Desexing cats before 4 months old can reduce the number of unwanted kittens

February 09, 2021

The global problem of unowned domestic cats, driven by the cats' phenomenal reproductive success, carries significant economic, animal welfare and biodiversity costs. Big-data research led by an expert on veterinary medicine and infectious diseases at City University of Hong Kong (CityU) has found that although more than 80% of cats in Australia were desexed, only a fraction have had surgery before reaching puberty, thus creating a "pregnancy gap". To close this gap and prevent unwanted litters, it is recommended that the age of desexing is before four months.

The research was led by Professor Julia Beatty, Head of the Department of Veterinary Clinical Sciences; Chair Professor of Veterinary Medicine and Infectious Diseases; and Director of the Centre for Companion Animal Health at CityU, in collaboration with the University of Sydney. Their findings have been recently published in the scientific journal Scientific Reports, titled "A shift towards early-age desexing of cats under veterinary care in Australia".

This is the first large scale analysis of feline desexing practices in Australia using outcomes documented in the patient medical record. Researchers at CityU and the University of Sydney studied anonymous medical records of over 52,000 cats brought into vet clinics, including pet cats, breeding cats, cats owned by shelters, and semi-owned cats in Australia.

Early onset of puberty in female cats

The team found that despite a clear shift over time towards desexing cats at a young age, only 21.5% of female cats were desexed at four months or younger, while 59.8% of female cats had been desexed by six months of age. "Cats' early onset of puberty can be as young as 3.5 months of age in females," explained Professor Beatty, who started this research with her team from the University of Sydney before she joined CityU. "This creates a potential pregnancy gap between the time the female cat reaches puberty and the age at surgery."

Also, female cats were less likely than males to be desexed (at all) or to have undergone early-age desexing. "A female can give birth to up to six kittens in each litter, up to three litters every year. So this is suboptimal for preventing unwanted litters," she said.

The recommendation of early-age desexing is made by global organisations including the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in Australia, the International Society for Feline Medicine and The Cat Group in the UK, as an important means to prevent unwanted kittens heading into overburdened and under-resourced shelters or into the stray cat population, which is detrimental to their well-being and puts additional stress on wildlife already impacted by other predators, habitat loss and global warming.

Early-age desexing is safe

"Evidence-based studies have shown that earlier desexing for cats is not only safe, it also offers advantages including shorter surgery time, a smaller incision and a quicker recovery, and reduced cancer risk," Professor Beatty added.

Their latest study confirms that while the desexing rates in Australia are among the highest reported internationally, compared with 80% in the USA and 43% in Italy, opportunities to control reproduction by prepubertal desexing are still being lost. "We hope the findings will inform the design of front-line strategies promoting prepubertal desexing," she said.

Other factors affect desexing

They also found that whether a cat was desexed or not, would be influenced by several factors. For example, purebred cats were less likely to be desexed than mixed breeds. Cats born in winter had the lowest odds of being desexed in each age group. Cats that were not desexed were more common in remote and low income areas.

"We really hope the research encourages anyone caring for a free-roaming cat in Hong Kong or elsewhere to arrange for that cat to be desexed, preferably before they reach four months of age. This would be a win for animal welfare and would help to reduce the number of unwanted kittens," said Professor Beatty.
-end-
Professor Beatty is the corresponding author of the paper and the first author is Mr Loic Mazeau, a veterinary student studying at the Ecole Nationale Vétérinaire de Toulouse who completed a summer research project at the University of Sydney.

https://www.cityu.edu.hk/research/stories/2021/02/09/desexing-cats-4-months-old-can-reduce-number-unwanted-kittens

City University of Hong Kong

Related Infectious Diseases Articles from Brightsurf:

Understanding the spread of infectious diseases
Physicists at M√ľnster University (Germany) have shown in model simulations that the COVID-19 infection rates decrease significantly through social distancing.

Forecasting elections with a model of infectious diseases
Election forecasting is an innately challenging endeavor, with results that can be difficult to interpret and may leave many questions unanswered after close races unfold.

COVID-19 a reminder of the challenge of emerging infectious diseases
The emergence and rapid increase in cases of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), a respiratory illness caused by a novel coronavirus, pose complex challenges to the global public health, research and medical communities, write federal scientists from NIH's National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) and from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Certain antidepressants could provide treatment for multiple infectious diseases
Some antidepressants could potentially be used to treat a wide range of diseases caused by bacteria living within cells, according to work by researchers in the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine and collaborators at other institutions.

Opioid epidemic is increasing rates of some infectious diseases
The US faces a public health crisis as the opioid epidemic fuels growing rates of certain infectious diseases, including HIV/AIDS, hepatitis, heart infections, and skin and soft tissue infections.

Infectious diseases could be diagnosed with smartphones in sub-Saharan Africa
A new Imperial-led review has outlined how health workers could use existing phones to predict and curb the spread of infectious diseases.

The Lancet Infectious Diseases: Experts warn of a surge in vector-borne diseases as humanitarian crisis in Venezuela worsens
The ongoing humanitarian crisis in Venezuela is accelerating the re-emergence of vector-borne diseases such as malaria, Chagas disease, dengue, and Zika virus, and threatens to jeopardize public health gains in the country over the past two decades, warn leading public health experts.

Glow-in-the-dark paper as a rapid test for infectious diseases
Researchers from Eindhoven University of Technology (The Netherlands) and Keio University (Japan) present a practicable and reliable way to test for infectious diseases.

Math shows how human behavior spreads infectious diseases
Mathematics can help public health workers better understand and influence human behaviors that lead to the spread of infectious disease, according to a study from the University of Waterloo.

Many Americans say infectious and emerging diseases in other countries will threaten the US
An overwhelming majority of Americans (95%) think infectious and emerging diseases facing other countries will pose a 'major' or 'minor' threat to the U.S. in the next few years, but more than half (61%) say they are confident the federal government can prevent a major infectious disease outbreak in the US, according to a new national public opinion survey commissioned by Research!America and the American Society for Microbiology.

Read More: Infectious Diseases News and Infectious Diseases Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.