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The Daily Vet by petMD

The Daily Vet is a blog featuring veterinarians from all walks of life. Every week they will tackle entertaining, interesting, and sometimes difficult topics in the world of animal medicine – all in the hopes that their unique insights and personal experiences will help you to understand your pets.

Spring is right around the corner. In fact, in my neck of the woods, it seems as though it may be here already. And spring brings with it an important consideration for your cat.

With spring comes longer days. The sun comes up earlier and stays up longer. And this increasing day length plays with cat hormones. The result is kittens; lots and lots of kittens.

Of course, kittens are cute and cuddly. Everybody loves kittens. But kittens grow up to be adult cats pretty quickly. Before long, kittens start making kittens of their own.

A female kitten can come into heat and become pregnant as early as 5-6 months of age. Male kittens generally become fertile about the same time as well. In addition, an intact female cat can become pregnant with a new litter while she is still nursing and caring for her previous litter. She can have several litters in the course of a year.

All in all, the reproductive cycle of the cat makes the species a pretty efficient breeding machine. That’s the reason that spaying or neutering cats is so important. Spaying/neutering is the only effective way to control the cat population. So if you haven’t had your cat spayed or neutered yet, it’s time to think about getting that done.

Of course, there are other reasons also. Spayed or neutered cats make much better pets than those that are unaltered. Female cats are extremely annoying and very vocal when they come in heat. Many of my veterinary clients who have considered breeding their female cats have changed their minds for this very reason. Living with a cat that is in heat is not a pleasant experience. (Not to mention the fact that breeding your cat solely for the purpose of making kittens without a well-planned breeding program in place is not a responsible action.)

The same can be said of male cats. Unaltered males have strong smelly urine and can develop undesirable habits like urine spraying. Though spraying behavior can occur in altered males as well as in female cats, neutering your male cat definitely reduces the possibility of this behavior occurring.

There are also health benefits for altered cats. Female cats spayed prior to their first heat cycle have a significantly lower risk of mammary cancer later in life. The risk of a severe uterine infection known as pyometra is removed completely when your cat is spayed.

Remember also that your unspayed female cat can become pregnant if she lives in a household with an unaltered male, even if the male is related to her. I’ve dealt with veterinary clients who were surprised when their unneutered male cat got one of his daughters pregnant or when their female cat became impregnated by one of her own male offspring.

Dr. Lorie Huston

Image: Eric Gevaert / via Shutterstock

Comments  3

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  • Kitten Season
    03/26/2012 06:52am

    Yes, kitten season is quickly approaching.

    I've heard that some vets actually advocate not fixing kitties prior to 6 months of age. They claim the kitty won't grow to its full size. It's my understanding that this is a complete myth. The truth is that the body, because it does not hit puberty, might grow about 1/8 of an inch more as opposed to stunting growth.

  • Kittens
    03/26/2012 12:33pm

    I'm looking for a little kitten, Female,Hopefully Free but I will pay some.. So does anyone know anyone that has any??

  • 03/26/2012 07:13pm

    Hi Polly,

    You might want to wait until late April or May until kitten season hits with a vengeance and the shelters are full of kittens, kittens and more kittens.

    It will likely be less expensive since most shelters will already have done the basics (spay/neuter, first shots, etc.)

    Please don't just go out and look for a "free kitten". A new kitten that hasn't had veterinary care really isn't inexpensive. There should be multiple trips to the vet for all the things a kitten needs to get the right start in life.

    If you're trying to save a few dollars, getting a kitten and not taking care of the basic necessities not at all fair to the kitten.

    Perhaps you could do some research online about all the things of which you need to be prepared with a new kitten.

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