Relationship between age at gonadectomy and health problems in kittens adopted from shelters

Vet Rec. 2015 May 30;176(22):572. doi: 10.1136/vr.102678. Epub 2015 Mar 27.


Prepubertal gonadectomy (PPG) is promoted as a way of managing overpopulation in cats, but concerns about PPG and potential health issues still exist. The objective of the present study was to evaluate short-term and long-term health problems in cats subjected to PPG in comparison to gonadectomy at traditional age (TAG). In a prospective clinical trial, 800 shelter kittens aged between approximately 8 weeks and 12 weeks were recruited before adoption and randomly assigned to either the PPG group (gonadectomy performed immediately) or the TAG group (gonadectomy delayed until six months to eight months of age). Short-term health issues included mortality between when kittens arrived at the clinic and up to seven days after they returned to the shelter, as well as the occurrence of various other health issues arising in the first month following adoption. Kittens were followed-up until 24 months of age specifically for feline lower urinary tract disease, urethral obstruction (male cats), lameness, fractures and hypersensitivity disorders with dermatological presentation. In the short term, there were no significant differences between health problems in PPG and TAG kittens. Similarly, no significant differences were observed between treatment groups in terms of the type or number of health issues in the long term. In conclusion, there are no health-related contraindications to advocating PPG strategies in shelter cats. Ideally, PPG should be performed at the shelter facility itself as long as excellent infectious disease control and postoperative clinical observation before adoption are guaranteed.

Keywords: Health; cat; early age neutering; gonadectomy; kitten; prepubertal.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adoption
  • Age Factors
  • Animals
  • Belgium / epidemiology
  • Cat Diseases / epidemiology*
  • Cats
  • Female
  • Housing, Animal
  • Male
  • Orchiectomy / veterinary*
  • Ovariectomy / veterinary*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Sexual Maturation