What does it mean to neuter a cat?
Neutering a cat is the surgical removal of the testes from a male cat to prevent them from breeding. It is common practice in many countries across the world and can also be known as castration, orchidectomy, or orchiectomy.
Although the procedure is widely recommended and frequently performed, it is only natural that, as cat parents, we want to know that we are doing the right thing for our feline family members.
In addition to dental surgery, neutering is one of the most common surgeries in a cat’s lifetime.
Why Should I Neuter My Cat?
There are several benefits to having the tomcat in your life neutered. The main advantages are:
1. Behavioral benefits
Neutered males tend to be - on the whole - calmer, more settled, less aggressive, and more content. They are less likely to be distracted and feel the need to roam long distances in search of a female to mate with.
Similarly, the hormonal drive to spray urine around their territory is reduced, which can only be a good thing!
2. Population control
The majority of domestic cats have at least some outdoor access, which means that unneutered males are often free to roam and find partners to mate with.
Cats are successful and prolific breeders and one male cat can sire many litters of kittens a year. Sadly, this means there is always an abundance of unwanted kittens born every year who either end up in shelters or living as strays.
As pet parents, we have a social responsibility to make sure that our furry friends do not contribute to these numbers.
3. Health benefits
Intact (i.e. unneutered) males are more likely to fight with other cats and therefore have a higher rate of fight wounds and cat bite abscesses.
Mating and fighting other cats can also lead to them contracting feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV). Statistically, unneutered cats are also more likely to be involved in road accidents and be hit by cars, due to their increased desire to roam.
Neutering can also reduce the risk of certain cancers.
What Happens When a Cat Is Neutered?
Cat neutering is usually done as a day-patient procedure. Your cat will receive a full pre-operative health check from a veterinarian, to ensure that your cat is healthy enough for surgery. You will have the option to request a pre-anesthetic blood test to further screen for any health abnormalities.
If you have any concerns about whether your cat is well enough for surgery, feel free to discuss any worries you have with our friendly vet team.
Anesthetic protocols vary from clinic to clinic, however, your cat is likely to receive an opioid painkiller, a sedative, and a local anesthetic as part of their drug regime.
After surgery, a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug or NSAID will most likely be given for additional pain relief. The testes are removed via two, small surgical incisions, one over each scrotum. These are so small that they do not require suturing closed, so your cat will not have any stitches to remove further down the track.
The only time neutering a cat may deviate significantly from the procedure described above is if your cat has a retained testicle.
These cryptorchid cats may require more extensive surgery to retrieve the retained testicle from their groin or abdomen. Fortunately, this is very rare in cats and unlikely to be something you have to encounter.
When Should I Neuter My Cat?
It is generally advised to get your cat neutered around the 6 months of age mark. Some rescue organizations and shelters carry out what is known as pediatric neuters which are when kittens are neutered early in life, from as young as 8 weeks old.
However, there is some evidence to suggest that allowing cats to develop with their sex hormones until 6 months old may be better for their orthopedic development, so we tend to aim for that.
If your male cat is living with a female that has not been desexed, such as a litter mate, then early neutering may be more advisable in these cases. There is no upper age limit on neutering as long as the cat is well, but some behaviors like spraying can be more ingrained if neutering is performed later on in life.
If all this advice around timing and risks sounds confusing, one of our vets will be happy to discuss what the best option is for the cat in your household.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is neutering a cat a painful procedure?
Any surgical procedure incurs a degree of discomfort, however, our vets are trained to provide good quality, multi-sourced pain relief before, during, and after surgery to keep your cat as comfortable as possible. Most cats display no or very low levels of discomfort from this procedure.
How long does it take a cat to recover from being neutered?
Most cat parents are surprised by how quickly their cat recovers after neutering! It can take 24-48 hours for a cat to recover from the general anesthetic, and around a week to heal their incision sites.
How much does it cost to neuter a cat?
The cost of neutering a cat varies between locations, but you can determine your cost on our website or app before you confirm your appointment. This cost is part and parcel of being a responsible pet parent, however, if cost is a concern, some charities and shelters will offer low-cost neutering or vouchers to assist with the fees.
What are the risks of neutering a cat?
Fortunately, the risks of neutering a cat are very small. In a minority of cases, some cats may experience a drug reaction to their anesthetic, or an infection or inflammation around their surgical site. Long term, it is worth noting that neutered cats can be more prone to excess weight gain because neutering reduces their metabolic rate. They will need feeding accordingly to help them to maintain a healthy weight.