“Spaying,” “neutering,” “fixing,” and “altering” are terms used to describe the one medical procedure every cat needs. The procedure involves removing the sexually functioning parts of your cat. Female cats are spayed; male cats are neutered. Neutering removes testicles on male cats; spaying is a total hysterectomy of female cats removing uterus and ovaries.
The reasons for altering are many, and they go beyond the obvious need to control the number of unwanted, stray cats. (The Humane Society of the United States, states, “In seven years, one female cat and her offspring can theoretically produce 420,000 cats.”) Altering your cat will, in the case of both sexes, make your pet less territorial and aggressive. Overall, altered cats are better listeners and they also tend to have longer life spans.
Some owners think it’s best to let a female go into heat, or even to wait until after she’s had her first litter of kittens, before having her spayed. This is nothing more than an old wives’ tale. With millions of unwanted cats destroyed every year, and millions more dying from abandonment, there is simply no reason to let your cat bear a litter of kittens. Some shelters fix kittens as young as two months, but we recommend waiting until a kitten is three months or older and weighs at least two pounds.
An adult cat should be fixed before the shelter lets you take the animal home. If that wasn’t done, keep your cat inside until he or she is fixed so that your pet won’t contribute to the overpopulation of cats!
Preparing for the Operation
If your cat eats well, relieves herself normally, and is curious and alert, then she’s probably ready to undergo the procedure. Call around for prices. Quotes for a spaying operation can differ by more than $100.
Note your cat’s litter box habits. The habits you are observing now should resume within a day after the operation.
Don’t sign up for declawing. Some veterinarians recommend declawing the cat “while she is already asleep.” The risks and problems associated with declawing cats are discussed in Declawing Drawbacks.
Don’t plan to get your cat vaccinated at the same time it’s being spayed or neutered. It’s a lot for that little body to take all at once.
Understand that if your cat is pregnant when it is spayed, the veterinarian will abort the kittens. Keep in mind that no cat needs to have kittens.
After the Operation
- Make sure that your cat’s litter box habits are okay now. If they’re not, tell the vet.
- Have the veterinarian make sure your cat is healthy.
- Ask the veterinarian about withholding food before surgery.
- Take your cat in the morning, and pick her up in the evening.
- Comfort the cat during the next forty-eight hours.
- After surgery, check your cat’s appetite, keep her indoors, and keep her from jumping.
Unless complications arise, there’s no reason to keep the cat at the veterinarian’s overnight. Arrange to pick up your cat late in the afternoon, when she’s had time to come out of the anesthesia.
When the cat comes home from surgery, put her in a quiet room with a bowl of water, a soft, warm bed, a litter box, gentle music, and a night-light. She’ll probably just sleep the first night, but might welcome some chicken broth and a little company.
Keep the cat’s activities low-key for two or three days after the surgery. Don’t entice her into heavy running, jumping, or playing. Keep her indoors for one to two weeks after the surgery to allow the stitches to heal and to lessen the chance of infection in the surgical area. During this period, closely monitor her appetite, temperature, litter box habits, and disposition. Any abnormality could be a sign of infection. Consult the veterinarian immediately if you notice anything unusual. Kittens are especially susceptible to postoperative complications, so monitor their food and fluid intake closely. Some veterinarians tell owners to discourage their cats from licking their genitals for a few days, however, some cat owners just let them lick. Your veterinarian also will give you a list of postoperative care instructions.
- Locate reasonably priced, compassionate vet who performs spay/neutering
- Cat carrier
- Chicken broth
- Clean, soft comfortable bed
- Gentle music
- Night light
For more info, see Cat Resources.