Most animal rescues and shelters—the Connecticut Humane Society included—spay or neuter cats and kittens prior to adopting them out to new homes. This supports a nationwide mission of reducing pet overpopulation and helps prevent some behavioral and medical problems that can arise later in a pet’s life if left intact (unspayed/unneutered). However, there are times when intact animals may be placed up for adoption due to special circumstances. CHS recommends getting your cat spayed as soon as you can safely do so. The information below will help you navigate the time you have with your pet before your spay appointment.
Living with an intact cat may come with some potential challenges. Adopting a pet is a commitment. The information below will help you make informed decisions.
Age and Time of Sexual Maturity
- Female cats can reach sexual maturity as early as 4 months of age, which is when you may start to notice hormonally driven behaviors. Cats can go into “heat” multiple times a year, so make sure that your intact female cat is kept strictly indoors and does not come into contact with an unneutered male or any cat in which the reproductive status is not absolutely known.
- The most obvious sign of a cat “in heat” is that she will appear both more affectionate and potentially more sensitive at the same time. Your cat might roll around on the floor, or rub against people, other animals, or furniture more than usual. When stroked along the back, she will present and raise her rear-end and tread with her hind legs. You will not usually see any external signs of her being in heat like swelling or discharge, which are common in dogs.Cats in heat tend to yowl in an effort to attract a male, especially at night. This can make it difficult to sleep if you are in an apartment or smaller house.
- Heat-induced behaviors could last days or weeks. Most cycles last around 3-4 weeks, but can be longer (up to 6 weeks) or shorter depending on the cat.
- Heat cycles are not always obvious, and female cats can be fertile before signs of heat are noticeable to an owner. Mating can happen very quickly and often go unnoticed, so it’s strongly advised that you do not have intact male and female cats within the same household.
- Intact cats should never be allowed outdoors as they are likely to mate and produce a litter.
Getting Your Pet Altered
- CHS recommends all cats be spayed as soon as it can be done safely.
- In shelters or spay/neuter clinics, kittens may be safely spayed at 8 weeks old. In private practice, most veterinarians suggest 6 months old. Please work with your veterinarian to determine the best time to complete the surgery based on your pet’s individual circumstances.