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Castration or sterilization?
In the vernacular, the removal of the testes is called 'castration' in the male cat. The removal of the ovaries (and possibly the uterus) of the cat is referred to as 'sterilization'.

In veterinary medicine, however, 'sterilization' and 'castration' do not indicate the sex of the animals, but the operation itself. 'Castration' is the removal of the sexual organs, both in male and female animals.

Our pets are therefore always 'castrated', whatever gender they have. If the genitals are not removed, but the fallopian tubes or vas deferens are interrupted, this is called 'sterilization'.

The animals are then infertile, but still intact hormonally. The behavior remains the same. Of course, that "difficult" behavior is just what we want to avoid. Sterilization of pets is therefore almost never done.

Letting your darling help, it is something that most cat owners sooner or later face. Fortunately for the concerned owners, the operation is now a routine operation and the risks are small. Yet there is still some confusion about castration, especially around the best age to have the castration performed ...

That a cat must not have had a litter first and that it is not necessary to wait until the first heat has passed, we all know that in the meantime. But when does the operation have to happen?

There is no scientific reason for this, but traditionally cats in Belgium and the Netherlands are helped at an age from six months.

In general, this is a good age for unwanted litters and sexual behavior such as spraying. However, it can sometimes be desirable to have the animals help at a younger age.

This is the case, for example, with kittens in an asylum, so that the new owner can no longer care for the offspring. In the current adoption contracts the new owner is obliged to have the adopted kitten castrated, but this is often not done or done too late.

This way it will remain open for the asylums with the tap. For breeders, the sale of castrated kittens guarantees that no litter can be taken with an inadequate kitten. A breeding ban is not taken too closely by some people, which of course is not conducive to the health of purebred cats. Mistakes within the breed are thus encouraged. In all these cases, early castration is an option. But what does that actually mean?

Early castration is the castration of kittens between 8 and 16 weeks old. In Belgium and the Netherlands, early castration is not yet known, but more and more veterinarians are in favor of it. In the United States and Great Britain, veterinarians have decades of experience, which means that the advantages and disadvantages are well known.

With mother and littermates to the doctor
The operation can be done from the age of 8 weeks, on condition that the balls are palpable. This may seem pathetic - after all, it is about small, cute little ones - but practice shows that kittens are not bothered by it.

The whole litter will go to the vet, so that the kittens that need help have little stress. They wake up between their brothers and sisters and can snuggle warmly against their mothers.

In addition, small children recover much earlier from the procedure than older cats. A few hours after the operation they are already happily jumping around. They also seem to suffer less from pain than adult cats who are helped (although here too the necessary pain relief after the surgery can bring relief).

The surgery itself usually takes less time than with castration at the 'normal' age. Because there is less belly fat in young animals, the organs are more visible to the vet. This, together with the fact that the sex organs are less developed and therefore less blood circulation, reduces the risk of complications.

Just as safe as in later life
Of course, an adjusted anesthetic should be used when spitting kittens. The kidneys are not yet fully developed and are therefore less able to process the used drugs. Gas narcosis is therefore the best way to anesthetize kittens. Other alternatives are described in detail in the literature so that your vet can make the right choice for your kitten.

Other measures are the use of a heat mat during the operation so that the kitten does not become supercooled and allow it to fast longer. Normally, cats should be kept sober from the evening before the operation and will not be fed until the morning after the operation.

Kittens can not control their sugar level very well yet and have fewer reserves. That is why they can eat up to a few hours before the operation and they already get a light meal when they are well awake. By taking these measures, the operation is as safe as in older animals.

No disadvantages for development
Until a few years ago, rumors circulated that early castration would have many drawbacks. For example, early castrated animals would remain small and have a smaller urethra, which would make them more clogged. Fortunately, thorough scientific studies have now refuted these prejudices.

Cats that are castrated early, even grow slightly longer because their growth plates (these are the places in the bones where new bone is made) later close. They become even slightly larger than their uncastrated counterparts!

This is not something specific to early castration, since the growth plates are not yet closed in cats that are being treated at 'normal' age. These cats also continue to grow slightly longer than their counterparts who are only helped after their first year of life.

Furthermore, the diameter of the urethra does not differ from that of unoccupied animals, although the external genital organs develop less. There is therefore no reason to assume that pre-castrated animals would be more easily clogged.

As with all helped animals, the diet must be adjusted to avoid fat. For all castrated cats, they consume less energy and therefore need to receive less or adapted feed.

 No difference in behavior
A frequently heard argument against early castration is that the animals would behave abnormally anyway, because they would still need those sexual hormones during their development?

Behavioral studies have shown that there is almost no difference in behavior between animals that were neutered, neutered at normal age and castrated. The only differences found were differences between the first two groups and the late castrated animals.

Animals that are castrated at a later age, when they are already more mature, continue to show typical sexual behaviors, such as spraying. The hormones therefore have an influence on the development of behavior: they ensure that the brains of the kitten become more male or female, with the accompanying behaviors. Just what we want to avoid with castration!

In summary, early castration is a safe and affordable (no more expensive than a standard castration) option for those who want to avoid that certain kittens reproduce and his pet wants to save hormonal urges with which the animal can and should not do anything.