5 Questions About Cat Spaying And Neutering Answered

Get the basics about spaying and neutering so you can make the best decision for your kitten.

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Spaying or neutering provides both health and behavioral benefits for your kitten. Ershova_Veronika/iStock/Thinkstock
Spaying or neutering provides both health and behavioral benefits for your kitten. Ershova_Veronika/iStock/Thinkstock
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Admit it. We all talk to our cats, but the birds and the bees conversation might be one conversation we want to avoid. Don’t fret. You won’t have to address that topic thanks to spaying and neutering, the widespread and typically routine surgeries that yield individual health and population-control benefits and even make your kitty a better companion.

Below are basics about spay/neuter so you can make the right choice for your kitten.

1. Why should I spay or neuter my kitten?

Health benefits: By simply removing the ovaries, uterus or testicles, there is no chance of those organs ever developing cancers later in life. A study has shown that spaying female cats before 1 year of age significantly decreases their risk for breast cancer — a notoriously aggressive, often fatal, cancer in cats — later in life. Spaying eliminates all the dangers of pregnancy: dystocia (trouble delivering), infections, uterine rupture and uterine torsion.

Behavior benefits: Intact cats will want to roam in search of a mate. If your cats are indoors only, they might make a dash for the door. If your cats go outside, they are much more likely to engage in risky behaviors. Cars, predators and territorial neighborhood cats all pose serious dangers. For male cats, puberty brings a change to the smell of the urine, creating noxious “tomcat urine” that can be downright overpowering in the house. Puberty can also bring territorial behaviors, including urine spraying. Neuter before these behaviors ever have a chance to develop.

Keeping down pet overpopulation: Did you know there are 30 to 40 million stray or feral cats in the United States? Spaying and neutering prevent reproduction and can help reduce the number of homeless cats!

2. When is the right time to spay or neuter?

The best age to spay or neuter is a subject of debate, and there are many differing opinions among veterinarians. The onset of puberty in kittens can be as early as 4 months of age but occurs more typically around 6 months.

I recommend having female kittens spayed around 4 to 5 months of age (to avoid the first heat cycle) and having male kittens neutered around 6 to 7 months of age. There is published veterinary literature to support that neutering males before puberty might delay closure of growth plates in the bones. Other veterinarians prefer to wait until kittens are older (perhaps 9 to 24 months), often to allow a full growth cycle with hormones and the secondary sex characteristics they bring (e.g. broader jowls in the males).

Odds are that if you adopted your kitty from a shelter, they were already spayed or neutered, often at a young age. This makes a lot of sense for population control, and because young patients tend to have a very quick surgical and recovery time.

3. What actually happens during a neuter surgery?

Neutering a male cat is typically a straightforward and quick outpatient procedure. Both testicles are removed from the scrotum with a small skin incision, and the blood supply is tied upon itself to prevent bleeding. Typically, the veterinarian does not place sutures. The proper medical name for this surgery is a “castration.”

Most cat neuters take less than five minutes to perform and perhaps 10 to 20 minutes of anesthetic time. The exception would be a male cat with an undescended testicle (known as cryptorchidism). In this case, the testicle is in the abdomen, and the surgery is more like a spay.

4. What actually happens during a spay surgery?

Spaying a female cat is truly an abdominal surgery and thus more involved. An incision is made below the belly button (called the umbilicus). The uterus in cats is Y-shaped with a right and left horn, which end at the ovary.

In the United States, a spay surgery is most commonly an ovariohysterectomy, where the uterus and both ovaries are removed. There is also an option to remove just the ovaries, known as an “ovariectomy.” This procedure is gaining popularity in Europe and has a shorter surgical time, but leaving the uterus leaves the potential for uterine infections or cancers later in life.

In either case, sutures are placed to tie off the blood supply to the removed organs and prevent bleeding. The surgery ends with layers of suture to close the body wall and skin. The surgeon decides what type of suture to use (some are dissolvable), so your kitty might or might not need sutures removed approximately 10 to 14 days after her operation.

5. How long will it take my kitten to recover?

Cats should rest for seven to 10 days to allow healing. This means you should put away the laser pointer and wand toys. You might also have to isolate the cat from other pets so they do not rough house. Most cats act a little sleepy the day of surgery but are back to their usual routines within 48 to 72 hours.

Article Categories:
Cats · Kittens

Comments

  • I want one thon girl kitten

    Mckennah November 14, 2015 10:23 am Reply
  • I’m having my cat spayed but I’ll only be home on the day she has it and the following day, then I’m back to work so will be out the house for 8 hours will it be ok to leave her alone that long or ask my neighbour to pop in to check her

    Linda May 3, 2016 3:32 am Reply
    • Linda, I have had 17 cats over time spayed/neutered and I do not see any reason to worry about leaving the house for work 2 days postop (I am a stay at home wife and cat care giver but I do remember that all of the cats were moving fine by that time – not all of them were jumping by that time but they were moving fine otherwise). If you have more than one cat in your household, you might want to isolate the just spayed/neutered cat in a room away from the others for a few more days but as long as they have all of their needs fulfilled while you are away they should be fine. BTW, I have never had more than 12 cats at a time in the household (7 at that time were from a litter from a cat that was not spayed fast enough – 3 of those were adopted out so I am at a total of 9 cats – all spayed and neutered – and will not be taking in any more since that is the ultimate maximum cats I can handle and I will not replace as they start dying off from old age – oldest 2 are 10 years old).

      Michelle May 3, 2016 7:37 am Reply
      • Thank you for the reply MICHELLE, she’s my only cat, only 7 month old, what I’ll do is bring her bed downstairs, that way she’s near her litter tray rather than having to go up and down, I’ve been having sleepless nights with the worry, but what you have said has given me peace of mind.
        Don’t no if I could handle all those cats if I go to pieces over just my one haha, but I think your amazing for caring for all of them

        Linda May 3, 2016 9:03 am Reply
  • I previously took my female kitty in to be sprayed. When they did the preop they found her liver count was 300 and it should be 100. They sent her blood to Houston to be checked for problems.What could be the cause, I am so worried.

    Cheryl johnston May 3, 2016 12:27 pm Reply
  • I do not want my cat peeing all over so I will be getting him neutered as soon as possible. I really just want to avoid all of those behaviors that come with animal puberty as you said. I have heard that sometimes even if you neuter them before puberty they can still develop those habits. I hope that doesn’t happen to me. Thanks for the article!

    Aimée June 29, 2016 10:57 am Reply

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