Neutering is a surgical procedure in which a cat’s reproductive organs are removed under a general anaesthetic. Male sterilisation is known as ‘castration’ and involves removal of the testicles through an incision in the scrotum. Sterilisation of females is termed ‘spraying’ and is achieved by the removal of both the uterus and the ovaries.
One of the first questions you might ask when adopting a kitten is at what age should I get my Maine coon neutered? As Maine coons can hit sexual maturity from the age of 4 months, it is a good idea to get them fixed between the ages of 3 and 4 months. In fact, some breeders will make sure that this is done before they allow the kitten to go home with you.
Opinions differ on the subject and there are several reasons for this, many of which have no scientific basis. Traditionally owners would wait until their Maine coon was between 6 and 9 months before getting them neutered. We now know that neutering can be performed safely at as early as 12 weeks of age with no untoward long-term effects.
Why Should You Have Your Maine Coon Neutered?
Before we discuss the reasons why some owners choose to wait to neuter their Maine coon, first we should look at why neutering is necessary in the first place. Neutering is an important step you should take to care for your Maine coon. From about 4 months onwards Maine coons can start to exhibit hormone-driven behaviours. These behaviours are a sign that they have hit puberty and will continue to be a problem until the point that they are neutered. Neutering reduces the risk of many problems for you and your Maine coon.
Unwanted litters of Kittens
The most obvious effect of removing the reproductive organs is that your cat will not be contributing to the production of unwanted litters of Kittens.
For males, having the testicles removed also removes the risk of them developing testicular cancer in the future. For female cats, the risk of gynaecological cancers is reduced. Also the associated reduction in oestrogen reduces their future risk of developing cancer in their mammary tissues.
Un-neutered cats are very territorial and as a result will exhibit aggressive tendencies. If they come across other cats then they will be inclined to get into a fight. Fighting can result in injuries such as abscesses and the transmission of blood-borne diseases such as Feline Leukaemia Virus (FIV).
These aggressive behaviours can often result in an un-neutered male cat being deemed unsafe to live in the house and particularly unsafe to be around small children. Multiple studies have shown that the rate of relinquish to a rescue shelter is significantly higher for un-neutered cats compared with neutered cats. In each study the reason for this was put down to the behaviour associated with the unneutered state.
You will notice that as your cat hits puberty their urine develops a more pungent smell and they may start to spray urine around the house. Spraying is a behaviour which is more commonly seen in male cats as a way of marking their territory. Females can also display this behaviour but this is less common. Spraying is also seen by cats living in households with multiple cats. It is a good idea to have your cat neutered prior to them developing this behaviour as once it becomes a habit it is difficult to get them to stop doing it.
The most common cause of spraying in a cat who has been neutered is anxiety. Other causes to consider are bladder issues such as bladder stones or a urinary tract infection. If your Maine coon has been neutered and is still spraying then take them to see the vet to rule out these problems.
An unneutered cat will have the urge to get outside and find themselves a mate. This is a particular problem in Maine coons as they are largely kept as indoor pets. There are a number of different reasons for this apart from the fact that they just might not come home. For more information see my previous article, Should I Let My Maine Coon Go Outside?
Maine coons are naturally very chatty. They have a wide range of noises that they like to make to get their point across to their humans. As Maine coons reach sexual maturity the frequency of noise will increase and the cute sounds can turn to sounds which are not so adorable. The screaming throughout the night will get old really quickly!
Why Do Some Owners Wait to Neuter Their Maine Coons?
There are a number of concerns you will hear from Maine coon owners surrounding the age at which neutering should take place. All of these are myth with no supporting scientific evidence.
Concerns About Stunting Growth
The most common concern you will hear from owners is that they don’t want to neuter their cat too early in case it reduces their growth potential, but there is no scientific basis for this. A Maine coon will reach their full growth potential regardless of when they are neutered.
Maine coons reach physical maturity much later than other breeds of cat. Your average domestic cat will reach their adult size at around 2 years old whereas a Maine coon will usually continue to grow until they are 4 or 5 years of age. Don’t worry if you think that your coon is growing slowly, this is perfectly normal.
The physes are the cartilaginous plate that line the end of the long bones. The timing of closure of physes of the long bones is known to be associated with steroid hormones from the reproductive system. Closure of these physes has been shown to be longer in cats who have been neutered. The significance of this has however not been demonstrated.
