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I'm pretty sure that having kittens (and nursing them, etc) changes a female cat both physically and mentally. Exactly how it changes the cat is not quite clear to me. To me a female cat that has had kittens seems more "adult" than another one who was spayed before ever having kittens. I have never given much thought to it really. I believe that having kittens is good for the cat, and especially for me, because I don't want my cat to behave like a big kitten all through her adult life.

Getting rid of the kittens has not proven difficult, at least in the country I live in. People will buy cheap cross-breed kittens willingly, especially from a seller like me, who sells clean and healthy vet-checked, vaccined, dewormed kittens. I'm asking for approximately the "production costs" price only, so it is definitely not a business to me. The only issue is if I really want to have my cat have kittens at all. At the moment I have one unspayed female cat, so this question is about her. Of all the cats I've ever had I've let two females produce kittens, first in 1988 and second time in 2012.

My question is: How does a cat change after having kittens? What kind of differences there is between two spayed female cats, when one has had kittens and the other one has not?

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    pro: you bring in more cats to the world. con: you bring in more cats into the world. – ratchet freak Dec 11 '13 at 7:29
  • @ratchetfreak - That's a good one :) But as you know, not quite what I asked about. How does having kittens change my cat? – Esa Paulasto Dec 11 '13 at 7:35
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    which is why it's a funny comment instead of a full answer :) – ratchet freak Dec 11 '13 at 8:50
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    "I believe it is good for the cat to have one set of kittens before taken to vet for spaying." <- how is this a good thing? Cat overpopulation is a serious problem, more so than it is with dogs. In Ontario, the shelters might have 1 dog for every 10 cats. – cimmanon Dec 11 '13 at 15:52
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    Besides the obvious "what if everyone did this?" kind of answer. This question does provide a good opportunity for providing an answer to the many people who have this belief. – James Jenkins Dec 12 '13 at 12:47
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+50

In my experience and from discussions with vets, spaying a mature female cat tends to "freeze" their hormonal balance. A cat who is spayed while in or near season can spend the rest of her life acting as though she's in season. A cat spayed before her first season is effectively still a kitten and remains that way all her life.

Cats who are spayed before they have a season tend to be more kittenish in their behavior - more affectionate and more tolerant of other cats (this obviously is also affected by whether the cat tolerates others or not as well as whether she is used to living with other cats - I've found a female cat is more likely to accept a male than another female, for instance, but if they're littermates who grow up together or are introduced as kittens two females can get on fine).

Cats who have had kittens are more likely to adopt a very young kitten (and have been known to produce milk for unweaned kittens even if they are not the mother). They are also more likely to develop issues when spayed such as uncontrolled eating (I had one who had this issue) due to the tendency of the hormonal cycle to freeze in place.

Every vet I've spoken to prefers to spay before the cat matures because of the higher chance of hormone-related health issues when an adult cat is spayed. That said, every vet I've spoken to would rather spay a queen at any age than not spay at all, because of the number of kittens that could be produced: there's a decent calculation at about.com (http://cats.about.com/od/faqspregnancyandbirth/f/How-Many-Times-Could-My-Cat-Become-Pregnant-In-A-Year.htm).

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    A cat spayed before her first season is effectively still a kitten and remains that way all her life I do not think that is truely accurate. – user9 Dec 17 '13 at 15:55
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    @Chad - It's a very well known and well documented aspect of removing the sexual organs: the animal never reaches sexual maturity and retains many of not most of the behavioral and hormonal characteristics of a juvenile (this has also been observed with humans) – Kate Paulk Dec 17 '13 at 18:23
  • @KatePaulk Then perhaps a link to a reference to back up the claim. I have heard that it can delay and sometimes retard development but not that they would remain kitten like through out their life, and that has not been my experience either. – user9 Dec 17 '13 at 18:25
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    It is pretty much universal these days in the USA to spay kittens before maturity, and I haven't noticed any rampant infantilism in the cat population because of it. Adult cats are adult cats just like always. – Oldcat Jan 29 '14 at 0:38
  • There really isn't much information out there on the impact of spaying on cat behavior - I've mentioned cases I've experienced. Every female cat I've known that was spayed young has been more kittenish than every female cat I've known that was spayed after one or more seasons or after a litter. – Kate Paulk Jan 29 '14 at 12:42
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I know that when I was doing research into this, I found several references that mentioned that spaying before the first estrus (heat) cycle decreased risk of certain types of cancer. (Unfortunately I no longer have said references easily to hand.)

Unfortunately, not nearly as many studies have been done on the physiological effects of estrus and pregnancy in cats as have been conducted with dogs. I did find an interesting paper here. It discusses many aspects of the feline reproductive cycle but, from what I've read, does not appear to offer any comparisons between nulliparous cats and those who have successfully reproduced. It may be of interest nonetheless.

