How Old Do Cats Have to Be to Get Spayed or Neutered?

Dr. Jason Gagné, DVM, DACVIM
By Dr. Jason Gagné, DVM, DACVIM
Updated: 5/30/20242-4 minutes
Kitten

Five months old (or sometimes earlier) is an appropriate time to spay or neuter a cat, according to The American Association of Feline Practitioners.  

Having clarity is helpful to cat owners wondering, “How old to spay a cat?” or “How old to neuter a cat?”, especially since guidance has evolved over time. 

Like choosing which cat food is right for your pet, the decision to spay or neuter is a personal one.  

If you’re not sure when—or if—you should choose it for your feline companion, talk to your veterinarian. They can offer guidance tailored to your specific pet and personal circumstances. 

There are general guidelines that apply to many felines, however. So if you’re asking, “How old do cats have to be to get fixed?”, read on to learn more about when and why certain ages are recommended.  

Reasons to Spay or Neuter a Cat When They’re Young

Spaying and neutering is a procedure where a veterinarian removes the reproductive organs in a female cat and the testicles in a male cat, respectively. A routine operation with minimal risk, it prevents cats from reproducing. 

In the past, the recommended age to spay or neuter kittens was six months. That recommendation has been revised to an earlier age, though, due to several reasons: 

  • Overpopulation. There are many more cats living on the streets than there are shelters to house them.
  • Early pregnancies. Some female cats can get pregnant as early as four months of age.
  • Healthcare. Earlier spaying can help reduce the risk of some reproductive diseases.
  • Behavior. For males in particular, neutering can be a tool in curbing certain problematic behaviors, like aggression, fighting and marking territory.
  • Vaccination. Once your cat reaches five months, they likely will have received their first series of vaccines.   

How Old to Spay a Cat

For many female kittens, spaying is recommended at four to five months of age. In addition to preventing early pregnancies, spaying a cat at an early age can also lower the chances of long-term health conditions.  

When the procedure is done before their first heat (also known as their reproductive cycle), it eliminates the risk of ovarian and mammary cancer, which can be malignant.  

Removing the uterus and ovaries also lowers the possibility of uterine infections.   

For kittens living in shelters, The Association of Shelter Veterinarians recommends spaying or neutering as early as 6 to 18 weeks of age as long as they receive screening to ensure they’re healthy.  

The organization cites benefits such as population control, shorter surgical and recovery times, as well as potential savings on the cost of the procedure. 

How Old to Neuter a Cat

If you’re wondering, “What age to neuter a cat?”, the procedure is usually recommended before the feline turns five months old.  

Like female cats, the timeline for removing a cat’s testicles coincides with their age just before puberty.  

For intact felines, this is the point when they begin roaming farther from home, getting into fights with other cats, and marking their territory with urine. Often, they then start breeding. 

Neutering can help decrease this behavior. With fewer aggressive tendencies, male cats may act gentler and experience fewer injuries from roaming and fighting.   

Additionally, removing the testicles eliminates the chances of testicular cancer.  

Are There Risks to Spaying/Neutering at a Very Early Age?

While spaying or neutering a kitten as young as six weeks old may sound dangerous, the procedure is considered safe. 

There can be some long-term effects, however. Felines who get the procedure at this age may grow up to be taller and longer in body shape. Overweight young male cats can have a slightly higher risk of problems with their femur bone, which may require surgery. 

When to Spay/Neuter a Kitten if They Have a Home

For kittens in shelters, veterinarians may spay or neuter them at a very early age. If you’re wondering, “When to spay a kitten?” or “When to neuter a kitten?” because you own a pet cat, however, the recommended age is a bit later.  

For one thing, if the cat is kept indoors and there’s little chance of them breeding with another cat in your home, then it can be safe to wait to five months of age. At this point, your cat will have completed their initial vaccine series.   

Can Adult Cats Be Spayed or Neutered?

Yes. Cats can be spayed or neutered through their late teens. Your veterinarian will likely conduct blood work and potentially a thyroid gland check on an older feline.  

How Old Do Cats Have to Be to Get Fixed?

Remember, while some cats may be neutered or spayed as early as six weeks, the general recommendation for felines with a permanent home is five months. Ask your veterinarian for guidance on your individual pet.  

Want more cat health tips? Visit our Pet Expertise page for advice from our experts.  

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