Spaying and neutering (gonadectomy) generally occurs around 6 months of age in kittens. In order to ensure adopted cats from shelters are unable to reproduce, prepubertal gonadectomy (PPG) is practiced. Concerns exist over behavior issues in cats subjected to PPG. The main aim of the present study was to investigate the effect of age at gonadectomy in both sexes on the mean number of potentially undesirable and undesirable behaviors in shelter cats during the first month after adoption (short term, potentially undesirable behavior only) and during 24 months after adoption (long term, both potentially undesirable behavior and undesirable behavior). Furthermore, the present study also aimed to investigate the association of age at gonadectomy and other selected social and environmental factors on the most common (potentially) undesirable behaviors in cats as reported in literature: inappropriate elimination, fearfulness, (non)play-related aggression toward people or animals, and destruction.
The occurrence of inappropriate elimination, fearful behavior, non-play-related aggression, and destruction was associated with other social and environmental variables (e.g., the use of punishment by the owner and friendliness toward a stranger). This study found no evidence that age at the time of gonadectomy in cats has an effect on the mean number of (potentially) undesirable behaviors or on the occurrence of commonly reported behaviors (inappropriate elimination, non-play-related aggression, fearful behavior, or destruction) in literature during 24 months after adoption from a shelter. Consequently, also from a behavioral point of view, PPG can be recommended for shelter cats. In addition, various social and environmental factors (use of punishment by the owner, single cats, positive interaction with owner or family members, and so forth) associated with the most important(potentially) undesirable behaviors were identified. This study in shelter cats did not demonstrate an effect of age at the time of gonadectomy on the mean number of (potentially) undesirable behaviors during 24 months after adoption. Other factors seem to play a more dominating role in the development of such behaviors. (MK)