Unless you’re buying a purebred for breeding purposes, having your kitten neutered (for males) or spayed (for females) is highly recommended. The responsible way to prevent unwanted litters, these methods of birth control can also improve your kitten’s disposition and prevent many undesirable behaviours, such as urinating (or “spraying”) around the house. Widely practiced, many shelters and humane societies actually require that all cats be spayed or neutered before being offered up for adoption. This way, they can prevent more unwanted kittens from coming into the world.
Spaying is the surgical removal of a female cat’s uterus and ovaries, carried out to end her heat cycles as well as her ability to become pregnant. Most veterinarians feel that five or six months old is the ideal age at which a cat should be spayed, before she’s experienced her first heat. When a cat is in heat, she often becomes restless, nervous and tense. She might anxiously roll around on the floor or become more demanding; her voice may also become more piercing.
Once your kitten’s been spayed, her disposition should only change for the better. She’ll probably act more relaxed, playful and affectionate, and just become less nervous and noisy in general. Spaying a female cat also reduces the risk of uterine infections, tumours of the reproductive system, false pregnancies, and conditions related to hormonal imbalances.
Neutering is the surgical removal of a male cat’s testicles through two small incisions in the scrotum. If not neutered, your male kitten may exhibit an uncontrollable urge to roam by the time he turns one. As he grows older, he may also develop the habit of uinating on walls and furniture in an attempt to claim his territory. Once sprayed, furniture is almost impossible to deodorize.
Ideally, a male kitten should be neutered before he reaches ten months of age, which is when felines typically acquire the “spraying” habit. However, neutering an older cat is still worthwhile, as it usually weakens, if not outright eliminates, unpleasant tomcat traits. Be aware, though, that neutering does carry with it an increased risk of obesity. Caused by hormonal changes and a more sedentary lifestyle, this risk can be countered by monitoring your cat’s diet and encouraging regular exercise.