You might have heard it is the best practice to get your cat spayed as a kitten, but we all know that doesn’t always work out. Sometimes, kittens get pregnant sooner than their owner expects. Or you might take in a stray only to discover she already is expecting kittens. No matter how it happened, it’s still beneficial to get your cat spayed as soon as possible after giving birth.
But how soon is too soon? Most vets ask you to wait until five or six weeks after the birth before spaying. This gives your kittens time to be less reliant on their mother and gives the mother time for recovery. But be careful! Female cats are already fertile shortly after giving birth, so you’ll want to keep her away from intact male cats in the meantime, just in case.
When Can Cats Get Pregnant?
You might think that your kittens need to be close to a year old before they can get pregnant, but that’s not true. Kittens grow up quickly, and they can get pregnant long before they reach full size. In fact, kittens can reach sexual maturity at around four months old. Once that happens, your kitten will go into heat every few weeks until she’s spayed or pregnant. It is less common for kittens to have a successful pregnancy than adult cats, but it’s still possible.
Cats can also get pregnant shortly after giving birth. Your cat will enter her first heat cycle within days or weeks of having kittens. Even if your cat is actively nursing her kittens, this might not prevent pregnancy. Back-to-back pregnancies like this aren’t very healthy for your cat, but they do happen. This means that while you’re waiting for your cat to get spayed, you’ll have to keep her safe from male cats that might impregnate her again.
What Are the Benefits of Spaying?
Aside from overpopulation, there are quite a few benefits of having a spayed cat around. For starters, cats live longer after spaying. They are less likely to develop cancer, uterine infections, escape to the outdoors, and catch diseases from feral cats.
Another benefit of spaying is that it prevents unwanted behaviors. Unspayed cats often become anxious and noisy during heat and may try to escape outside. Spayed cats are more likely to be even-keeled, get along with other cats, and feel safe and comfortable. Unless you have a purebred cat and a breeding setup, it’s best to keep your cat spayed.
Does Spaying Hurt My Cat?
You might be worried about your cat going in for surgery, especially if she’s given birth only a few weeks before. But spaying isn’t that scary. During the actual surgery, your cat will be given anesthetic and other pain medication to help her avoid pain. In the days after spaying, your cat might experience some mild discomfort as incisions heal, but within a few days to a few weeks, she should be back to normal. She will also go home with daily pain medications to keep her comfortable. Spaying is a very routine surgery, so complications are rare.
Overall, it’s in your cat’s best interest to be spayed. She’ll be happier and healthier, and it will prevent more kittens from being born—a good thing when there are too many unwanted adult cats out there already. If your cat is pregnant or just barely gave birth, you will have to wait a little while, though. In the meantime, enjoy those newborn kittens while they are here—just don’t forget to spay them too when the time comes.
Featured Image Credit: Esin Deniz, Shutterstock