It’s quite well known that cats are prolific breeders. Although they are all individuals, cats will start to reach sexual maturity as early as four months of age. For some, it may well be much later and occasionally it can be earlier.

Around this time, they start to demonstrate behaviours associated with mating and courtship; these can include mounting and neck biting in tomcats, or, in queens, calling and being receptive to male cats. Unfortunately, if the necessary care isn’t taken, this does mean that a kitten as young as 4 months could become pregnant.

Is this a problem?

Early age pregnancy is definitely something to be avoided in both cats and dogs. It is detrimental for a cat to become pregnant as a kitten, she still hasn’t matured so it just isn’t appropriate. The cat doesn’t reach skeletal maturity until around 10 months of age.

It is far too much to ask of the kitten’s developing body, to support a healthy pregnancy, and it could lead to problems for her and the kittens. In addition, an unplanned pregnancy means more kittens to home. We already have an astounding number of kittens and cats in rescue centres around the country, just waiting to be rehomed, as well as a further population of strays. 

How can I prevent my kitten from getting pregnant?

The best thing to do is to avoid the risk of your kitten getting pregnant. This means keeping her indoors and away from entire males, until the time that she is spayed. In individual cats that will be kept in the house, this isn’t generally a problem. However, it can be difficult with littermates.

If you have a male and a female, you’ll have to ensure that they are separated from around three months until after they have been neutered, to prevent any accidents. This certainly can be a challenge! In any case, we do routinely neuter male and female cats from 4-5 months, sometimes even earlier.

At this age, they tend to recover very quickly from the operation and the small size of the reproductive organs makes the surgeries very quick. At the appointments for their kitten vaccinations, we will often talk with you about the ideal age for neutering your individual cat, and chat about any concerns you might have.

Shouldn’t my cat have a litter before getting spayed?

This is an old wives’ tale. There is absolutely no benefit to your cat to having a litter of kittens. It comes with risks for her, and it’s a time and financial commitment for you. That’s without even touching on the existing surplus of cats in need of loving homes. 

Neutering the female cat prevents reproductive problems such as pyometra (an infection of the uterus), and mammary tumours, both of which can be very serious. In addition to the health benefits and helping to avoid expanding the feline population further, neutering helps to prevent unwanted calling and mating behaviours that can be bothersome to both owners and neighbours.

The neutering procedure in the female cat is called a spay. Spaying your cat isn’t without risk, but it is a very routine procedure that is done every day in veterinary clinics. The operation involves a general anaesthetic and it normally only takes around 20 minutes. It is generally performed through a very small incision and your pet will be back home on the same day. 

To summarise, by taking the necessary precautions and considering early age neutering, you can prevent the unfortunate event of your kitten becoming pregnant. Discuss this with your vet during any routine visit or when you come to do vaccinations. They will be happy to advise on the best course of action for your pet.

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