Early Spay/Neuter

I’m a layperson. I’m not a trained veterinarian. I’m not even a vet technician. I am a breeder and a reader. I practice basic medicine in a cattery: subcutaneous fluids, antibiotics, topical antimicrobials, vaccines & flea treatment.

I am no expert, and still I maintained a stubborn opinion about ESN –early spay/neuter. My fears about altering a kitten persisted despite the multitude of veterinarians who have successfully altered a kitten before the age of four months.

I worried the kittens would not develop appropriately after the surgery. I worried they’d pass away under the anesthesia. I worried I couldn’t find a veterinarian I could trust. I worried families wouldn’t want to wait for a kitten to recover to bring them home…

I worried too much.

My pal, Laura, is a ragdoll lover, veterinarian, and ragdoll breeder at Oh My Stars Ragdolls (isn’t that the cutest cattery name?). Laura shared all the reasons I could feel confident about the process and adhere to The International Cat Association (TICA) Code of Ethics. Below are her thoughts.

“I, too, worried that kittens would not develop properly with early spay/neuter.

“In vet school, we were taught that the ideal time for altering an animal was at 6 months. But as I began breeding, I was faced with the decision myself.  I listened to both sides of the debate, and I asked my colleagues about their experiences. To my surprise, I found that at my clinic there are multiple puppy breeders who practice early spay/neuter (ESN). My research has shown that young kittens do not suffer from stunted growth as they become adults. They do not develop excessive urinary tract infections. They do not develop smaller than normal urethras, as some have argued.”

“The benefits far outweighed my worries:

  • The kittens require less injectable drugs and are under anesthesia for a significantly reduced amount of time which results in quicker recovery.
  • Bleeding is also far less than in older kittens.
  • Incisions are much smaller which leaves less scarring.

“I have been spaying and neutering kittens on my own kittens for a year and have been thrilled with the results.”

Laura follows up with her Oh My Stars families, too.

“In talking with ragdoll families who have adopted kittens from my cattery, they agree that there are no negative repercussions. They share photos of their healthy ragdolls. Upon reaching adulthood, I can see that “my stars” are HUGE. Clearly no stunting of growth as a result. I see absolutely no reason not to spay/neuter at 12 -14 weeks from a medical standpoint. And my kitten buyers appreciate not having to deal with doing it themselves, especially today when it can be so hard to get appointments with a veterinarian.”

Laura addresses the medical reasons for getting the procedure over with early, but she also would agree 100% that completing the surgery before a kitten leaves the cattery is just ethical cattery practice. Failure to spay/neuter kittens before they go home puts the kittens at risk.

Some breeds are in higher demand. For the third year in a row, the Ragdoll is the most popular cat according to the Cat Fanciers Association. The CFA credits the ragdoll’s “intense blue eyes and a mellow disposition” as the reason so many seek a ragdoll as a household pet. That demand has driven the price up and a higher price is perhaps what might entice many breeders to seek entrance into the world of cat breeding. And there are a lot of barriers to entry. Often, established breeders simply will not sell kittens with breeding rights. (And for good reasons.) Thus, is born a demand for unaltered pet kittens. Unaltered pet kittens are at risk of being bred by unregistered catteries.

What’s the big deal? A ragdoll is a ragdoll, right?

Not exactly. Unregistered catteries are individuals with no oversight.

Registered catteries at least have some rules imposed to keep them from overbreeding queens. Both TICA and CFA have rules against registering litters of kittens from the same queen too frequently. Breeders who participate in clubs and/or have cats which they exhibit at shows are more likely to adhere to community ethical standards both in business and in breeding. They are more likely to test the DNA of the parents for genetic issues, provide some form of health guarantee, and offer legitimate support.

Unregistered catteries are sometimes uninterested in the welfare of the cats and the kittens. Often, they are motivated by the surging demand and skyrocketing price of the leading breeds. These breeders are often called “backyard breeders.”

The backyard breeder is simply a pet buyer who didn’t pay for breeding rights, but rather used the kitten as a queen without the permission of the original cattery or TICA registry. Chances are that if the backyard breeder lacks the integrity to practice within a community of ethical breeders, then her breeding practices should be in question, too. If the stud and queen are misused, the kittens will suffer as well. The BYB will create a population of “bargains,” but at what price, ultimately?

  • Genetic defects & health problems
  • Expensive veterinarian bills
  • Grief at the time of loss

Sometimes we get what we pay for. Sometimes the bargain isn’t what we bargained for at all. One only needs to look at gokitty or Craigslist or even Facebook to see such examples.

As an ethical breeder, we have decided to work with South Bay Veterinarian Hospital to spay/neuter our ragdoll kittens prior to placing them in homes. We are better equipped to handle any emergencies that might arise. Families are free from the recovery concerns. And we sleep better knowing we are not contributing to the backyard breeder problem.

Thank you, Laura @ OhMyStarsRagdolls.com and thank you Dr. Molitor & South Bay Veterinarian Hospital!

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