What You Need to Know About Spaying or Neutering Your Cat
Are you thinking about neutering your kitten or adult cat? It’s probably been mentioned at their first vet checks and although no one ever relishes the thought of putting their pet through surgery, we’re going to discuss how the benefits of neutering your cat far outweigh the small risks of this operation.
This article was written by a FirstVet vet
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The Technical Terms
The word neutering can cause confusion, but it’s just another word for sterilizing. This refers to removing the reproductive organs and therefore the ability to reproduce. The word ‘neutering’can be applied to male and female kittens or cats. The word ‘castration’is applied only to males and means removal of the testicles. Spaying, (but not spading as it’s been called many times!) is only applied to female cats and involves the removal of the ovaries and commonly the uterus too.
Now that we’ve got the medical terms covered, let’s consider why it’s worth doing...
Reasons to Spay Your Female Cat
1. No more kittens - A visit to any cat shelter should convince you that we don’t need any more kittens brought into the world. What’s worse is that kittens as young as 5 months can become pregnant themselves and some will not be able to give birth naturally. The cost of a Cesarean (C-section) is high and may happen unexpectedly; so the next reason….
2. Reduces the chance of unexpected veterinary bills - Seriously, a C-section can cost a four-figure sum!
3. Reduces exposure to disease - Female cats in heat (estrus, or also called “in season”) only have one thing on their mind, and they’ll make sure every Tomcat in the neighborhood knows. Tomcats will flock from miles away and your usually well-behaved female kitten will make every effort to escape.
Tomcats can carry diseases such as Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV) and Feline Leukemia Virus (FeLV) due to promiscuous contact with other cats. Even if they don’t pick up these diseases, your female cat may be exposed to cat flu viruses, which are unpleasant at best.
4. Reduces the risk of cancerand other diseases of the reproductive organs - Mammary (breast tissue) cancer is reduced by 90% when a female cat is spayed at a young age. Mammary cancer is nearly always malignant (aggressive) in cats, so it’s vital to reduce the risk. To do this successfully, they need to be spayed before their first heat cycle, which can be as early as 5 months. Cancer of the reproductive system is rare but nasty, and the risk is eliminated by spaying.
Spaying your cat also eliminates her chances of getting a pyometra (womb infection). This type of infection is not uncommon in cats, is unpleasant, costly to treat, and can be life-threatening.
Reasons to Neuter Your Male Cat
1. Reduce unwanted kittens and reduce exposure to disease - Reasons 1 and 3 above apply to males and females. Additionally, new young tomcats in the neighborhood may threaten other cats. Typically, these older Tom cats won’t hesitate to fight for territory or other females. This can increase the risk of contracting FIV and/or FeLV from fighting and biting, not to mention receiving a nasty cat bite abscess too. These also require a vet’s visit so reason number 2 above also applies!
2. Un-neutered Tomcats will stray further away from home (especially when they hear a female cat calling) - These cats will risk crossing busy roads to find females and sadly may be the victim of a road accident.
3. Tomcats may start to scent-mark their home - This stinks and is very hard to remove. I’ve heard reports of cats spraying beds, walls, and even a fruit bowl. Yuck!!
When should I spay/neuter my cat or kitten?
In previous years, there’s been a lot of debate on the proper timing of feline spays and neuters. So much so, that if you lined up 5 vets and asked them, you may get 5 different answers. This debate can lead to confusion and a reluctance to go ahead with the procedure. If you have previously owned a cat, the advice now is probably different from when you last asked.
A recent report by leading veterinarians has persuaded many governing veterinary bodies to call for neutering before 5 months of age. This is the time before kittens reach sexual maturity and holds the best chance of avoiding the problems listed above. For further reading on this, check out the Feline Fix by Five website.
Are there any downsides to spaying/neutering my cat?
You may have heard that early castration causes male cats to get cystitis, bladder blockages, or even orthopedic problems. Fortunately, there is no evidence to back up those claims.
Neutering does involve a short general anesthesia. This is low-risk in a young healthy cat. If it’s done before 5 months, the operation is quicker, and they recover faster. For more information about anesthesia, check out the CatFriendlywebsite!
A neutered cat’s metabolism will slow a bit. This may put your cat at risk for becoming overweight. Consult your vet for the best dietary advice. Great diets exist for young neutered pets to ensure they get the right nutrients and correct calorie intake.
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