New report: early desexing a better choice for our feline friends

The RSPCA has released a new, detailed report outlining the case for desexing cats before puberty (pre-pubertal desexing), as a safe, effective, and better practice for individual cats and the community.

Pre-pubertal desexing (PPD) is the practice of desexing cats at or before four months of age, and the report summarises the significant body of scientific evidence to support PPD in cats, with key recommendations to help make this standard practice for all cats, whether privately owned or in the care of a shelter, pound or cat rehoming organisation. 

RSPCA Australia Senior Scientific Officer Dr Sarah Zito, who led the development of the report, said the RSPCA has been practising safe and effective PPD for many years, with significant experience backing the scientific evidence that the practice is safe and helps reduce the number of unwanted kittens born and, consequently, entering shelters and joining the unowned cat population.

“Cats can reproduce as early as four months old, but they’re often not desexed until around 6 months, leaving young female cats vulnerable to accidental pregnancy,” said Dr Zito. 

“Desexing earlier than puberty prevents these unplanned and unwanted litters, and just as importantly, it’s safe for the cat, with no greater risk of short- or longer-term health issues or behaviour differences when compared with desexing later.”

“In fact, desexing before puberty is better for the individual cat. The surgery is faster and easier, the recovery time is shorter, and there is a lower risk of some complications.

“We hope this report, and its recommendations, will be another step towards making PPD the norm in Australia.”

Dr Zito also said there’s a crucial role for everyone involved with cats to play, in promoting desexing before puberty to prevent the birth of unwanted kittens and help create a better life for cats.

“This includes people who own or care for cats, shelters, pounds, cat rehoming organisations, animal welfare organisations, private practice vets, and the veterinary industry more broadly.

“We know that the community understands and recognises the important role that desexing cats has in reducing cat overpopulation, and also the health and welfare benefits for individual cats.

“We encourage cat owners to talk to their vet about having their cat desexed before puberty.

“Future cat owners can also ask the shelter or breeder they’re thinking of adopting from whether their cats are desexed before puberty, or visit a shelter that desexes all kittens (through PPD) and cats prior to adoption such as the RSPCA,” said Dr Zito.

You can read the report here (and appendix here) and read more about desexing before puberty on the RSPCA Knowledgebase.