necessary for neutering. 

The uterus and ovaries are removed from female pets during the spaying surgery. Spaying tends to be a more complex surgery involving a small incision in the middle or side of the abdomen. 

Also, the word neuter is commonly used for males, and spaying is used for females, neutering is technically a unisex term. The aim of both of these surgeries is to prevent animals from reproducing.

Why Should I Neuter or Spay My Cat?

Before we dive into the best age at which to neuter your cat, let’s closely examine some of the benefits of this surgery. 

Why Should I Spay My Female Cat?

For female felines, spaying before their first heat cycle can almost eliminate the risk of them developing breast cancer. This is an important consideration because breast cancer is incredibly aggressive in cats. 

Heat cycles can also last months and are usually accompanied by yowling, crying, and erratic behavior. However, if your female cat is spayed, they will not experience the volatility from heat cycles. 

You may also want to consider spaying your female cat because it will eliminate the possibility of ovarian or uterine cancer. Cats are also prone to uterine infections such as pyometra which can be fatal. Additionally, pregnancy and birth can create several health issues for your cat, which can be negated by spaying. 

Why Should I Neuter My Male Cat?

If you have a male four-legged friend, you may want to consider having them neutered to curb undesirable behaviors. Unneutered male cats tend to mark inside their homes, fight with other male cats, and roam the neighborhood (if allowed outside) looking for other mates. 

You will also eliminate your male feline’s chance of developing testicular cancer and prostate-related health issues later in life. 

Are There Any Other Reasons To Have My Cat Neutered or Spayed?

Both female and male cats can develop feline AIDS and leukemia, which are spread through bites. Usually, cats are compelled to fight based on sexual competition and desire. It may reduce their urge to mate and fight if your cat is neutered or spayed. 

Also, feline overpopulation is an important issue right now that you can help combat by neutering your furry friend. It is thought that anywhere from 60 to 100 million stray and feral cats live in the United States. 

These cats are vulnerable and normally do not find their way to a forever home. The easiest way to combat pet overpopulation is to have your cat spayed or neutered. 

When Should I Neuter or Spay My Cat?

Now that you know what neutering is and why it is beneficial for your cat, it is important to understand when it is best to have your cat neutered. Although most veterinarians agree that having your cat spayed or neutered is important, there is some debate regarding when they should undergo surgery. 

You have three time period options for neutering your cat that include:

  1. Pediatric or Early Spay/Neuter: Between six to eight weeks of age
  2. Standard Spay/Neuter: Five to six months old 
  3. Adult Spay/Neuter: Eight months old and on

Historically, it was common practice to have cats neutered early. Nowadays, veterinarians generally recommend having your cat spayed or neutered later when they are five or six months old. 

For female cats, it is best to have them spayed before their first heat cycle to reduce the probability that they get pregnant. The myth that it is healthier for female cats to have a litter of kittens before being spayed is false and contributes to the issue of overpopulation. 

For male cats, if you have them spayed before they reach ten months old, they are less likely to begin spraying and urinating inside. If your male cat does begin to spay, it can be a hard habit to break even once they are neutered. 

If you adopt an older cat that has not been neutered or spayed, you can safely have them undergo surgery at any point. 

Does Neutering or Spaying Hurt My Cat?

There are several reasons pet parents may be apprehensive about neutering or spaying their cats. Although spaying and neutering do involve surgery, your cat will be under anesthesia the whole time and will not feel anything during the surgery. 

Additionally, most vets will administer pain relief medication immediately after the surgery, reducing your furry friend’s discomfort. In managing your cat’s pain after the surgery, your vet will likely also prescribe your feline anti-inflammatories and painkillers. 

Both of these will help reduce any potential pain after surgery. Generally speaking, male cats only need painkillers for a day after being neutered. Your female cat may need medication for up to three days, depending on how they react to the surgery.

Although your four-legged friend may feel discomfort after the surgery, remember they are resilient. Usually, cats bounce back quickly after being neutered and return to their old selves in no time. 

What Should I Look Out for After I Neuter or Spay My Cat?

Your cat will likely be drowsy after their neuter/spay surgery, but the effects of the anesthesia should wear off quickly. Generally speaking, cats bounce back after being neutered within a few days of the surgery. However, there are a few things you should look out for after having your cat neutered or spayed. 

