When To Neuter a Cat and When To Spay a Cat

A cat with a cone on its head

She’s your personal welcome home party, your purring pillow companion and your little lap warmer on a cold winter’s night. As a responsible pet owner, you want to keep her healthy and safe — and that’s where spaying comes in. In this post, we’ll reveal when to neuter a cat, when to spay a cat, why neutering and spaying are so important and how to help your kitty stay healthy after a neutering or spaying procedure.

What Does Neutering and Spaying Mean?

During a neutering procedure, your cat’s sexual reproductive organs are removed. Neutering prevents unplanned pregnancies from happening, and it also stops a lot of undesirable tomcat and intact queen behaviour — spraying, calling and anxiousness, for example. After they’re neutered, cats are often more affectionate, less restless and less prone to roam. 

What’s the Difference Between Neutering and Spaying?

Technically speaking, neutering is a unisex term. It’s an operation in which your cat’s reproductive organs are removed. When female cats are neutered, they’re “spayed” and when male cats are neutered, they’re “castrated.” 

Spaying

During a spaying procedure, a female cat’s ovaries — or her ovaries and uterus — are removed. Usually, this happens via a small incision on the left-hand side of her abdomen. Some vets make an incision underneath in the middle instead.

Castration 

During a castration procedure, a male cat’s testicles are removed via two small incisions in the scrotum. Neutering is a much simpler operation in males, and stitches aren’t always required.

Why Should I Spay or Neuter My Cat?

Simply put, neutered cats stay safer, tend to experience fewer health problems and don’t produce unwanted kittens. Undesirable behaviours like spraying, nervousness, roaming, demanding behaviour and noisiness are reduced or eliminated — even in adult cats. 

Other reasons to neuter or spay include:

  • Reduced fighting and straying
  • Reduced risk of feline leukemia and feline AIDS
  • Spayed female cats have a lower risk of uterine (womb) infection
  • Spayed female cats develop mammary (breast) cancer less often
  • Neutered cats develop hormonal imbalances less often

When Should I Spay or Neuter My Cat?

Most veterinarians agree that cats are ready for neutering procedures at four to six months of age. Some vets and rescue centres spay and neuter cats from 12 weeks of age and sometimes even earlier. 

  • When to spay a cat: Ideally, try to get your female cat spayed before she goes into heat for the first time. This will ensure that she doesn’t get pregnant before you have the chance to spay her.
  • When to neuter a cat: If you get your male cat neutered before he reaches ten months of age, he’s much less likely to begin spraying and urinating inappropriately. Cat urine is hard to clean up — and it’s a habit that’s tough to break, even after neutering.

Mythbusting: Some people think that it’s healthier for female cats to have one litter of kittens before they’re spayed. This isn’t true — it’s a myth. 

Does Spaying or Neutering Hurt My Cat?

Like humans, cats are given anesthetics during operations. Cats are completely unconscious while they’re spayed or neutered, so they don’t feel any pain. A long-acting pain relief injection administered immediately after the procedure eliminates post-surgery discomfort. Your vet will give you anti-inflammatories and painkillers to give to your cat at home, too.

Generally speaking, cats bounce back quite quickly after they’re neutered. Male cats usually only need painkillers for a day after castration. Female cats usually need medication for three days after being spayed.

How Can I Arrange to Spay or Neuter My Cat?

To get your cat spayed or neutered, make an appointment with your local veterinarian. Most vets require at least one pre-op appointment before the “big day.” Don’t feed your cat the night before the procedure, but do give her water. On the morning of the operation, remove the water, too. 

Spaying and neutering doesn’t usually involve an overnight stay. Most of the time, you’ll drop your cat off with the vet in the morning, and you’ll pick her back up again in the afternoon. Then it’s home for a little TLC.

What if I Can’t Afford to Get My Cat Neutered or Spayed?

If you can’t afford to get your cat neutered or spayed, ask your local animal charity for help. Many animal charities run free or reduced spaying and neutering funding plans.

What to Look Out for After the Procedure

Your cat will probably feel very drowsy after her procedure, but that should wear off quickly. Most cats are completely back to normal within a few days. After spaying or neutering, some cats develop bladder infections more frequently, while others put on extra weight.

Bladder Infections

If your cat starts to urinate more often, passes blood or often squats without urinating, she might have a urinary tract infection. If you suspect a bladder infection, give your vet a call.

Weight Gain

Neutering and spaying are directly responsible for weight gain, but they do stop cats from roaming. When cats exercise less, they tend to put on a few pounds. If your cat does put on weight, try playing with her more often or changing her food. Some cats will even tolerate going for walks on a harness. 

What if I Don’t Spay or Neuter My Cat?

Some people choose not to neuter their cats. If you decide to keep your cat intact, bear the following points in mind:

  • Unneutered cats roam away from home more often, so they’re at increased risk of being hurt in a traffic accident if you let your cat outdoors.
  • Male unneutered cats are more aggressive than their neutered counterparts.
  • Female cats go into season once every three months. While in season, they’re noisier, more anxious and far more demanding.
  • Unspayed female cats have up to three litters per year, with as many as six kittens in each litter — and that can get expensive.
  • Many unspayed female cats develop mammary cancers by the time they’re six or seven years old. If you decide to leave your female cat intact, check her regularly for lumps and speak to your vet if you’re concerned.

What if I Think My Cat Is Already Pregnant?

Most cats don’t display physical symptoms until two or three weeks into a pregnancy. If you suspect a pregnancy, get in touch with your vet as soon as possible. Some vets neuter female cats while they’re pregnant, ending the pregnancy and preventing future pregnancies at the same time. To find out more, ask your vet about their policies regarding spaying.

Spaying and Neutering: The Bottom Line

Spaying and neutering can help keep your cat healthier and safer — and you don’t end up with more kittens than you can count. To be on the safe side, get your cat spayed or neutered before they’re six months old. If you’re wondering when to spay a cat or when to neuter a cat, speak to your local veterinarian. 

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