Neutering your cat can help prevent and fix some common behavioral problems of male cats and offers health benefits as well. In the past, veterinarians advised that the best age to neuter a cat was six months. However, research into what is a good age to neuter a cat has changed this recommendation, and many vets recommend early neutering when your cat is four to five months old. Consult your veterinarian to determine what is best for your cat.
Benefits of neutering
Castration, or neutering, eliminates the risk of testicular diseases and cancer. In addition, a recent Banfield State of Pet Health Report showed that neutered cats may have a 62 percent increased life expectancy compared to intact males. This is likely due not only to the health benefits of neutering but also to decreasing behaviors such as roaming that put male cats at greater risk.
Intact male cats typically spray to mark their territory, which can cause serious odors and damage inside your home. They also roam in search of a mate and are more likely to fight with other cats. Fighting can not only result in serious injuries, but it also exposes your cat to diseases such as feline leukemia and feline immunodeficiency virus.
There is a concern that neutering can decrease metabolism and cause your cat to be calmer and less active. While this is true, the changes are not significant enough to cause obesity and can be easily counteracted by monitoring your cat's weight and adjusting his diet accordingly. Be sure to play with your cat so he gets plenty of exercise, too.
Age to neuter a cat
The recommended age for neutering cats is before they reach sexual maturity at around five months of age. This ensures they are neutered before unwanted behaviors start to develop and ensures that your male kitten doesn't contribute to any unplanned litters. The procedure is usually easier on younger cats as there is less bleeding and pain medications are often more effective.
While many vet clinics will advise that the best age to have a male cat neutered is at four to five months, kittens can be safely neutered as young as eight weeks as long as they weigh at least two pounds. Typically, neutering this young is only done in shelters. Anesthesia is safe for these kittens, but the younger the kitten is, the more vigilant the surgical staff will need to be to monitor the kitten and ensure his body temperature doesn't drop.
Neutering older cats
There is no upper age limit for neutering adult cats as long as they are healthy enough to go under anesthesia. Clinics may require additional blood work prior to surgery to check kidney function and overall health for older cats.
It is important to note that while neutering an older cat can help improve negative behaviors, as there will be less testosterone in his system, it may not eliminate them completely depending on how habitual the behaviors are. If your cat has sprayed in the house, clean it thoroughly with an enzymatic cleaner to completely eliminate the odor. Otherwise, your cat may return to the area even after he is neutered.
What to expect
Follow your veterinarian's instructions to prepare for the surgery. In general, cats can have water but should not be given food. Neutering is done under general anesthesia. While it is a very safe procedure, in rare cases, some cats may have a reaction to the anesthesia.
The vet will make a small incision in the scrotum and remove the cat's testicles. Stitches aren't usually necessary, but you should still make sure your cat doesn't lick or chew the site while it heals. If your cat does get an infection, it is usually easily treatable with antibiotics.