A veterinarian explains why neutering is important for male kittens, the best age range, and the procedure process.
man holding cat on couch
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We know the phrase "tomcatting" is based on the actual, um, amorous behaviors of male cats. Scamps! This is just one reason why it makes sense to discuss with your veterinarian when and how to neuter a cat. There are also health and behavior factors to consider so your good boi stays that way. Here's what you need to know to make a plan with your vet.

What Is Neutering?

Jo Myers, DVM, of Salida, Colo. is a telehealth practitioner on Vetster. She tells Daily Paws that "the true technical definition of neutering is a surgical procedure performed on either sex that results in making it so they can't reproduce."

Over time, the definition evolved to specify that neutering refers to performing castration on a male animal and removing the testicles. Spaying is the most common term used for an ovariohysterectomy, a procedure for female animals which removes the ovaries and uterus.

Benefits of Neutering a Cat

Well, for one thing, an adult male cat makes his, uh, presence known in various ways. Totally natural for him, but sometimes quite annoying for humans. 

"Most people find sharing a household with an intact male cat intolerable. A sexually mature intact male produces urine with a very strong skunky odor," Myers says. "It's also his nature to mark with that urine all over his territory, including inside your house. This is quite unpleasant."

Aside from trying to warn other toms away from what he considers his domain, there are other reasons why a cat might spray or mark. Those reasons are usually messages he desperately wants you to decipher, and they might be stress reactions to:

However, with some cats, neutering doesn't automatically resolve spraying behavior if stressors are still present. So talk with your vet and perhaps an animal behaviorist about getting to the heart of your—and your kitty's—concerns.

Another benefit of neutering is longevity. The American Veterinary Medical Association, citing a report based on research by Banfield pet hospitals, states that on average, "neutered male cats live a mean of 62 percent longer than unneutered male cats." Myers adds that owned neutered cats are less likely to roam, be destructive, and get into fights. The procedure might also prevent certain types of cancer.

When to Neuter Your Cat

"This is a complex decision and one that's best made on an individual, case-by-case basis between a cat parent and their veterinary health care professional," Myers says. "In most situations, the goal is to neuter the kittens as late as possible, but before the onset of undesirable secondary sex characteristics like spraying and roaming."

She recommends that most homed kittens do best with neuter surgery performed between 5 and 8 months of age. So depending on your kitty, your vet might have specific advice on how to neuter your cat and when.

"Super-early neutering at only a few weeks of age can lead to health problems down the road and isn't recommended in the vast majority of cases," she adds. "Although sometimes, it's still performed in shelter situations." It might be necessary in TNR, or trap-neuter-release, cat colony management programs as well.

How Much Does It Cost to Neuter a Cat?

Myers says cat neutering costs primarily depend on how the anesthesia is administered (either injected or intubated with gas) and other services provided at the time, such as:

"The best way for a cat parent to know what to expect with regard to the cost for a neuter procedure is to have their veterinary clinic provide them with an estimate during their final healthy kitten series vaccination visit," Myers says. "This is also a good time to make a decision about when it should be done."

Most of the time, you can expect to pay somewhere around $200–$400 for a neutering procedure. In this article, we outline more specifics regarding fees, including options for programs offering low-cost cat neutering approved by the ASPCA.

Recovery From Neuter Surgery

Unlike spaying, which is major abdominal surgery, Myers says testicles are much easier to find and remove, since they're located in the scrotal sac outside the body. Thus, a cat neuter procedure is basically a quick snip that often takes only a few minutes, less than the amount of time needed to prepare a cat for the procedure itself. She says that recovery time is negligible for kittens who undergo the procedure when they're 5–8 months old.

"It's best to try to minimize activity for at least 24 hours following surgery, but the kitten will most likely act completely normal as soon as he wakes up from anesthesia," she adds. You could prepare his cat bed for ultimate comfort, and—why not?!—make some homemade treats to reward him for being so brave.

However, if the cat is a fully mature adult, Myers says the tissues involved are larger and have a bigger blood supply. As you might imagine, removal of larger testicles requires a longer recovery time than tiny ones, but your vet team will provide all the guidance you need for the best aftercare.