why and when to spay your cat or kitten

Cat Heats, Spaying

Kittens can begin to mature sexually as early as 4 to 6 months of age. Therefore, it is important to understand heat symptoms and why and when to spay or neuter your cat.

Why & When to Spay Your Cat or Kitten

Dear Simba,
My parents have giving me the job of researching kittens
(especially spaying / neutering) so that I can adopt one!

  • When do they do the operation?
  • Why do they have to spay her?
  • Is it necessary to spay a cat if she is going to be indoors?

I really want to adopt a kitten Please Help! - Hopeful

Dear Hopeful - I hope all goes well in your research and your parents say yes!

As to your questions, it is important that any pet cat you get is spayed or neutered even if they are going to remain inside the home. The reason is your own family's comfort and sanity as well as your cat's health. During the heat cycles you can expect the following starting as early as 4 to 6 months of age:

  • Loud and very vocal cat...will meow and cry so you to let her out to mate with tomcats
  • Spraying of a strong (pungent) fluid on surfaces to attract a partner
  • A cat constantly assuming a mating position with its head facing down and butt raised in the air
  • A cat that will run away at the first chance so that she can mate...Even if the plan is to keep her indoors, a cat in heat is very resourceful and will find a way to get away..The outdoors present all sorts of dangers and injury risks to cats
  • Groups of un-neutered male cats converging around your house drawn by her scent or her calling...tomcats are always on the prowl for mating opportunities...it only takes a few seconds of an encounter for your girl kitten to get pregnant
The heat cycle can last anywhere from 3 to 7 days. When over the cycle can resume in 2 to 3 weeks!

Female cats are typically spayed 4 to 6-months-old. However, more and more vets are doing early spaying since the American Veterinary Medicine Association (AVMA) endorsed early age spaying and neutering in cats and dogs as young as 8 to 16 weeks of age.

You and your vet can together discuss the optimal time for your cat. Good luck with the research! Simba

I have two adorable 12-week-old, female kittens, Ripley and Angel. As they are house cats I am not too worried about them getting pregnant...However, my partner and I do not want them to go into heat before we get them spayed since it could be traumatic for all of us!

How old will they be before they go into heat? Adam

Dear Adam,
Depending on breed female kittens can become sexually mature as early as 4 months of age, just 12 weeks! The operation is normally done when the little gal is anywhere from 4 to 6-months-old. The American Veterinary Medicine Association (AVMA) has endorsed early age spaying / neutering in cats and dogs as young as 8 to 16 weeks of age (1993, AVMA House of Delegates). You and your vet can together discuss the optimal time for Ripley and Angel. Simba

Dear Simba,
I have a purebred cat and was wondering when she should get pregnant for the first time. I would like to give one of her kittens to my mother. Marcus

Dear Marcus,
It is usually best to wait until your cat is physically mature before you breed her. While she may experience her first heat as soon as 5+ months of age, she will not be in best shape to give birth safely until 12 to 14 months. That said, there are many kittens in need of good homes! Consider adopting a kitten for your mom, there are so many little bundles of joy out there just waiting for a home. Simba

Cost of Spaying Your Cat or Kitten

Hi Simba,
We just got a new kitten(!) and I want to get her spayed before she starts with her heat cycles...how much is it going to cost? We do not have much money...Thanks, Chelsey

Dear Chelsey
Congratulations on your new kitten! How very exciting! As to spaying, it is wonderful you've decided to go through with it.

Because spaying is more complicated than neutering costs typically range from $100 to $200 (versus less than $100 for neutering).
  • Kitten Diarrhea
  • Cat Insurance
  • Renal Failure
  • If your resources are low there are some low-cost spay services available where either a vet, shelter or local group will subsidize the cost. You might need to prove hardship though in order to qualify. Also, the $100 to $200 does not always include fees for blood work. Those can can add another $50 to $100 to the cost depending on where you are located....some shelters and humane societies include spaying cost in the adoption fee! Here are some links (Love That Cat, SpayUsa.org.) Good luck and congratulations!! Simba

    Duration of Cat's Heat Cycle

    Hello Simba, I have a 5-month-old Kitten named Mouse. She is a talker by habit...but now she is in heat. My husband and I are having a hard time getting any sleep because she wakes up all hours of the night and is very loud! We could not get her an appointment to get fixed until next week. I am wondering about how long cats will stay 'in heat' Do we have any hope of sleeping before we get her fixed? Your help would be appreciated. Inga

    Dear Inga,
    The heat cycle can last anywhere from 3 to 7 days. If the cat is not bred or spayed, the heat cycle may return in 2 to 3 weeks! Until she is impregnated (these cycles will return soon after she gives birth). The bad news is that there is not much of anything you can do right now other than keeping safe and maybe wearing ear plugs. Just be sure that you do not let her outside, since she could get pregnant very quickly! Simba

    Signs your Cat is in a Heat Cycle

    Hi Simba!
    I have recently gotten a 2nd cat, Shelby, who is now 7-months-old. I got her fixed last month, but she still seems to be acting like she is in heat. She cries a lot and when she lays in my lap, her front legs are down and her back legs are standing with her butt up. In my experience with cats this was a sign of a female in heat. Is this wrong? Did I get her fixed too soon?

