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Does It Matter At What Age A Female Cat Is Spayed?

One condition that many cat owners dread hearing their pets may have developed is mammary cancer because around 90% of feline mammary tumours turn out to be malignant. This means the tumours are incredibly invasive and quickly spread to other parts of a cat's body. In dogs. however, only about 50% of mammary tumours turn out to be malignant so the contrast is quite dramatic.

What most cat owners do not realise is that tumours can affect all cats, even males but typically it is older and unspayed females that are at much greater risk of developing this horrible condition. When it comes to the age at which a female cat is spayed, this does play a crucial role in reducing the chances of her developing malignant mammary tumours.

The Best Time is When a Female is 6 Months Old

Vets recommend that kittens be spayed before they are 6 months old because this reduces the chances of them developing mammary cancer by an amazing 91% as compared to cats that have not been spayed. Research has shown that spaying cats between the age of 6 months and 1 year reduces the chances of them developing mammary tumours by 86%.

However, after this, spaying a female cat when they are 1 to 2 years old sees an 11% reduction in them developing the condition. Spaying females any time after this does not reduce the risk of them getting the condition at all. So as a rule of thumb, the earlier a female cat is spayed the better her chances of not developing the condition at all.

A Lot of Cat Owners Find Lumps by Accident

A lot of the time, owners only discover a lump on their cat's body by pure accident which is typically when they are petting them. Another reason why you might notice something is amiss is when your cat starts to lick or chew at a particular area of their stomachs. Vets too when carrying out a routine examination will come across suspect "masses" quite by accident.

What About Prognosis?

When it comes to prognosis, this really does depend on the size of the tumour when first diagnosed. However, in general the outcome is typically as follows:

  • If the tumour that's less than 2 cm in diameter when it is successfully removed sees a median survival rate in cats of anything to 4½ years
  • If the tumour is larger than 3 cm in diameter when it is successfully removed, the survival rate is seen to be drastically shorter being just 6 months

The problem is that mammary tumours (and others) tend to go undetected for too long which means they are already quite large when finally picked up on and diagnosed. This is why routine check-ups at the vet are so crucial and examining your pet yourself is so important too. This is especially the case for female cats that were spayed later in their lives as is the case of many adopted felines that were rescued by animal shelters and where their medical history is unknown.

What if a Cat Develops Mammary Cancer?

When cats develops mammary cancer, vets would recommend removing the tumours surgically and although it is quite an aggressive procedure it is not as invasive as many other surgical procedures. These days, veterinary medicine boasts many very effective pain management therapies which assists and speeds up recovery a cat's recovery too.

However, it is important for pet owners to understand that if surgery is undertaken to remove mammary tumours although the procedure may well prolong a cat's life, it will impact the quality of a cat's life albeit for a short period after they have undergone the surgery.

What About Chemotherapy?

Cats with mammary cancer can undergo chemotherapy if the tumours cannot be surgically removed or where the disease has already spread to other parts of their body. A high percentage of cats will respond to the treatment but often their survival time is only around 6 months following the treatment. With this said, if they are not treated their survival rate is usually only 3 months after the condition has been diagnosed by the vet.

In general, there are two possible outcomes when a cat develops mammary cancer which are as follows:

  • Cats may develop large fast growing tumours which then become infected and ulcerated which in turn makes the cat very ill and as such impacts their quality of life
  • Tumours spread to a cat's lungs making it hard for them to breath properly which can be due to the size of the tumour or the fact that fluid starts to build up around their lungs where secondary tumours have formed

Conclusion

Being told your cat has developed mammary cancer can be very scary which is why it is so important to do as much as you can to reduce the risk of this ever happening. By spaying a cat earlier rather than later you effectively reduce the chances of them developing this horrid form of cancer. If you've adopted an older cat from a rescue centre and know they were spayed later in their lives, it's essential to have them routinely checked over by your vet because the earlier a lump is detected and diagnosed, the better the outcome would be.


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