Spay or Neuter Kittens
Our family has just adopted a new kitten from the local shelter. She is only eight weeks old, but she has already been spayed. Isn't she too young for such a major surgery? Will her growth be stunted or will she become obese from spaying at such a young age?
Spaying and neutering kittens at a young age (8-16 weeks) has become quite a common procedure, especially for animals at humane shelters and rescue centers. One of the main reasons behind the shift to spaying/neutering at 8-16 weeks rather than at 6 months is to try to help curb the pet overpopulation problem. Although people used to sign a spay/neuter contract when adopting a pet, studies found that anywhere from 20-50% of pets were never presented to veterinarians for surgical sterilization (even though the owners had often "prepaid" for the operation in their adoption fees!). It seems that people were too busy or tended to procrastinate about having their pets sterilized. As a result, some of these animals would end up having unintended litters. While humane societies were placing these individual animals into homes, unwanted litters did not help to resolve the booming pet population. If all dogs and cats over 8-10 weeks of age are spayed or neutered before release to their new homes, the human tendency to "put things off until later" is taken out of the equation. As a result, hopefully some ground will be gained in the pet overpopulation problem. This doesn't keep strays and other pets that did not originate in shelters or rescue centers from having unintended litters, but it is a step in the right direction. Now to address your concerns about your new kitten, there have been several studies performed in the past several years to determine if surgery is harmful at the time of, or in the future, to these young animals. It has been shown that neutering/spaying at 7 weeks of ages does not cause any significant difference in obesity, urinary tract health, or growth/size at adulthood, compared to surgery at 7 months of age. As long as the puppies/kitties are found to be in good physical condition and the animals are in the care of veterinarians, the procedures are quite safe, with no long term effects. In fact, these young animals have smaller incisions, less bleeding, and recover as fast, if not faster, than their older counterparts. Rest assured, your veterinarian and your local humane association would not allow or encourage such a program if it were detrimental to our furry friends.