Spaying or Neutering Your Cat – What You Need to Know
Dr Caity Venniker
Sterilisation is generally recommended for all cats that are not being used for breeding purposes. The advantages of sterilisation include health benefits for the individual cat, as well as helping to maintain appropriate behaviour in the home. Even more importantly, it helps to control the problem of irresponsible breeding and unwanted cats.
Health Benefits of Sterilisation
Sterilisation is associated with increased longevity in cats(1) for many reasons:
- Intact cats are more prone to roaming, which can be dangerous.
- Intact male cats have much larger territories than neutered males and are more inclined to fight and mate. This puts them at greater risk for both FIV and FELV infections, as well as the likelihood of acquiring abscesses.
- Indoor cats also benefit greatly from sterilisation. The main risk for intact cats is the development of various cancers, namely ovarian, uterine, testicular and especially mammary cancer. Mammary cancer is one of the most commonly diagnosed cancers in cats. If your cat is spayed before her first heat cycle, the risk of mammary cancer decreases by 91%(2) but the risk increases with every heat cycle; and after the age of approximately two and a half, the protective benefits of sterilisation against mammary cancer are negligible(3).
Behaviour Benefits of Sterilisation
Unsterilised male cats are prone to aggression as well as urine spraying for marking purposes. Castration markedly reduces these behaviours, especially if performed before they become habitual. For this reason, castration prior to puberty (approximately 5-6 months) is advised.
Unsterilised, sexually mature female cats will have heat cycles every two to three weeks for most of the year (this can vary depending on breed and geographic location). They will be on heat for approximately a week per cycle. During this time, they will often cry persistently and may also urinate in unusual places as a marking behaviour.
Things You Should Know Before Sterilising Your Cat
Sterilisation is a risk factor for obesity, as it decreases metabolic rate. This can be managed by weight monitoring and controlling diet. Sterilised cats have approximately 25% lower metabolic energy requirements than unsterilised cats - fortunately with KatKin’s personalised pouches all the maths of counting calories is done for you!
Usually sterilisation is an outpatient procedure with no overnight stay required. Cats have to be starved beforehand so that the stomach is empty (most often from after dinner the night before but your vet will advise you on this). The surgery is generally short, especially in males. Recovery is routinely uneventful with complications being rare, but Elizabethan/buster collars (more commonly known as cones of shame!) are often recommended to prevent licking of the wound site.
For castrated males, the incision is generally left open without stitches – this is to allow drainage of the small amount of blood which would otherwise collect in the scrotum and may cause discomfort. Females may have a flank or abdominal midline incision, and usually these will require stitches to be removed in 10 - 14 days.
Your cat may be a little groggy after the anaesthetic and also may have a decreased appetite on the first day. It’s a good idea to keep your cat inside for a few days after the operation and to keep them as quiet as possible for the first 24 hours, preferably away from disruptions from any other pets. Most cats bounce back to being their usual selves within a few days, and while they may require a little extra TLC during this time, it’s well worth it because sterilisation is a major investment into their long-term health and wellbeing.
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- Banfield Pet Hospital. (2013, May 8). Spaying and neutering may contribute to longer lifespans. Retrieved from: https://www.banfield.com/about-us/news-room/press-releases-announcements/spaying-and-neutering-may-contribute-to-longer-lif
- Cornell Feline Health Center. (2016). Mammary tumours. Cornell University. Retrieved from: https://www.vet.cornell.edu/departments-centers-and-institutes/cornell-feline-health-center/health-information/feline-health-topics/mammary-tumors
- Williams, K. & Ward, E. Spaying in cats. Care and Wellness, Pet Services. VCA. Retrieved from: https://vcahospitals.com/know-your-pet/spaying-in-cats