Desexing cats before four months old is on the increase

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early-age desexing cats
Photo: Anna Yakimova – 123rf

A new Australian study has found that early-age desexing is on the increase in Australia—and could lessen the impact of unwanted litters.

This comes as Australians are being urged to get their cat desexed before the age of four months, instead of the standard six months, to close the ‘pregnancy gap’ between puberty and surgery. 

A team of researchers at the University of Sydney’s School of Veterinary Science studied anonymous medical records of over 52,000 cats brought into vet clinics, including pet cats, breeding cats, cats owned by shelters and semi-owned cats. Stray cats, without a human carer, were not included. 

The researchers found more than 83 per cent of cats presented to veterinarians in Australia were desexed, which is among the highest reported internationally. 

However, the study—which is published in Scientific Reportsalso found that desexing at four months or younger, was carried out in only 21.5 per cent of female cats, while only 59.8 per cent of female cats had been desexed by six months of age, the traditional and the most common recommendation by vets in Australia.

“This creates a potential pregnancy gap between the time the female cat reaches puberty and the age at surgery,” co-author Professor Julia Beatty said. 

“It’s a gap that could be closed if desexing before four months of age were routine in vet practices, not just in shelters.”

Early-age desexing is important to prevent unwanted kittens heading into overburdened and under-resourced shelters or into the stray cat population which is detrimental to their wellbeing and puts additional stress on wildlife already impacted by other predators, habitat loss and global warming.

“We really hope this research encourages the pet owning public to have their cats desexed before they reach four months of age,” Professor Beatty said. 

“This would be a win-win for cat welfare and wildlife welfare by helping to reduce the number of unwanted kittens.”

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