What age to spay/neuter your cat and what you need to know

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In a veterinary, there is probably no more common surgery than spaying a female cat or neutering a male.

For many feline parents it is relatively easy to understand the need and relevance of this procedure, but for others spaying or neutering their cats may still be cause for much doubt and concern.

Is this your case? Don’t worry, we can explain everything – here are all the answers to the most frequently asked questions!

What is spaying or neutering?

For females, we say spaying, and for males the correct term is neutering. However, for both, the  goal remains the same – to avoid reproduction and the behavior that comes with it.

What is involved in the procedure?

In male cats, the surgery, also called orchiectomy, involves the removal of the testicles. In female cats, there are two techniques for the procedure – ovariohysterectomy, most commonly used, where the ovaries and uterus are all removed; and ovariectomy, less frequent, in which only the ovaries are removed.

In either situation, and for both genders, the surgery is done under general anesthesia. Your pet doesn’t feel anything. And normally, because it’s a fairly quick and routine procedure, quicker in male cats than in females, there is no need for hospitalization. Your cat is admitted on the day of the procedure, remains under surveillance for a few hours after the surgery, and once stable and recovered from the anesthesia, your cat is ready to return home.

What is the best age to spay/neuter my cat?

Cats can be spayed or neutered beginning at four months of age. However early it may seem, it is important that it happens before sexual maturity, which occurs on average when they are six months old. Thus, the current recommendation is that the surgery should be done by five months of age.

When cats reach puberty and start producing sex hormones, typical manifestations of sexual behavior occur. These include heat in female cats (also known as queens) and territorial marking of toms (the male cats). When this occurs, breeding becomes almost impossible to avoid, especially for cats with outdoor access. Even if your cat is in a single-cat household with no outdoor access, the unwelcome and often noisy behavior associated with reproduction is mentioned by cat parents as a powerful trigger in the decision to spay/neuter their cats.

Ensuring that the surgery is done at the ideal time will prevent these cats from breeding, as well as ensuring they’ve had time to grow up and will most likely have a faster recovery.

Why should I spay/neuter my cat?

There is more than one good reason, so we leave you with a complete list:

  1. Behavior – It reduces undesirable displays such as, for example, territory markings with urine, repetitive and very loud meows, or escape attempts in search of a partner (often responsible for accidents on the road, and which end up fatal for the felines involved). It can also facilitate socialization, especially for cats that live indoors and share it with other animals.
  2. Female health – Prevents uterine infections and reduces the risk of mammary tumors.
  3. Male health – Prevents testicular tumors and reduces prostate problems.
  4. General health for both genders – Reduces the likelihood of spreading infectious diseases such as Feline Immunodeficiency and Feline Leukemia.
  5. Specific conditions – Surgery may be especially recommended for particular health conditions, such as testicles with abnormal locations or mammary hyperplasia.
  6. Litters – Because it prevents unwanted pregnancies, spaying/neutering is the most effective measure to  decrease the numbers of stray animals that end up on the streets or in shelters.
  7. Investment – The cost of the surgical procedure varies between males and females, as well as with the technique used and even the veterinary clinic you go to. However, one thing is certain – the price of surgery will always be lower than treating any of the problems it prevents.

What is the recovery time for a spay/neuter surgery?

Although all surgeries have some degree of discomfort associated with them, recovery from spaying and neutering, especially in cats, is usually very fast. You’d be amazed at how fast your cat seems to bounce back and return to his/her usual self.

After surgery,  pain and inflammation relief medications can be maintained as long as necessary.

Therefore, it’s normal that during the first 24-48 hours they appear a little drowsy or more unstable, but they tend to return to normal behavior and activity in just a few days. And total recovery, including complete healing, usually takes less than 10 days, although it varies between cats.

What care is needed after the surgery?

There are three main conditions to uphold – giving the prescribed medication, keeping the surgical area clean and preventing any kind of trauma.

For the first, and despite cats’ extraordinary abilities to spit out pills and avoid any external maneuvers, medication for pets  is becoming increasingly palatable which makes it easier for cats to take their medication. And if your cat is one of the exceptions, don’t despair! Try pill pockets or other strategies to trick your cat into taking medication with little fuss and, remember, it’ll only be for a few days.

For further tips on post-surgical care, don’t miss our previous article.

Still on the fence about spaying and neutering?

Because you’ve heard that the surgery will make your cat fat? Myth: sedentary lifestyle and the quality and quantity of food are responsible for weight gain, not spaying or neutering.

Because you think your cat’s personality will be altered? Myth: Surgery does not change the personality of your pet, male or female. It can, however, make your cat calmer and happier without the distress associated with reproductive behavior.

Because you’ve read somewhere that your cat should have a litter before being spayed? Myth: There is no benefit to your female cat’s health, emotional or physical, in having a litter.

And if you are afraid of the anesthetic risk, you should know that it is quite low thanks to pre-anesthetic care and excellent surgical conditions that veterinary facilities now boast.

Therefore, seek advice from your trusted veterinarian and proceed without fear.

The benefits of surgery, be it spaying or neutering, are more than evident and leave no room for doubt – it promotes the health and longevity of all cats, contributing to their well-being and that of their entire family!

In the end, the decision will always be yours, but the most important thing is that you make whilst fully informed.

Did you know you can register your cat’s spay/neuter procedure as well as set reminders for any post-surgical medication on the Petable App?

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