Practical relevance: neutering kittens at an early age, typically between 6 and 14 weeks, has received increasing attention and gained prominence in recent years, particularly in the United States and in shelter medicine in the UK. However, in private practice it has yet to be generally endorsed.
Global importance: among many of the animal welfare charities, early neutering is seen as a crucial step in conquering and controlling cat overpopulation.
Clinical challenges: physiological differences between kittens and adult cats are very important to consider before undertaking elective early neutering. Increased sensitivity to drugs, prolongation of effects and a limited capacity for cardiovascular compensation are the principal anaesthetic concerns in kittens.
Evidence base: the optimal age for neutering, traditionally deemed to be between 5 and 8 months, is now questioned, as short- and longer-term studies demonstrate no significant behavioural and physical advantages conferred by traditional-age neutering. Furthermore, a number of safe anaesthetic and surgical protocols have been documented that produce lower morbidity and similar mortality rates in early-age neuters compared with traditional-age neuters.