The studies which have been performed only include a small number of cats and the results cannot be deemed significant. They also failed to reach any conclusion as to what was deemed ‘early neutering’ rendering their findings unhelpful in clinical practice. There has also not been any association found between the risk of fractures and having your cat neutered.
Concerns About Head Size
In the past some breeders have recommended that you wait until your Maine coon is 9-10 months old before neutering in order to let their head’s grow to their full potential. There is no evidence however that neutering has any impact on head size.
Because Their Maine Coon is an Indoor Cat
This is a risky attitude to have. For a start if you have more than one cat in the house then they will get territorial, fight and likely develop the habit of spraying. That’s all just inside the house, then you have the risk of them trying to get outside. Even if your Maine coon is the only cat in your house then if unneutered they will have the instinct to go roaming to find themselves a mate. Your indoor Maine coon will not be a content coon if they have not been neutered.
Concerns About the Risk of Obesity
Being neutered is the most common risk factor for obesity in cats. This is because cats are known to be more sedentary when they have been neutered. As obesity in cats is a common and multi-factorial condition. This makes it difficult to conduct any sort of controlled study looking at the correlation between risk of obesity and the age at which a cat is neutered. Ensuring that your cat has a well balanced diet, is not overfed and has plenty of play can significantly reduce the risk of obesity. The risks of leaving your cat un-neutered far outweigh the risk of them gaining weight post-surgery.
Risks of Urinary Tract Not Developing Properly
Some owners report urethral obstruction in male cats who have been neutered however there have been no studies which have been proved this association. It may be the case that there is an association but in cats who have developed obesity. Again, keep your cat a healthy weight and this shouldn’t be a factor you have to worry about.
How to Care For Your Maine Coon After They Have Been Neutered?
In general, Kittens respond well to the operation and you’ll be able to take them home right away. Post operative recovery is quick. There does not tend to be a lot of bleeding and it is not overly painful. There are a few things that you’ll want to bear in mind after your cat has been neutered:
As the operation is performed under a general anaesthetic your kitten may be a little sleepy and unsteady on the feet for several hours after the procedure. This is normal but if they do not seem back to their normal selves after 24 hours then contact your veterinarian.
They also may not feel like eating in the first 24 hours after the anaesthetic. Make sure that they have plenty of fresh water available and offer food on a regular basis until they start eating again.
Try to limit your cat’s movements for the next 24-48 hours as this will reduce the risk of the wound opening up again. This can be quite a challenge once the sleepiness has worn off and all your kitten wants to do is run around the house and play! You might want to consider having a crate filled with cosy bedding to keep them in for a couple of days. Put their food, water and litter tray near to where they are sleeping in order to reduce the amount of moving around they need to do.
When your kitten leaves the vet they may have a plastic cone around their neck, this is to prevent them from licking the stitches. This reduces the risk of infection and of the wound breaking open.
Keep the wound nice and dry, this means no bathing for at least two weeks following the operation. As Maine coons are obsessed with water this may prove tricky trying to stop them from jumping in the shower with you.
Kittens should be kept indoors for at least two days after the procedure, but bear in mind that most Maine coons are kept as indoor pets anyway.
Monitor the wound for signs of infection. Try to check the wound at least once a day. These include redness, swelling and discharge from the wound. If your coon is showing any of these signs then contact your veterinarian as they may need to provide you with antibiotics.
So, When Should Your Get Your Maine Coon Neutered?
You will find that a lot of breeders are getting Kittens neutered prior to allowing them to go home with their new owners. Or you may find that you’ll be allowed to take the kitten home but the papers proving that they are purebred Maine coon are withheld until you can provide proof that you have had them neutering. This will be in part to cut down on the number of backyard breeders. They obviously won’t want you setting up as competition but also they will not want to contribute to irresponsible breeding practices.
Another reason that breeders are choosing to neuter early is because of de-clawing. De-clawing of Maine coons was a common practice in the past. Having them neutered prior to go home reduces the risk of aggressive behaviours which might prompt an owner to consider de-clawing.
If you’ve got yourself a kitten and they haven’t yet been neutered then have a chat with your veterinarian about when they would recommend neutering. Regardless of when the neutering takes place you should choose to have the procedure done at some point for your Maine coon to enjoy a happy, healthy home life with your family.