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Vet Corner with Boyd Harrell, DVM

Behavior not affected by early age spay/neuter in kittens 

Early spay/neuter is common practice in shelters as a means to minimize shelter overpopulation due to unplanned litters. When pets are adopted intact and with vouchers for a free spay/neuter at a later date, as many as 60% of those pets are never returned for sterilization by their new owners. Couple that with the alarming statistic that at least 50% of litters are unplanned, often in homes where spaying or neutering was planned for a future date. In an effort to better control these unplanned litters, many shelters will only adopt animals that are already spayed or neutered. Combined with a desire to find forever homes as soon as possible, kittens are often spayed/neutered as early as two months of age.

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Some have questioned if spaying and neutering so early might lead to behavioral problems. There have been few studies on this question, with inconclusive results leaving curious people with a void. That is until recently.

A new Belgian study published in the Journal of Veterinary Behavior 2014 by Porters et al, and titled "Development of behavior in adopted shelter kittens following gonadectomy performed at an early age or at a traditional age,” concludes that early age spaying/neutering did not affect behavior when compared to kittens sterilized at the traditional age of 6 to 8 months. The study looked at both short and long-term behavior results by surveying owners at 2, 6, 12, 18 and 24 months post-adoption.

The article abstract reports that " In conclusion, this study in shelter cats did not demonstrate an effect of age at the time of gonadectomy on the mean number of (potentially) undesirable behaviors during 24 months after adoption. Other factors seem to play a more dominating role in the development of such behaviors."

One take away from this article is that avoiding undesirable behavior development in kittens is more dependent on owner education and proper socialization of kittens than age of sterilization. We can now be confident that early age spay/neuter of kittens will not adversely affect their behavior.

 

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