Traditionally male and female cats have been neutered at 6 months of age, but this is after cats reach sexual maturity and not based on any scientific rationale. For social, health and population control reasons it is now recommended that neutering should routinely take place around 4 months of age.
From around the age of 4 months, kittens can reach sexual maturity meaning that they are capable of breeding and producing kittens. Most people do not have the time or desire to breed from their cat and do not wish to add to the number of unwanted cats and kittens already looking for homes. Neutering a cat – castration in the male (removal of the testes), and spaying the female (removal of the ovaries and uterus) – not only prevents unwanted pregnancies occurring, but also curbs unwanted behavioural patterns associated with sexual maturity and reduces the risk of certain diseases.
Reasons for neutering female cats
Breeding can occur very rapidly. Most females have their first season at around 6 months of age and it is possible for a queen to have three litters a year. Female cats will “call” (come into season and be receptive to males) approximately every 3 weeks during the breeding season if they do not become pregnant.
Unwanted kittens may not be cared for and are more likely to develop infectious diseases such as cat flu. It can be hard to find these kittens new homes.
Unneutered females are more likely to develop pyometra (infection in the uterus) and mammary tumours (breast cancer). Queens with infectious diseases are more likely to pass these on to their kittens.
Reasons for neutering male cats
One male cat wandering over a large territory can reproduce with many female cats.
Males are more likely to fight and therefore to spread diseases such as FeLV (feline leukaemia) and FIV (feline aids) through bite wounds. They are also more likely to develop abscesses from their fight wounds. Wandering over a large territory also increases the risk of a road traffic accident.
Unneutered male cats are more likely to wander away from home and may not return. They may also spray a very pungent smell in the house to mark their territory and may be aggressive to their owners. Most people do not wish to live with an unneutered male cat.
Spaying a female cat
We recommend spaying female cats before sexual maturity so approximately 4-5 months old. The spaying operation (ovariohysterectomy - removal of ovaries and uterus) is carried out under general anaesthetic. The procedure is usually carried out through a flank incision (surgical site on the left hand side) but in some circumstances it may be carried out through a midline incision (surgical site on the abdomen).
The fur is shaved at the surgical site. If there are any skin sutures they will be removed at approximately 10 days post operatively. We normally like to see our patients back 3 days after the surgery and then a final check at 10 days. We like to send our patients home with a few days of pain relief and some require a buster collar or medical pet shirt to ensure that they don't interfere with their wound.
Castrating a male cat
We recommend castrating male cats at approximately 4-5 months of age. Castration involves removal of the testicles under general anaesthesia.
Usually the skin incision is so small that stitches are not required. Male cats do not usually need additional pain relief. We usually like to see our patients 3 days postoperatively to check the surgical site.
Cats usually recover very quickly from their neutering procedure. They may be drowsy initially but are usually very bright the next day. For male cats we recommend keeping them indoors and quiet until they have had their 3 day post-operative check and for female cats until their final check at 10 days.
Once cats have been neutered their metabolic rate decreases and they are more likely to gain weight if you keep feeding them the same amount of food. We would recommend changing onto a neutered cat food postoperatively to help maintain a healthy weight. Please speak to one of our Veterinary Nurses for advice on feeding/changing food.
Dark patches of fur
Dark patches of fur in siamese and other related breeds. Skin temperature can determine hair colour. This means that when the hair regrows it may grow back a darker colour. This is only temporary and as more hairs grow they will be replaced by lighter hairs.