Information on Spaying/Neutering Your Cat

By Mary H November 17, 2018

As a cat parent with two fur babies under my care (Casper, a male, and Aria, a female), I find myself constantly in the position of deciding what to do for their health. Casper had a wounded eye when I adopted him as a stray, so I had to decide whether to fight the infection or have the eye removed. Luckily it worked out, and he kept his eye, but being a parent to a cat is a huge responsibility! They rely on us for food, water, comfort, medical care, and one important issue - control of their reproduction. So many cats end up as strays or in shelters because of overpopulation or lack of adequate homes, and this is largely due to cats remaining intact and reproducing at excessive rates. The choice to neuter or spay a cat is never an easy one, but hopefully this article will help you in the decision-making process.

What is the difference between spay and neuter? 1

Despite the fact that neutering is the same term used across the board, whether referring to the female or male procedure, neutering is commonly known as surgery to remove or disable the reproductive system in a male cat. Spaying is reserved for female cats, and it involves completely removing the uterus, fallopian tubes, and ovaries of the cat.

Spays are performed under general anesthesia with a breathing tube on the female cat. The cat is asleep for the 15-20 minute procedure and is closely observed afterwards to ensure that she doesn’t disturb her stitches. These stitches are done in two layers (internal and external) and are designed to dissolve over time. Often a vet will tattoo a green or blue line on the skin of her belly. This marks that she has been spayed, so if surrendered to a shelter (or she escapes and is adopted again) she doesn’t get cut back open.

Neuters for male cats are done under general anesthesia and generally take five minutes or less! A small cut is made in each testicle sac, the testicle is popped through, removed, and the tubes tied off before being released back into the cat. Since the cuts are so small, they’re typically left to close on their own without stitches. Males are also observed after surgery to ensure that they don’t disturb their wounds, but typically they recover much faster than females do. They should be up and at ‘em almost as soon as the anesthesia wears off.

For both male and female operations, expect the vet to keep your cat overnight for observation. Many spays and neuters are scheduled for drop-off in the evening and pick up the next day. While vets are typically attentive to their patients, it is also important for you to keep a close eye on your pet and their wounds until they’re fully healed. The healing process can take anywhere from two weeks to two months. If your cat seems sluggish for longer than a few days, seems feverish, is hot to the touch, or has pus or excessive bleeding from the operation site, call your vet for further instruction. However, the above situations are rare and most spays and neuters go off without a hitch. It never hurts to keep a close eye though, so stay calm and watch your pet for symptoms until they’re healed.

What are reasons to spay or neuter my cat? 2

The first and foremost reason to spay or neuter your cat is to reduce overpopulation of unwanted cats. A large number of animals end up in shelters or on the streets each year. The majority are euthanized or suffer from disease or trauma while living on the streets.

While a carbon copy (or two or three or nine!) of Lily or George would be an adorable adventure, not every home can make space for the standard litter of three to six kitten who will quickly become fully grown cats. Since there are plenty of cats waiting in shelters (or out on the streets) for their forever home, it only makes sense to adopt one if you’re longing for another pet friend.

The second reason to spay or neuter is to prolong your cat’s life. Kitty cancer is no fun for anyone, and it can severely limit your cat’s lifespan and quality of life. Many of these cancers stem from keeping reproductive systems intact, such as ovarian, uterine, testicular, or prostate cancer.

A secondary life-shortening effect of keeping your cats intact has nothing to do with illness, but everything to do with cats and their need to find a mate. Male cats are more likely to roam far and wide to search out females in heat, leading them to cross dangerous roads (where they could be hit by a car) and fight other males. Females are also prone to all the dangers inherent in raising kittens, such as seeking out a safe place to give birth (which also leads to roaming), infection after delivery, or exhaustion after difficult births. So, if keeping your cat alive as long as possible is a priority for you, getting them spayed or neutered should be at the top of your to-do list.

Aside from health benefits and length of life, spaying or neutering your cats can also reduce trouble for you! Male cats, if left intact, are more likely to spray inside to mark their territory. Cat pee is infamous for its smell and the unlikelihood of ever cleaning it out of your carpet, furniture, or drapes. Males are also more prone to fighting and roaming, which results in hurt, angry, and sometimes even lost pets. Females are no better, often yowling into the wee hours of the night in order to attract a mate when they’re in heat. To keep these irritations to a minimum, it’s wise to have your cat fixed.

Will my cat act differently after spaying or neutering? 2

Many cat parents worry that their cats will change, either temporarily or permanently, once they’re spayed or neutered. While there may be some short-term or permanent changes in behavior, many will be for the better as previously explained. In general, the basic personality of your cat such as activity level, excitement, and vocalization remains the same after the procedure.

You might also notice your cat gaining weight after being spayed or neutered. This is due in part to a reduction in roaming, that pesky side effect that you may have wanted to reduce in the first place. Turns out you can’t have your cake and eat it too! If this starts to be a problem (with your cat developing a thickened waist and a pendulous belly) reduce the food you feed him or her daily and work in some playtime with a toy or two. It can also prove helpful to invest in a timed food dispenser, which can space out the amount of food your cat eats.

Physical changes will be most obvious in male cats, especially if neutered before puberty. These cats will not develop the characteristic thickened skull and muscle density that their intact brothers tend to sport. This is due to the drop in testosterone after the removal of the testes. If fixed after puberty, the thickened skull will remain, but muscle tone might diminish. These cats are also prone to weight gain due to a drop in male hormones, so be sure to keep a close eye on their exercise habits and food intake.

We hope that this brief guide was helpful in the decision making process! The choice to spay or neuter isn’t an easy one, but you will find that spaying and neutering has many benefits. As always, consult your vet if you have any questions specific to your pet, and keep the health of your cat as your first priority.

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Sources Cited

1 Dr. Elizabeth Lynch, staff veterinarian at the MSPCA. Ask a Vet: All You Need to Know About Spay/Neuter Surgery

2 Reasons to Spay or Neuter Your Cat