Neutering Your Cat – Why, How & When

Why You Should Neuter / Spay Your Cat

Did you know that euthanasia is the single largest cause of death for cats in the US today?The feline population is already very overcrowded, and neutering your cat will help the fight against overpopulation.
According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, millions of cats both stray and eventually abandoned domestic cats are born each year. These cats usually end up in overcrowded shelters or otherwise left to completely fend for themselves, often dying from exposure to the elements, starvation, injury or disease.

A lot of shelters are simply unable to handle all these cats, so euthanasia is usually the only way out for many of these cats. This means that millions of otherwise healthy cats are euthanized each year. This includes purebreds as well as mixed cats.

Misconceptions and Myths Surrounding Neutering / Spaying

There are, unfortunately, some common misconceptions and myths out there when it comes to neutering or spaying your cat, which prevents people from neutering or spaying their cat. Some of the most common once are:

1)" It is not natural to intervene and prevent animals from procreating."

It is also not natural to domesticate and breed animals on a large scale for profit. We have created the overpopulation crisis for cats, and we should take responsibility for it, and limit the suffering and death that feline overpopulation causes by neutering and spaying our cats.

2)"My cat will become fat and lazy."

It is true that your cat´s hormone levels may change (more on that later), as well as his appetite. It is, however, your responsibility as their owner and caregiver to make sure they are on a balanced diet and get enough exercise to prevent obesity and health problems associated with it.

3) "I want another cat just like the one I have."

Just like humans, your cat´s children may resemble their mother or father in some way, but you will never get a carbon copy, and every cat will be different.

4) "I don't need to sterilize my male cat, only female cats have litters."

Not neutering your male cat not only increases the risk that it could impregnate dozens of female cats and produce offspring, but it also increases the chance for testicular and prostate cancer, as well as enlargement of the prostate gland. A male cat who is not neutered is more likely to get into fights with other cats and contract and spread infectious diseases, or otherwise get seriously injured.

5) "My cat is purebred, so I should let them procreate to keep the breed growing.
"

According to The Humane Society of The United States, 1 out of 4 pets that enter animal shelters is purebreds. As discussed before in this article, millions are euthanized each year.

Health Benefits of Spaying and Neutering

In addition to helping solve the problem of overpopulation, neutering your cat early in their life actually has several health benefits for your cat and helps increase their life expectancy. According to Andrea Looney DVM (in an article written for The Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine), spaying and castration can provide these health benefits:

Health Benefits for Female Cats:

  • The risk for mammal cancer is all but eliminated if the cat has the procedure done around 3-6 months (prior to their first heat) when her reproductive organs are nearing maturity but her breast tissue has yet to develop.
  • You take away the risk pyometra, a potentially lethal collection of pus in the uterus.
  • You prevent vaginal hyperplasia, a gross swelling of the vaginal wall that occurs during the normal heat cycle.
  • You prevent uterine prolapse
  • You prevent the bulging of the uterus into the vagina.
  • In addition, you prevent a number of infections, cysts and cancers occurring in the uterus and ovaries.

Health Benefits for Male Cats:

  • Helps prevent prostate cancer.
  • Helps prevent testicular cancer.
  • Helps prevent an enlargement of the prostate gland
  • Male cats stop producing hormones that causes them to roam and show aggressive behavior towards other cats and spray urine to mark their territory.
  • Since neutered male cats fight less, this reduces the risk of injury and limits the spread of contagious diseases.

Preparing for Surgery

Both female and male cats are preferably neutered or spayed before their first heat at 3-6 months of age.
A female cat must not consume any food three to four hours prior to surgery. The cat is free to drink as much water as they want leading up to the surgery.

What Happens When Your Cat is Neutered or Spayed?

Female cats:

The female cat is first completely put under by anesthesia, an incision is then made to reveal the reproductive tract. Both of the ovaries are then tied off to cut off blood flow before they are cut loose from the body. The blood flow to the uterus is then tied off to stop the blood flow to the organ before removing it. The incision wound is then closed up using sutures and the cat is left to recover and wake up from the anesthesia.


Male cats:
The Castration procedure is preferably done when the male cat is around 3 to 6 months and is considered less complicated than the spaying procedure of a female cat. The cat is first put under anesthesia before its scrotum is shaved and scrubbed. Two incisions are then made, one above each testicle, and they are thereafter removed. Finally, the spermatic cord is then tied off before the cat is allowed to recover and wake up from the anesthesia.

The Recovery Period and What to Expect

The recovery period for both female and male cats after spaying or castration procedures is up to two weeks, after which they should return to normal. After surgery your cat may experience nausea and vomiting due to the anesthesia, this is also why it is crucial that your cat does not eat 3-4 hours before surgery, as vomiting can be extremely dangerous for a sedated cat. Straight after surgery, your cat will more than likely look reduced and weak depending on when he or she is released from the vet clinic. Even though this may look very worrying to you as the owner, it is a normal side effect of the anesthesia. A cat that is recovering at home should be monitored closely.

Diet for A Neutered or Spayed Cat

After a cat is spayed or neutered, it´s energy needs is decreased around 20% - 25% according to experts at the Texas A&M University. This means that you should adapt your cat´s diet accordingly. There are many specific blends of cat food made for neutered or spayed cats, that takes this change into consideration. You still need to make sure that your cat stays active and gets enough exercise during the day, to avoid them putting on weight and becoming overweight or obese. If you think your cat is struggling with its weight, check out our article on cat weight loss here.

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