New survey explains why some veterinarians object to ‘fixing felines by 5 months’

April 1, 2021
dvm360 Staff

The majority of veterinarians who wait to sterilize cats until age 6 months or older cited future health concerns as the driving force behind their recommendation.

Feline Fix by Five Months is an educational campaign to inform veterinarians and cat owners about the benefits of spaying and neutering cats before the age of 5 months, instead of the commonly accepted 6 months. The campaign, launched in 2016, has the backing of the American Veterinary Medical Association and several other professional and humane organizations. However, not all veterinarians are aware of this recommendation or on board with implementing it.

To find out why some practices aren’t adopting the recommendations, the Feline Fix by Five Months educational campaign sponsored a survey of more than 200 US veterinarians who regularly perform sterilization procedures. Here’s what they found:

  • 31% said they use both age and gender to determine the appropriate time for sterilization. Among those who use age as the only factor, more than half wait until the cat is 6 months or older.
  • 61% said "age 5 months or less" was the best age to spay females.
  • 57% said they wait until male cats are 6 months or older before neutering.

"When those who wait until 6 months or older were asked why, the majority believed that performing the surgery before 6 months of age puts cats at risk for urinary tract disease, blockages, and bone and joint disorders. None of these concerns are supported by veterinary research," says Philip Bushby, DVM, MS, DACVS, veterinary medical advisor of the Fix by Five Months campaign, in a release. "The insights gleaned from this survey reveal an opportunity to overcome objections to spaying and neutering cats before 5 months by presenting data that undercuts myths about future health risks."

Overall, the survey findings suggest that veterinarians who use gender and age as determining factors for sterilization prefer to spay female cats at a younger age than male cats.

"We know that in recent years there has been an increase in the number of vets that recommend spaying and neutering at 5 months or less," says Esther Mechler, program director of the Feline Fix by Five campaign. "This survey has provided us with valuable insights that will help inform targeted, relevant messaging to drive increased awareness and adoption of the fix by 5 months protocol among all veterinarians and cat owners."

To learn more about the Feline Fix by Five Months campaign, go here.