Bladder Infections

Some cats develop bladder infections after the neuter/spay surgery. Your cat may have a bladder infection if they seem to urinate more frequently or go to squat but cannot urinate. Another sign of bladder infection in felines is passing blood. If any of the following occur, call your vet immediately to have your feline treated properly. 

Weight Gain

To be clear, neutering and spaying do not cause weight gain in cats. However, because both surgeries can reduce your cat's instinctual desire to roam and find a mate, you may notice that they gain some weight afterward. 

If your cat does gain weight after being neutered, try to increase the amount of exercise they get every day by playing with them, or if your cat enjoys the harness, take them for walks. Sometimes, your vet may even suggest a food specially engineered to help your cat lose weight. 

How Much Does It Cost To Have My Cat Neutered Or Spayed?

Having your cat neutered or spayed can cost anywhere from under $100 to $400, depending on where you go to have the surgery done. Usually, it is more expensive at private veterinarians because they will draw your cat’s blood before the surgery to determine if they will respond well to the anesthesia. Private vets may also schedule a follow-up visit and prescribe medications for your furry friend after the surgery. 

Another factor that may influence how costly the surgery is for your cat is if she is pregnant or in heat. If your female is in heat or carrying kittens, having her spayed is a lot more complicated and will cost more. 

What Should I Do If I Can’t Afford To Neuter or Spay?

If you want your cat neutered or spayed but want a more affordable option, you can look for a low-cost or donation-based veterinary clinic. Usually, these clinics are run by non-profit organizations, and the surgery will cost less than $100. 

What Should I Do To Prepare My Cat To Get Neutered or Spayed?

First, you’ll need to make an appointment at your local vet. Usually, veterinarians will schedule a pre-op appointment for your furry friend to discuss the surgical procedure and the benefits of spaying or the benefits of neutering.

You should abstain from feeding your cat the night before the procedure but leave their water bowl out. On the morning of the operation, ensure your cat has no water. Usually, vets recommend that your cat should not eat or drink for up to 12 hours before the surgery. This helps minimize the risk of them vomiting during the procedure. 

Generally, your cat will not need to stay overnight after the spay/neuter surgery. The spay or neuter procedure normally takes thirty minutes to an hour before your four-legged friend will be ready to go home to rest and recover. 

What Should I Do for My Cat After the Neuter/Spay Surgery? 

When you bring your cat home after they get neutered or spayed, you can do a few things to make their recovery more comfortable. First, ensure a quiet, safe space for them to rest. If you have other pets, keep them away from your cat for a few days. 

Also, your feline may want to lick the incision site to help it heal. This may cause infection, so try to stop them from licking and check the incision site daily to ensure it is healing properly. 

Although your cat will likely be feeling better a few days after the surgery, try to prevent them from running or jumping as much as possible in the days following the surgery to ensure that the wound can heal properly. If you frequently bathe your cat, wait at least two weeks after the surgery to give them their next bath.

What Will Happen If I Don’t Have My Cat Neutered or Spayed?

Some pet parents decide not to have their cats neutered or spayed. If you are considering this option, there are a few things to keep in mind. First, unneutered cats tend to be more aggressive and curious. When the desire to mate strikes, you may find that your cat, especially your male cat, is anxious to escape the house and roam. 

If you have a female cat you are thinking of not spaying, remember that cats reproduce frequently. Female cats go into heat roughly once every three months. When your feline is in heat, she will be louder and more attention-seeking than normal. 

She can have up to three litters yearly, with anywhere from two to six kittens per litter. Unless you want to take on the responsibility of multiple litters of kittens, you may want to consider having your female cat spayed because caring for kittens can be costly and time-consuming. 

Finally, unspayed female cats are more likely to develop mammary (breast) cancer by age six or seven. If your female fur ball is not spayed, check her regularly for suspicious lumps and bumps. If you feel anything abnormal, call your vet immediately. 


If you are a feline pet parent, having your cat neutered or spayed between five and six months of age may be beneficial. Neutering cats is an easy way to protect them from different types of cancer and decrease the likelihood of behavioral problems. 

On a larger scale, having your pet neutered helps combat feline overpopulation. The neuter/spay surgery is an easy surgery that can be done in a day and will help your pet lead a happy, healthy life. 


Spaying and Neutering | Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine

Public opinions on seven different stray cat population management scenarios in Flanders, Belgium | NIH

Current perspectives on the optimal age to spay/castrate dogs and cats | NIH 

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