A consensus document published on July 8, 2016 by the Veterinary Task Force on Feline Sterilization Recommendations for Age of Spay and Neuter Surgery advocating for feline pediatric surgical sterilization based upon scientific evidence specific to the feline species and designed to not only promote specific individuals’ health and welfare but to also significantly contribute to effective reduction in the numbers of unwanted kittens born annually in the United States, was recently endorsed by The American Veterinary Medical Association’s Board of Directors. The recommendation for this endorsement was made by the American Veterinary Medical Association’s Animal Welfare Committee whose mission is to “proactively identify and prioritize animal welfare concerns and opportunities; critically evaluate related information from individuals and groups internal and external to the AVMA; and use that information to determine which issues fall within the role and influence of veterinary medical professionals, and what actions or activities may be appropriate responses to those animal welfare concerns and opportunities.” This easy to understand statement coincides with the popular “FixAtFour” movement, recommending that cats not intended for breeding be gonadectomized prior to five months of age for the following reasons:
- Recommendations for the optimal age to sterilize cats may differ from the age to sterilize dogs.
- Current scientific evidence documents benefits of spaying kittens before the first estrous cycle, including the following:
- Decreased risk for mammary carcinoma1-4
- Elimination of reproductive emergencies such as pyometra and dystocia
- Avoidance of unintended pregnancies that may occur as early as 4 months of age
- Potential decrease in behavioral problems liked with cat relinquishment.5
- Current evidence does not support an increased risk for cats of complications or long-term adverse health effects with pediatric (6-14 weeks) or juvenile (>16 weeks)6-7
- More controlled prospective research specifically examining different ages in sterilization in cats is needed. As new information becomes available, the recommended age for sterilization of cats should be revisited.
- There is potential to increase the number of sterilized cats and reduce the unplanned/unwanted litters of kittens if veterinarians routinely schedule this surgery for client-owned cats at the end of the kitten vaccination series.
In addition to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), this consensus statement has been endorsed by the American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP), the Association of Shelter Veterinarians, the American Animal Hospital Association, the Winn Foundation, the Catalyst Council, the Cat Fancier’s Association as well as the International Cat Association. The task force’s recently endorsed recommendations have been added to a steadily growing database the veterinary medical profession has been compiling for many years now on the topic of gonadectomy.
For more information on this topic, go to https://www.avma.org/KB/Resources/Reference/AnimalWelfare/Pages/Elective-Spaying-Neutering-Pets.aspx