Is It Smart to Spay a House Cat?

Spaying helps prevent accidental litters and controls overpopulation.
Spaying helps prevent accidental litters and controls overpopulation. (Image: Martin Poole/Digital Vision/Getty Images)

You might have concerns about spaying your cat and wonder if it's smart to have her go under the knife, especially if she's young. But spaying provides enough medical and behavioral benefits that most veterinarians routinely recommend it for both cats and dogs (except, of course, for breeders), according to the ASPCA. Spaying is a veterinary procedure for female animals that involves removing the ovaries and uterus so the pets are unable to breed. In essentially all cases, spaying is a smart decision.

Health Benefits

Spaying provides cats with health protection that lasts a lifetime. Breast cancer is the most prevalent form of cancer in female cats, and spaying significantly reduce cats' risk of developing the disease, according to VCA Animal Hospitals. If you have your kitty spayed, her risk of developing ovarian and uterine cancer are virtually eliminated. She'll also be protected from dangerous uterine infections such as pyometra, which is expensive to treat and fatal in approximately 90 percent of felines. For the best protection against these diseases, spay your cat before her first heat and litter.

Eliminates Heat

Preventing Fluffy from going into heat and the unpleasant behavior that accompanies estrus is a prime benefit of spaying. A cat in heat produces long, loud yowls and cries continuously, as if in distress -- often while lifting her behind and contorting her body into the mating position. The incessant howls are to let any male cats in the vicinity know she's looking to mate. Spraying urine is another consequence of a cat in heat. She'll lift her tail and spray urine on vertical objects throughout a home, such as doors, walls and furniture. Urine produced while in heat has a unpleasant scent and contains high levels of estrogen to attract male cats.

Controls Overpopulation

Each year in the United States, approximately 8 million unwanted companion animals are taken in by shelters, according to the American Humane Society. Almost half of those cats and dogs who weren't able to find homes are euthanized -- almost 3.7 million animals. Euthanasia is the main cause of death for cats and dogs in the United States. Other unwanted animals end up as strays and die on the streets after going without food or medical attention. Stray animals have a higher risk of contracting disease such as rabies, which can be transferred to other animals and humans. Spaying helps control the proliferation of liters and reduces overpopulation, which in turn lowers the numbers of animals who are euthanized and end up as strays.

When to Spay

Your cat can be safely spayed at 8 weeks of age, even though she hasn't reached sexual maturity, according to American Humane Society. Felines often go into heat at a young age and can produce their first litter at 6 months. The ASPCA and the American Veterinary Medical Association encourage pediatric spaying to prevent accidental litters from an early age.

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