    Also, both of my cats have a lot yucky stuff in their eyes. My older cat, Ripley, does have a little discharge in her left eye. What is causing this? Janie N :-)

    Dear Janie N,
    You did just fine by Shelby. Six months is the perfect time to have your cat fixed. As for the heat symptoms, some cats have been known to have a ‘false heat’ after surgery. However, a false heat is normal. If heats do recur, it is likely that a small portion of the ovary is still in the abdomen and is causing your kitty go into heat. If this happens, talk to your vet. He/she may recommend exploratory surgery to find the remaining tissue.

    As for your kitties’ yuck in their eyes and the discharge, these symptoms are often associated with what is commonly known as the cat flu (click on the cat flu section to learn more about it). - Keep me posted, Simba

    Hi Simba,
    Our daughter's 5-month-old cat is keeping its butt in the air and wanting to be bred! How can we control this? What can we do here at home to stop it? Debbie

    Hi Debbie,
    Welcome to the world of heats! The only way to control this is to have the cat spayed. There is no home remedy for your kitty's behavior. Cat's like all animals have a natural instinct to reproduce. In fact, the instinct is pretty severe in cats since they are constantly ovulating...without spaying you can expect heat cycles every couple of weeks!

    The instinct is very strong so do not be surprised if kitty tries to run outside every chance she gets. This is the right age to have her fixed. Call around to various vets and animal hospitals to find a good and affordable choice for you. Best of luck. Simba

    Risk of Not Spaying Your Cat or Kitten

    Hello Readers,
    flea control for kittensAdvantage II for Kittens
    There is a condition called Pyometra that commonly affects un-spayed females. It is caused by abnormal hormonal levels following a heat cycle in which the female is not impregnated. The females begins showing symptoms 2-4 months following the cycle.

    In Pyometra, hormonal imbalance causes the female's uterus to develop cysts. These cysts have the effect of thickening the lining of the organ. The cysts also contain many cells that produce fluids that are released into the interior of the uterus. What happens is that the accumulation of fluid causes the uterus to experiences an abnormal increase in size and causes liquid to spill out through the cervix into the vagina, although the cervix can close soon afterwards. The result is that bacteria can colonize the area and liquid continues to accumulate.

    The risk is that the uterus can rupture and spill out the bacterial ooze into the abdominal cavity. Death can occur in as a little as 2 days.

    As the owner of an un-spayed female cat, you need to look out for the following types of behavior:

    • Excessive licking of the vaginal area.
    • Drainage of a white fluid.
    • Lethargy & difficulty walking.
    • Bloated lower abdomen.
    Pyometra is treated through a ovariohysterectomy (spay) that removes the ovaries, oviducts, uterus and all associated blood vessels. The best bet is to prevent this by spaying your female cat as soon as she is ready. You and kitty can then rest easy knowing you are not at risk for this awful malady. Simba

    Note From a Reader

    Hi, I was looking through for info on cats in heat. Our cat is insane, but after petting her on the head and scratching her ears, she hushed up a bit. This may be of some assistance, although not a total cure, it is more bearable....for us.

    I believe my kitten is in heat, she is 5-months-old she is very feverish during certain times of the day, but extremely during the late evening hours. This has been going on for three days, she is extremely vocal and seems to be very uncomfortable. She is scheduled to be spayed this month...in the meantime is there anything we can do to relieve her discomfort. (i.e. baby aspirin or Tylenol?) - Mary

    Hi Mary,
    You sound like good concerned cat parents! Please do not give your kitten aspirin or Tylenol since these drugs (even in small doses) can kill cats.

    Aspirin is broken down more slowly in cats than in people so it stays in the cat's system longer (days vs. hours). A single aspirin given to a 5-pound cat is equal to a person taking 30 pills!

    In other medical situations vets sometimes prescribe aspirin however, any administration of is very closely monitored to avoid a fatal overdose. Do not take any chances. For now keep your kitty indoors and wait for the heat to subside (a couple of days). Then have kitty spayed as scheduled. Simba

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