I know. We’ve been doing it for twenty years now. In 1997, the majority of vets were still advising “wait until they are six months old.” Now we recognize that by then most cats will be pregnant, and some will have already delivered their first litter! I testify to this because I have witnessed it. Tiny cats, some appearing less than 18-20 weeks old and weighing only around four pounds, come in with the telltale rotund belly of pregnancy. It is pitiful, it is sad, it is grievous, and it is heartbreaking. These mommas are little more than kittens themselves, and they’ve been deprived of their youth, and some will be deprived of their life by their juvenile pregnancy. Nutrition that should be strengthening the heart, brain, and bones is rationed for the lives within the uterus; both mother and fetuses will suffer.
While they were cute and cuddly, the kittens were entertaining to the kids, so owners smiled and fed the felines and figured they’d get the cat to the vet when she was “old enough.” But once the novelty faded the kitten was put outdoors and of course, came home pregnant. Far sooner than anyone thought would happen. “I didn’t know they could get pregnant so soon” owners exclaim! Some rejected the kitten outright and surrendered or abandoned her, others let the pregnancy proceed so the kids could see the “miracle” of life — again. And most owners believed that once the cat was pregnant, she could not be spayed. So, we had more litters. Meanwhile, the local shelter just down the road continued the inconsolable, sorrowful daily euthanasia of adorable kittens for whom there are just simply no homes. Yes, I know you would take them all if you could. And yes, I know you cannot. Neither can I. There is just no person on this planet who wants a cat but cannot find one available for adoption. Until that day, Fix by Five!
Once a man called about getting his cat and her current litter fixed. When I went to pick them up, I found three 6-week-old kittens, and a 4.25-pound juvenile cat that I assumed was from the litter before this one. I asked the owner to help me find the adult mother. He pointed to the juvenile. The little juvenile cat, not even a year old, was the mother!
Over the years, we’ve had cats coming in for surgery who are already in heat, although their owners report them to be just 14 to 16 weeks of age and an exam confirms that. And what a relief to get them in early! They are playing and pouncing in preop, lay down for surgery, and pop back up in recovery, unlike the older cats who are worn and frayed from repeated heat/litter cycles. It is so much easier on cats to be fixed early: there is even less blood loss and recovery is almost always without complications, unlike with adult cats. We love it! They love it too, we believe.
We are also proud that we helped train veterinary students in early age spay/neuter, and I am pleased to report this skill is even taught now in their training, because it’s been proven safe. Some of those students we took to low-income neighborhoods so they could see first-hand the suffering brought on by failure to stop a litter: Emaciated, diseased, and malnourished wormy kittens with crusted runny eyes. Frightened boney momma cats slinking around in the shadows. Battered males with torn ears, swollen slashed faces, and bite wound abscesses.
It does NOT need to be this way in 2019. Early age spay neuter is tried and true. Repeatedly proven safe, it STOPS the killing, the unwanted litters, the obstetric nightmare of babies having babies. Have a talk with your veterinarian and then the receptionist who answers the phone. If he or she is still telling folks to wait until cats are six months old, please educate them now. If they won’t change, put your money where your mouth is. Find and support a vet who’s willing to be a part of the solution to animal suffering, and that is Fix by Five.
Homeless Animals Relief Project