What You Need to Know about Spaying and Neutering

Issues Associated with “Fixing” Your Feline Friend

If you’re one of the millions of people who, during the course of the next year, will purchase or acquire an unsprayed or un-neutered cat for non-breeding reasons, this article should be required reading. While this article might appear to be of little use to anyone who’s obtained a cat for breeding purposes, the information presented will potentially be of use for the people that the breeder will deal with when selling them a cat.

Why should I have my cat spayed or neutered?

The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) estimates that, of the six to eight million animals that are brought to shelter facilities, only 50% are adopted (visit the HSUS website at www.hsus.org and search for overpopulation statistics). Sadly, the remaining 50% are euthanized. As the average annual number of litters that a sexually mature female cat can have is three and as each litter has an average number of four to six kittens, the HSUS calculates that one unsprayed female cat and her kittens are capable of giving birth to approximately 420,000 more cats over the course of only seven years. Such almost-incomprehensible figures should give you plenty of incentive to have your cat spayed or neutered.

If not, you should know that a female cat can come into a heat cycle every three weeks and that each cycle can last approximately four to five days. The physical and mental stresses associated with such cycles can be substantial over the lifetime of any cat that remains unsprayed. The same can actually be said for un-neutered male cats that exhibit increased levels of “roaming” and have associated higher risks of fights with other cats and/or injuries from cars, dog attacks, etc. Both sexes benefit from being spayed or neutered by reducing their chances of contracting various feline diseases when they interact with other cats that are attracted to their environment for breeding purposes.

Additional health benefits derived from having your cat spayed or neutered have been well documented. There are significant reductions in the rates of various illnesses and diseases, such as cancer, that “unfixed” cats experience; reproductive organ cancers including ovarian and testicular cancer, as well as pyometra, a uterine infection, are just two examples.

From a behavioral standpoint, spayed females will spend less time “howling on the fence” and the extremely odiferous (or should we say obnoxious) marking habit of un-neutered male cats is also greatly decreased by being “fixed.” Sexually “altered” cats are also often reported to be more affectionate than those that are still “intact.”

When should I have my cat spayed or neutered?

We won’t lie – this can occasionally be a controversial issue between some cat owners and their veterinarians. There are generally two schools of thought pertaining to the appropriate age of a kitten to be spayed or neutered. While some vets believe that sooner is better than later, others disagree.

Some vets simply refuse to perform spay or neuter procedures on an animal until it is at least six months old. These vets’ protocol is based on the beliefs that prior to that time, the use of anesthesia has higher associated risks, as well as the possibility that such early surgery can hinder proper skeletal development, increase the risk of urinary tract infections/problems, and negatively alter the cat’s behavior.

Those who disagree with this practice of delayed spaying and neutering prefer to conduct such procedures when the cat is six to fourteen weeks old or weighs at least two pounds.

They insist that doing so has substantial health benefits, much like those we just discussed in relation to decreased risks of numerous cancers, diseases, and illnesses.

An often-cited study conducted by the University of Florida goes a long way to substantiate such positive early spay and neuter claims, as well as to put an end to the concerns voiced by others (www.winnfelinehealth.org/reports/early-neuter.html). The results of such a study, which was funded by both the Winn Feline Foundation and the American Veterinary Medical Association, are now supported and endorsed by the American Animal Hospital Association, American Humane Association, American Veterinary Medical Association, Cat Fanciers’ Association, Spay USA, the Winn Feline Foundation, and numerous other animal organizations.

What other things should I know about spaying and neutering my cat?

Give thought to both pre and post-surgical care when having your cat spayed or neutered. As a standard precaution, it’s recommended to have a sample of blood analyzed prior to the start of surgery. The blood panel will reveal any potential underlying medical conditions that the surgeon and/or anesthesiologist should be aware of to perform the operation as safely as possible. It will also serve as baseline historical health information should additional samples be analyzed at a later date.

After surgery, your cat will need proper care to ensure his or her quick recovery. Surgical sites must be kept clean and the cat must be prevented from accessing the area to prevent irritation, infection, and/or removal of the stitches or other material that was used to close the incision. Cats that can’t be constantly monitored might need to wear a surgical “collar” to prevent them from re-injuring the surgical site.

If you’re one of the many people that consider spaying and neutering procedures to be a form of “mutilation,” please realize that spaying a female cat simply involves the removal of her ovaries and a male cat experiences the removal of his testicles when he’s neutered. The surgical procedures involved are very quick and generally “uneventful.” The same can be said for the cat’s recovery.

Perhaps your concerns are based on stories that you’ve heard pertaining to the end results of spaying and neutering to create overweight, inactive cats. Myths like this do nothing to aid in reducing cat overpopulation problems. If you have your cat spayed or neutered, share your success stories with other people who’re considering having their cats sexually altered.

If cost is a concern, ask your veterinarian for information pertaining to any local low-cost spaying and neutering “clinics” which are occasionally offered by various animal organizations or shelters. The long term benefits to both the cat’s physical and mental health is a cost that’s well worth sacrificing and/or budgeting for.