Pernestål K and Axnér E. An internet survey of breeders’ and cat rescue organisations’ opinions about early castration of cats. Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery. 2012; 14: 849-56.
Early castration, usually suggested to be castration before 4 months of age, is the only method to make sure that a cat will not produce a litter. Breeders of pedigree cats may use early castration as an effective means of preventing a kitten from breeding before it goes to a new home. There has been a concern that early castration may lead to depletion of gene pools leading to future inbreeding and health problems. Because of this concern in Sweden, it is one of the reasons for not recommending castration before a cat is 6 months old.
Responses by 66 breeders (covering a total of 17 breeds) and 29 cat rescue organisations were obtained by using a web-based questionnaire asking them to choose perceived advantages and disadvantages to castration. While the reasons to apply early castration differed between breeders, the possibility of counteracting irresponsible breeding (such as overuse of strains within the breed or production of cross-breeds) seemed to be one of the main reasons. Of all the pedigree kittens covered in the study, 45.1% were kept intact while 54.9% were neutered before re-homing. Few breeders had experienced any negative side effects of early castration; overweight being mentioned by four breeders. Though the questionnaire was emailed to 102 cat rescue groups, 29 responded with 19 (65.5%) believing that early castration could be beneficial in reducing the number of homeless cats. Only six (20.6%) of the groups had applied early castration.
The authors considered the poor response rate by cat rescue groups may be due to the fact that the issue had not been discussed in all organisations and that these cats do not have one specific owner.
The authors conclude from evaluating the responses there was no evidence in this study that early castration of pedigree kittens will inevitably cause a depletion of gene pools. They did not believe there were conflicting interests between keeping genetic variation in pedigree breeds and the possibility of limiting the population of homeless cats by castrating kittens before they are re-homed. [VT]
See also: Joyce A and Yates D. Help stop teenage pregnancy! Early-age neutering in cats. J Feline Med Surg. 2011; 13: 3-10.