New recommendations for feline spay/neuter surgery

Vet-stethoscope-kitten_300pxThe AVMA Board of Directors has endorsed a document recommending that cats not intended for breeding be gonadectomized prior to five months of age.

The Veterinary Task Force on Feline Sterilization Recommendations for Age of Spay and Neuter Surgery is a consensus document put forth by the Veterinary Task Force on Feline Sterilization for Age of Spay and Neuter Surgery. In addition to the AVMA, it also has been endorsed by the American Association of Feline Practitioners, Association of Shelter Veterinarians, American Animal Hospital Association, Winn Foundation, Catalyst Council, Cat Fancier’s Association, and The International Cat Association.

This document represents a clear and evidence-based position that promotes individual animal health and welfare, contributes to effective population control, and can be communicated clearly to clients. It supports veterinarians in using their best professional judgment based on current scientific literature in deciding at what age gonadectomy should be performed on individual animals. While more specific, it is consistent with the AVMA policy on Pediatric Spay/Neuter of Dogs and Cats, and its endorsement was recommended by the AVMA’s Animal Welfare Committee.

The consensus document “provides useful guidance to companion animal practitioners as they advocate for the health and welfare of their feline patients,” said AVMA President Dr. Tom Meyer in his letter endorsing the recommendation.

The task force recommendation joins a growing library of gonadectomy resources available to AVMA members at These include CE webinars, a new literature review of the welfare implications of gonadectomy of dogs, and client education materials including a brochure you can use in your clinic.

11 thoughts on “New recommendations for feline spay/neuter surgery

  1. There is definitely an over-population problem, not just with cats and dogs but in the human population as well. Yet we dont routinely spay & neuter people to prevent unwanted pregnancy. If a man opts for a procedure that prevents unwanted pregnancy, he is still left with the source of his hormones intact. Sadly, women are rarely a given this option unless there is a severe medical issue and then she must supplement the hormones she is no longer able to produce on her own I do not believe (and any rational clear thinking person might agree) that removing the source of important bodily hormones is not detrimental to health, especially at a very young age. It seems that the research is finally beginning to reflect this truth. A major part of the unwanted pet (and child) problem is that we have become a throw-away society where if the garbage is out of sight, it is out of mind and if its not directly in our face, there must be no problem. We need to somehow change our culture to value all of our resources again and embrace the idea that ALL LIFE IS SACRED. This post will probably garner tons of hate mail and that’s ok. At least I will have gotten your attention. Please remember that we all have unique viewpoints and we must work together to solve any issue in today’s society and there are many possible successful contributing ideas.

  2. Is there proof that the cats you have treated developed problems as a result of being neutered too early? Evidence to the contrary has been around for many years. I live in the UK and my vets have been early neutering my kittens at 13 weeks, for over 10 years. I keep in touch with most of my kitten parents and not one has reported any problems with urinary difficulties.

    Its high time vets woke up and smelled the coffee. They are contributing to the stray and feral and unwanted cat problem on a massive scale by refusing to ESN.

    As for leaving the door open for future problems by ESN, what about the future problems for all of their unwanted progeny, and what about the future problems caused by roaming males, spreading disease, and to those poor females who have litter after litter after litter because their owners havent got a bloody clue?

    ESN is the kindest thing you can do for your kitten.

    Get with it vets. And stop living in the last century and stop believing old wives tales!

    • with you 100% Chrissy Russell, I have also practised ens for over ten years without any issue. My pet kittens go to their new homes in the safe knowledge that whatever their future life holds, they will never end up in a kitten farm or in the hands of a back street breeder or become victim to “accidental matings” . Based on papers by Dr. Susan Little DVM, diplomate ABVP (Feline Practice) My kittens have all been esn at age twelve weeks provided their body weight is in excess of 1kg and they are in good health. Surgical and anesthetic protocols allow for the kittens to have a light breakfast on the day of surgery, this helps with a faster and better recovery and helps to eleviate the stress of a kitten crying because it is hungry. In my experience kittens return home, happy like nothing has happened. i can honestly say i have never experienced any negative issues from esn. ref:

    • Hi I live in the U.K. Also and my vet is refusing to spay my tom cat until he is 6 months!! I thought they could start going with females at that age! We don’t have another vet practice so am going to have to wait but I’m not best pleased!

      • MANY years ago we made appointments for the EARLIEST POSSIBLE date for neutering our two cats (in 1972 that was 6 months). We NEVER were able to get the urine stench out of possessions the more “mature” kitten sprayed (starting at four months). Luckily, vets have come a long way since then and we’ve never had to wait until the cats were sexually mature before spay/neuter. Local shelters and rescue organizations now will do them at eight weeks (two pounds).

        Find a more enlightened vet!!

  3. I am very glad that a broad reaching, evidence based approach was taken to this very important issue. I am glad that consensus has been reached and I hope that this studied approach can dispel many of the long held, but baseless theories.

  4. Wow, we really learn something new everyday. Urinary tract problems in males that are neutered too young.. makes me wonder about all of the cats I’ve helped treat for this problem.. Awesome information

    • But at point 3 it states : Current evidence does not support an increased risk for cats of complications or long-term adverse health effects with pediatric (6-14 weeks) or juvenile (>16 weeks)6-7 sterilization.

  5. I completely agree! Spay/Neuter too early only leaves the door open for future problems especially for the male cat. Growth of the Urinary Tract in these cats is important to future life. As a Breeder my adopted cats come with a 3 year guarantee and only after spay/neuter to they get papers for Registration. I do follow up with the individual vets.

  6. I believe that 5-6 months of age is the correct time for spaying and neutering most dogs and cats. I believe and have seen first hand the damage the profession has done to family pets spayed and neutered earlier then this age. The 8 week old neutered male cat can expect to be a financial burden on their owners. Some of these cats have such immature urethra that even the smallest urinary cathadar cannot be passed and major expensive surgery is necessary. Large breed dogs contend with obesity and joint problems when early spayed and neutered. Wait two years. One time period wait for all sterilization does not fit all the breeds of dogs. I believe we as veterinarians bend to the financial competition of not conducting early spay and neutering. This is sad!

  7. All I can say is THANK YOU.
    It is EXTREMELY frustrating to have people come to use for s/n or TNR and tell us their family veterinarian refuses to spay/neuter their cat until it is a year old “because it stunts their growth,” “causes behavior problems,” “gives them kidney problems,” and a myriad of other myths. Many of these veterinarians have confirmed this to me and many are far more recent graduates than I am, and should be more up to date than I am, but it seems to be a personal preference.
    Additionally, these same clients insist no one has talked to them about the health risks to intact females or the unpleasant behaviors of intact males marking territory, although all seem to comprehend the overpopulation issue.
    THANK YOU for making this sane and compassionate recommendation.