- Neutering is surgical removal of the organs that allow your pet to breed.
- In females this is called spaying, in males this is called castration.
- Neutered cats live longer, wander off less, are less likely to fight, less likely to spray foul smelling urine, and are less at risk of infection.
- Spaying should be done at 5 – 6 months, it can be done earlier or later, with castration earlier is better.
- There are a few things to do before the surgery and precautions for your cat afterwards.
- Neutered cats are more likely to put on weight, a change in diet is recommended.
What is neutering?
When an animal is neutered (doctored), we remove the organs responsible for allowing the animal to breed. In females this is referred to as spaying, in males this is referred to as castration. The operation is not reversible, and a neutered pet will never be able to breed. There are a number of things to think about before having your pet neutered. We will try to answer these questions here, but if you have any further queries, or wish to discuss your decision, the veterinary surgeons and Veterinary Health Advisors are very happy to help.
What can I expect if I decide not to neuter my cat?
Female cats (called queens) start to come into season from 4 – 18 months of age. The cat will call about every 3 weeks until she is mated, when usually she will become pregnant and have a litter of kittens 9 weeks later. Calling can be a noisy affair, and the queen will often behave strangely, rolling and crying as if in pain. Once she has had the kittens, she can become pregnant again within 3-4 weeks. A queen must be kept confined if you do not wish her to breed.
Male cats (toms or studs) reach maturity after 6 months of age and will seek out females to mate with. They develop strong shoulders and thick jowls, and frequently spray their territory with strong-smelling urine. During the mating season, they may lose weight, stop looking after themselves and disappear for days at a time.
Male and female cats left entire (not neutered) are very much at risk of contracting the life-threatening diseases Feline Leukaemia Virus (FeLV) and Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV) from their sexual partners.
At what age should the operation be done?
Cats can be neutered from 3 months of age. Females can become pregnant from 4 months of age. It is always best to vaccinate the kittens first, against Feline Enteritis, Cat Flu and Feline Leukaemia Virus. Mother cats can be spayed when their kittens are 3-4 weeks old, or are weaned.
What happens on the day?
You can book your pet in for the operation on any weekday. There is no waiting list. Cats should be kept indoors the night before and not fed after 12 midnight unless you are directed otherwise by the veterinary surgeon. Plenty of water should be made available, but do not give milk.
You will be given an appointment for admission – please be on time as late admissions mean that our operating list can be delayed. We do not open the doors to the public before 8am, however, so do not arrive before that time, as you would have to wait outside.
If bringing your pet for a morning admission is difficult, we can hospitalise your pet the night before by prior arrangement. Do ask about this.
A full general anaesthetic is given, and you will be offered pre-anaesthetic screening (PAS) for your pet. This is a blood and urine test to check for any internal problems that may affect the safety of the anaesthetic. Click here to see what tests are performed in a pre-anaesthetic screen and what they mean.
After a physical examination, a sedative injection is given to remove any anxiety. Pain-relief is given to every patient which should last between 36hrs and 48hrs. We use the most modern anaesthetics which are proven to have a fast recovery time and very little ‘hangover effect’. During the operation and recovery, your pet will be monitored by the vet and a professional nurse, using advanced monitors as used in human operating theatres for maximum safety.
Female cats undergo a full ovariohysterectomy – we remove the womb and the ovaries. This is usually done through the flank, in which case she will have a shaved area and stitches on her left side. Some foreign breeds may re-grow hair a different colour in this area for a time afterwards, and if you are concerned about appearance, we can perform the operation from underneath her tummy instead if you request it. Do discuss this with the vet or nurse if you are not sure which you want. We also usually do it this way if pregnancy is suspected.
Male cats have both testicles removed through the scrotum. No stitches are needed.
How long does it take for my cat to recover?
Usually, cats are able to go home the same day, and recover well, although female cats are quieter than males as they have had a more complex operation. Feeding an easy to digest diet is important and you will be offered a special diet that is easy to eat, gentle on the stomach and high in nutrients to aid recovery. You should feed this for several days.
For male cats, you will need to make a check up appointment for 1 week after surgery. Female cats will need two check up appointments; 2 days after surgery and 10 days after surgery. We recommend keeping all cats in until after their final check up appointment, when most cats are back to normal. There is no charge for these appointments.
Are there any untoward side-effects, or positive results from neutering?
Neutered cats tend to live longer, have less disease and lead more settled lives than entire cats. The risk of disease or cancer in the reproductive organs is very much reduced. Cats will tend not to wander off or fight quite so much and will be less likely to spray around the house. Cats do not seem to suffer untoward side effects from neutering.
Will neutering solve any behavioural problems?
Neutering will not always stop spraying behaviour, which is territorial marking, and females and males will both spray. Males are less likely to spray if castrated early, and castration will certainly reduce the smell. Males castrated when older may still wander and continue their previous lifestyle, although usually they do settle down.
Is there an alternative to neutering, which will stop my cat from breeding?
For male cats, neutering is the only practical solution.
Female cats can be treated with injections or tablets to stop them calling, but this is often inconvenient and carries its own risk of side effects later.
Isn’t it kinder to let my cat have a litter first?
No. You should only consider a litter first if you already have caring homes ready for the kittens. There are many homeless kittens and cats in rescue centres locally looking for homes, and it is better to offer these a home than to breed more cats. Neutered cats lead very happy lives and we feel that one litter at the start of life, when they are only just reaching maturity, is not a great bonus to them.
Feeding the neutered cat
Some cats will gain excess weight, but this can be prevented by simple dietary changes. We strongly recommend starting your cat on Hills Vet Essentials Neutered Cat Diet after neutering. Special ingredient L-carnatine and Lysine at high levels reduce body fat accumulation and optimise lean muscle tissue – important to keep your cat healthy and fit. It is estimated that one in four cats in Europe is overweight – make sure your cat stays trim. Our qualified nurses will be able to help and consultations are free.
As with all Hill’s products the food is covered by the 100% money back guarantee – if your pet does not like the food – we buy it back.