Spaying or Neutering Your Cat

Having your cat spayed or neutered is one of the greatest gifts you can provide your pet and family. These routine medical procedures not only help control pet overpopulation, but may also prevent medical and behavioral problems from developing. This allows your cat to lead a longer, healthier and happier life.

What is Spaying and Neutering?

A "spay", or ovariohysterectomy, is the surgical removal of a female cat's ovaries and uterus, while "neutering", or castration, is the removal of a male cat's testicles. While both operations are conducted routinely with few complications, only licensed veterinarians are allowed to perform them. Prior to surgery, your veterinarian may carry out a complete physical examination of your cat or draw a sample of their blood for analysis. Both spaying and neutering are conducted while your cat is under general anesthesia to minimize pain and discomfort. Following surgery, your veterinarian will instruct you on how to care for your cat while they are recovering. Within a few days, most cats are "back to normal"; the surgery site usually heals within two weeks and any skin stitches are removed at a recheck appointment with your vet.

Why Spay or Neuter?

Spaying or neutering your cat prevents unwanted births and reduces the influence of sex hormones on your pet's behavior. In seven years, an unspayed female and unneutered male cat can produce up to 781,250 kittens. Homes cannot be found for most of these animals and many either end up in shelters or on the street. Only a lucky few are adopted; the rest are either euthanized or die from trauma, exposure, starvation or disease. By spaying or neutering your cat, you do your part to prevent this tragedy.

Behavior problems can also be prevented or minimized by spaying or neutering your cat. Sexual behavior in both male and female cats is reduced following surgery. In 90% of male cats, neutering eliminated roaming, urine spraying, and fights with neighborhood cats, regardless of their age when neutered. Female cats no longer show "heat" behavior (soliciting mounting from males). Overall, being sexually intact increases the risk of relinquishment to a shelter. There are, however, large individual differences and not all cats undergo a behavior change following spaying or neutering.

Will My Cat's Personality Change?

Other than the previously mentioned behavior changes, spaying or neutering your cat is unlikely to change their basic personality. Some cats appear "lazy" since they are less likely to roam and may gain weight. In one study, 25% of cat owners felt their cats became more "docile" following castration. Hunting skills, playfulness, general activity levels, excitement, and vocalization also do not typically change following surgery.

When Should I Spay/Neuter My Cat?

Although some people suggest waiting until a cat is six months old, early age spaying and neutering are becoming popular. Physically, male cats neutered prior to puberty do not develop the large head and thick skin of intact males. Both neutered males and spayed females have a tendency to gain weight due to a decrease in roaming and other sexual behavior. However, weight gain can be prevented through dietary management.

Studies have shown that cats spayed or neutered at less than six months of age do not have an increased risk of physical or behavioral problems as compared to those that undergo surgery later. Early-age spaying and neutering may prevent problem behaviors before they occur. Spaying and neutering should also be considered for any pet with a behavior problem, regardless of age. For certain behaviors, surgery may reduce or eliminate the problem, even in older cats. Consult with your veterinarian or veterinary behaviorist for further information.

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