Feline fix by five

Among male and female cats, life expectancy was longer for sterilised than intact (intact means they have not had surgery to stop reproduction) cats. Picture: SUPPLIED

What that means is to get your cat spayed or neutered — also called desexed, castration, ovariohysterectomy, ‘fixed’, sterilised — by the time they are five months old.

Given that cats reach sexual maturity at about 5 months of age, more and more people are advocating lowering the spay/neuter age to four to five months (early spay/neuter) and support early spay/neuter in animal shelters.

SPCA only rehomes/adopts out animals that are neutered.

We strongly recommend people have their animals neutered for the same reasons — to stop the intense cat overpopulation.

Some argue that it is not good for the health of their cat.

If you keep your cat strictly indoors, never does it go out (male or female) then by all means do not have the surgery to stop reproduction.

If this is impossible as would be found with the vast majority of cats, then get your cat neutered. In January 2016, a Veterinary Task Force on Feline Sterilization met to review the literature.

They found no evidence of increased risk for complications or long-term adverse health effects after neuter surgery of pediatric and juvenile cats.

The resultant Consensus Statement describes the benefits of spaying/neutering cats younger than five months of age:

• Decreases the risk for mammary carcinoma (equal to breast cancer),

• Eliminates reproductive emergencies such as pyometra (infected uterus) and dystocia (difficulty giving birth),

• Prevents unintended pregnancies (which may occur as early as four months of age) and

• Potentially decreases behavioural problems linked with cat relinquishment (cats dumped on the street or at the shelter).

Evolving from the task force report was the Feline Fix by Five Months campaign, a national campaign to educate veterinarians and the public on the importance of spaying/neutering cats before they reach five months of age (felinefixbyfive.org).

Subsequently, the Task Force Consensus Statement was endorsed by other organisations, including the American Veterinary Medical Association, the American Animal Hospital Association, the American Association of Feline Practitioners, the Association of Shelter Veterinarians, the WINN Feline Foundation, the Catalyst Council, The International Cat Association, The Cat Fanciers Association, and several state veterinary associations.

This article included very important reasons to neuter your cat which included decrease overpopulation, minimise health risks, and increase longevity. Among male and female cats, life expectancy was longer for sterilised than intact (intact means they have not had surgery to stop reproduction) cats.

A further study of three groups of animals: sterilised at younger than 12 weeks, at 12 to 23 weeks, and at 24 weeks or older measured complications during anesthesia, surgery, and the immediate postoperative period (up to seven days).

It classified complications as being major (requiring treatment or resulting in increased morbidity or mortality) or minor (requiring no treatment).

For incidence of major complications, they found no differences among the three groups.

However, for incidence of minor complications, they found a significant difference; rates were highest among animals in the oldest group and lowest among those in the youngest group.

Conclusions of this study were as follows:

• The optimal age to spay/neuter a cat is before it reaches five months of age.

• For owned cats, the optimal age would be four to five months; for cats in shelters, the optimal age could be as early as eight weeks.

• Current scientific evidence shows no medical or behavioural reasons to delay spaying/neutering of cats past five months of age, and there are population and health benefits to spaying/ neutering cats before they reach five months.

• Sterilisation surgeries are easier, faster, and safer when performed on cats younger than five months, and implementation of this practice is simple.

• Generously drawn from “Is There an Optimal Age for Cat Spay or Neuter?” Todays Veterinary Practice. December 23, 2020

• JO OLVER is a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) with SPCA, Fiji Islands. The views expressed are those of the author and do not reflect the views of this newspaper.

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