Based on the information I was able to find during my previous research and my own experience, I do not feel there are any physical or psychological benefits to breeding a cat prior to spaying. Given that there are so many cats available for adoption from myriad shelters and private individuals I see no reason to post-pone spaying pets any longer than necessary.

  • Thank you. I upvoted for the first half of your answer. You know, the latter half is a bit too much on opinions side. – Esa Paulasto Dec 16 '13 at 20:50
  • I did quite a bit of research into feline nutrition, health, metabolism, and reproduction before I got my first cat. And, in all that research, I could find nothing that indicated any benefits to the cat from spaying only after reproduction. I could, however, find information showing benefits to spaying prior to the first estrus cycle. I have also owned several cats, some of whom were spayed prior to and some after having kittens. Hence "based on research and experience". So yes, based on the lack of benefit to the cat and the number of cats up for adoption, I recommend not breeding more. – symbol Dec 16 '13 at 21:14
  • Could be I put more than was necessary press on the word "feel" there. I do respect your experience and studies. But then the mentioning of pet shelters and the recommendation to spay the cat immediately is not cool. PetsSE is an international site, not USA only. Pets are handled, valued and sheltered differently around the globe. Somewhere worse, somewhere better, than in the States. – Esa Paulasto Dec 16 '13 at 21:27
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    Fair enough. It's true, I have not done research into cat populations worldwide and I don't know what region you're in. Possibly the mention of shelters was out of line. I can edit if your or mods would like. However, regardless of shelter status, I still feel that there are enough benefits to spaying pre-estrus to recommend that course. – symbol Dec 16 '13 at 21:37
  • I removed your last line because we are seeking to become the one stop shop for pets. We should not be suggesting our users go elsewhere for their answers. – user9 Dec 17 '13 at 15:57
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My neighbors had a cat for 6 years. She has spawned 2 litters per year because she apparently is a strong, free spirited, and independent cat. I have been playing with her since she was a kitten (I stay at my neighbors a lot), and she has not displayed noticeable changes in her behavior.

She plays with toys and her kittens (when they become of age). Imagine a full grown cat and 3-4 kittens running around the house... hilarious. She accepts us as her family and lets us pet her babies, but won't let strangers do it.

Other cats in my lifetime have grown less playful with age, wanting sleep more than fun. Purring also decreases with age, but having kittens has not affected any of my female cats. Sure, they concentrate on their babies (cleaning, feeding), but after a group nap they go galloping and jumping all over.

I have seen two sister cats, one spayed and the other with kittens. The spayed cat has licked the kittens, but couldn't stand feeding them (no milk or instinct to do so).

Hope this answers your question.

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I had two sister kittens from when they were weaned. I got a boy kitten a few months after. They all grew up together. One of the girls was black and white, and the other girl was olive colored tabby with stripes. Both were playful and outgoing, very sweet and would cuddle in your lap. In my mind, I knew I needed to get them fixed, but I kept forgetting about it and I thought I had time because I figured they were too young and they weren't showing signs of being in heat (I had other cats in the past that were very much in heat). Needless to say, I was WRONG. I went to Germany for 3 weeks, and when I came back, both of them were pregnant. The father ended up having to be removed for behavioral issues. In my experience, both of my female cat's personalities changed entirely once they got pregnant. While pregnant, the black sister would become a recluse. She would rarely seek attention and hide under furniture. The striped sister would practically kill herself for attention and bite your hand if you weren't petting her hard enough with both hands. Both gave birth to only one kitten. Weird, but true. I suppose it is because of how young they were when they got pregnant. After giving birth, the black sister was a reclusive helicopter mom that hovered over her baby constantly. If it mewed, she was there sniffing and making sure everything was fine. She didn't like us touching it. The tabby was the complete opposite. Once she had hers, she didn't seem to care about it. She would stick it everywhere, and never leave it somewhere to rest. She would put it in the LITTER BOX with poo and pee sticking to its body. She would drop it from the top of furniture. She would leave it for the dog to chew on. When it screamed she would just look at it from across the room. Needless to say, I lost a lot of respect for the tabby. The black sister would come to the rescue and adopted it in a sense. She would feed it and clean it and take it somewhere safe. Then, once the kittens were older, the tabby would be loud and upset most of the time. Trying to open all doors, and clawing and meowing through the night to get into my room. The black sister was even more reclusive and didn't like to be touched. Suddenly, one day, both of them started showing signs of aggression. Towards one another, towards the dog (whom they have loved forever even when the kittens were small) and even towards me. They would randomly start hissing and fluffing their tails. The tabby never scratched me, but the black one did. They even started urinating in odd places, like on my bed or in the bathroom or the hallway. Just for no reason. I always tried to keep their litter boxes plentiful and clean. It ended up getting so bad with their aggression and urinating that I had to get rid of the tabby and the black sister. This all happened within one year. I have no idea WHY the personalities of my cats changed, but they certainly did whenever they got pregnant.

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