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Cat Neutering

Neutering is the term used for rendering a male or female cat unable to produce kittens.

Why Have Your Cat Surgically Neutered?

cat_main_coon_sittingThere are numerous benefits that can be realized as a result of having your cat surgically neutered by your veterinarian. One of the most important health decisions you can make for the long-term well-being of your pet is to have him or her surgically neutered.

The surgical procedure in the female (ovariohysterectomy, also called a spay surgery) involves complete removal of both ovaries and the uterus through an incision in the abdomen. Sometimes (uncommonly) just the ovaries are removed (ovariectomy). Neutering the male cat (castration) is the surgical removal of both testes through small skin incisions in the scrotum, the sac that surrounds these glands. The term “neuter” is often used instead of castration when discussing the procedure in the male cat. In the tom, sometimes the testicles are not completely descended into the scrotum (cryptorchid), and a different surgical procedure is then necessary. Your veterinarian will discover this during the physical examination and inform you of the necessary alternative surgical procedure.

When Should a Cat Be Neutered?

Most veterinarians recommend that the surgery be performed when your cat is about 5-6 months old, but it’s never too late to neuter your cat if he or she is healthy. Some female cats begin their cycles as early as 4 months of age, so keep young females indoors until the surgery is attended to. Many humane shelters now do early spay and castration prior to pet adoption, and this does not produce any adverse long-term effects. This strategy helps to control the pet overpopulation problem, one of the very best reasons to have your cat neutered.

By neutering cats, you remove the hormones stimulating reproductive behaviors. This results in many benefits other than the inability to reproduce, including:

  • Spaying will prevent your female cat from going into heat (estrus). Intact female cats come into heat many times each year. The heat may last from 3 days to almost 3 weeks, and she will cycle into heat every 2 to 3 weeks until she becomes pregnant. During her heat cycle, she may exhibit behaviors including crying excessively, wailing, rolling on the floor, and rubbing up against people, other animals, and objects. She may raise her tail and sometimes spray urine around the house. She may also show very muted signs or no signs. Male cats will be attracted to the house, and she may try to run outdoors. Encounters with male cats can result in pregnancies, unwanted kittens, and sometimes wounds and infections. Uncontrolled reproduction year after year will also potentially exhaust the mother cat. Two or 3 litters a year are not uncommon in roaming cats, and this drain on her body reserves can deplete the female if she is not allowed to rest from her nursing and pregnancy cycle.
  • Spaying will drastically decrease the risk of a female cat developing mammary gland tumors later in life. This is an important reason to have your cat spayed at the recommended age, by 5-6 months. In cats, mammary gland tumors are malignant 80-93% of the time. Spaying also decreases the risk of ovarian tumors later in life.
  • Spaying will decrease a female cat's risk of developing infections of the uterus (womb) and decrease the risk of abnormal uterine reactions (cystic endometrial hyperplasia) that can favor development of infections such as endometritis and pyometra, a potentially life-threatening condition.
  • Castration will decrease inappropriate tomcat behaviors such as urine spraying on the walls and furniture to “mark” his territory. According to Dr. Gary D. Norsworthy, Fellow, Academy of Feline Medicine, castration has a 90% probability of reducing urine spraying in intact male cats.
  • Castration will decrease a male cat's tendency to wander outdoors in search of a female in heat. He will be less likely to have encounters with cars, dogs, wildlife, or to get into cat fights. This will decrease his risk for becoming infected with contagious viruses that are primarily transmitted by saliva, such as feline immunodeficiency virus, feline leukemia virus, rabies virus, and other infectious agents. He will develop fewer wounds and abscesses. Decreasing his outdoor roaming activities may also promote harmony and quiet in the neighborhood.
  • Castration will eliminate a male cat's risk of developing testicular tumors.

Many pet owners are concerned that their cats will gain weight after the neuter surgery. This concern is no reason to avoid neutering your cat. Although weight gain is possible, feeding a balanced diet, avoiding overfeeding, and making sure your cat gets plenty of exercise can maintain your cat’s appropriate weight. Regular examinations and weight checks with your veterinarian can keep you on track. Having your cat surgically neutered is best for your cat’s long-term health and is absolutely necessary to reduce pet overpopulation.

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