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Neutering Your Cat...Why, When and How

Aug 17, 2007
Neutering a male is a procedure known as castration. It involves complete removal of the testes via two small surgical incisions over the scrotum. The scrotal wound is usually left open to heal up by itself. Cats do not have vasectomies like humans do as they are neutered for other reasons in addition to birth control. There have been several occasions where owners have been unaware of this fact until the operation has been done, causing resentment in some cases. The pros and cons of castration will be discussed shortly.

Neutering a female is a procedure known as spaying. It usually involves an ovariohysterectomy, removal of the ovaries and uterus via a surgical incision over the belly button or left flank. However some vets prefer to carry out an ovariectomy alone, leaving the uterus in place. Note how this differs with the equivalent human procedure, a hysterectomy, where only the uterus is removed.

Why should I neuter my cat?

For males, the reasons in favor of castration are:

1. Birth control. If you also own a female cat that has not been spayed, this will prevent unwanted pregnancies.
2. Stopping territorial behavior such as urine marking or spraying in the house.
3. Reducing aggression and making the cat less fractious.
4. Making the cat less likely to wander in search of mates, and therefore less likely to suffer a road traffic accident.
5. Reducing the number of fights the cat gets into as a result of territorial disputes, and therefore reducing the chance of injuries such as abscesses, and reducing the probability of the cat contracting Feline Aids or Leukaemia virus.

The arguments against castration in male cats are:

1. The anesthetic risk. With every general anesthetic there is a risk, but in a young cat that risk is very, very low.
2. Other potential complications. These are very rare and usually easily resolved and include infection, bleeding into the scrotum and herniation.
3. The cost. This will vary hugely between clinics, and can be from $10 to $50

For female cats, the reasons in favor of spaying are:

1. Birth control. Unwanted pregnancies are a hassle, if they occur you have the responsibility of terminating the pregnancy (this can be done via a pregnant ovariohysterectomy), paying for any complications with the birth (Caesarian sections are expensive) or finding loving homes for the kittens.
2. Stopping the cat from wanting to wander around the neighborhood looking for tom cats to mate with.
3. Stopping erratic behavior associated with being on heat.
4. Eliminating the risk of ovarian or uterine cancer and other rare diseases such as infection of the uterus.

The argument against spaying in females are:

1. The anesthetic risk. With every general anesthetic there is a risk, but in a young healthy cat that risk is very, very low.
2. Other potential complications. There include infection, breakdown of the abdominal wound and internal bleeding. These are very rare and usually easy to resolve.
3. The cost. This will vary hugely between clinics, but is usually around $50-$100

When should I neuter my cat?

The answer is the same for males and females, 6 months of age. Cats become sexually mature at this age. Leaving it any longer than this risks an unwanted pregnancy as cats are exceptionally good at getting pregnant given the opportunity. There is no such thing as too late for a cat, but the closest to 6 months the better.

It is a bad idea to spay a cat too soon after having kittens as the uterus is swollen with a larger blood supply then, so the risk of bleeding is increased. Hence vets like to leave it until 3 months after a litter, when the uterus has shrunk again and the surgery is easier and safer.

How do I get my cat neutered?

Very easily. Both castration and spaying are routine operations performed by virtually all veterinary clinics, often on a daily basis. Before booking your cat in to be neutered your vet will need to do a quick clinical examination to check your cat is ready for the operation. This will usually involve just listening to the heart and lungs to confirm there is no underlying disease that might jeopardize an anesthetic. In male cats, the testes are felt to make sure they have descended properly. If they have not, a more complex procedure might be necessary to remove them. In females, the mammary glands are often felt to check she is not lactating as this can complicate the surgery.

Once booked in, your vet will usually ask you to starve your cat from midnight the night before the operation, to ensure he/she has an empty stomach at the time of surgery. The cat is then dropped off at the clinic and usually collected later on that day. Cats having routine neutering rarely have to stay at the clinic overnight. When they go home they are often as playful and bright as ever, were it not for the small wound you would not know they had had a surgical procedure!
About the Author
Dr Matthew Homfray is one of the veterinary pet experts at www.WhyDoesMyPet.com. Our dedicated community of caring pet experts are waiting to offer you advice, second opinions and support.
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