Pet Care

Spay-Neuter

Close up of cat with head slightly tilted

What Are Spaying and Neutering?

Spaying and neutering are surgical procedures performed by veterinarians that render cats incapable of breeding by removing their reproductive organs. When a female cat is spayed (also called an ovariohysterectomy), the ovaries, fallopian tubes and uterus are removed. Neutering results in the castration of males and the complete removal of their testicles.

What Are the Health Benefits of Spaying and Neutering?

Spayed cats are less likely to develop breast cancer and will not be at risk for ovarian or uterine cancer, while neutered males will not get testicular cancer. By neutering male cats, you also reduce the risk of injury and transmission of disease, since intact males have a natural instinct to roam and get into fights with other cats, who may have contagious diseases or parasites.

Why Should I Spay or Neuter My Cat?

In addition to the many health benefits, spaying or neutering your cat ensures that he or she won’t contribute to the feline overpopulation problem. Even a cat who lives indoors may escape and produce kittens if not sterilized. Each year, millions of homeless cats are euthanized or end up in shelters due to a lack of good homes.

What Are Some Behavioral Issues Associated with Cats Who Aren’t Spayed or Neutered?

Although any cat can spray urine to mark territory, intact males are those who most often engage in this behavior. Both intact male and female cats may try to escape their homes to roam outside. When female cats are in estrus (heat), they yowl and attract male cats.

When Is the Best Time To Spay or Neuter My Cat?

It is generally considered safe for kittens as young as eight weeks old to be spayed or neutered. In animal shelters, surgery is often performed at this time so that kittens can be sterilized prior to adoption. In an effort to avoid the start of urine spraying and eliminate the chance for pregnancy, it’s advisable to schedule the surgery before your own cat reaches six months of age. It’s possible to spay a female cat while she’s in heat, but not always recommended since she’s susceptible to increased blood loss. Although older cats can be good candidates, your vet can best determine if the procedure can be safely performed.

What Happens When My Cat Is Spayed or Neutered? Will He or She Act Differently?

After sterilization, your cat may be calmer and less likely to exhibit certain behaviors, but his or her personality will not change. Contrary to myth, a neutered cat does not become lazy and overweight. Fixed males do require fewer calories to maintain their body weight, so please talk to your vet about adjusting your cat’s dietary needs.

How Do I Prepare My Pet for Surgery?

Your veterinary clinic will provide pre-surgical advice that you should follow. In general, avoid giving your cat any food after midnight the night before surgery. A kitten, however, needs adequate nutrition, and your veterinarian may advise that food not be withheld.

What Is the Recovery Process for Recently Spayed or Neutered Cats?

Although your cat may experience some discomfort after surgery, he shouldn’t be in pain. Depending on the procedure performed, medication to control pain may be sent home with your cat. Here are some tips for a safe and comfortable recovery:

  • Provide your cat with a quiet place to recover indoors and away from other animals.
  • Try to prevent your cat from running or jumping for the first few days following surgery.
  • Prevent your cat from licking the incision site, which may cause infection, by distracting him with a few treats or by using an Elizabethan collar.
  • Consider using shredded paper instead of cat litter, since dust from the litter can also cause infection.
  • Avoid bathing your cat for at least ten days after surgery.
  • Check the incision site daily to confirm proper healing.

If you notice any redness, swelling or discharge at the surgery site, or if the incision is open, please contact your vet. Also call your vet if your cat is lethargic, has a decreased appetite, is vomiting or has diarrhea following surgery.