Cat neutering – the facts
Neutering – or ‘spaying’ as it’s known for female cats – is a common procedure which around 90% of cats in the UK undergo, usually at a young age. Ultimately it is up to each cat owner to decide if it is the best thing for their cat. Here we provide the facts about neutering that you need to know.
Cat neutering – what is it?
Neutering is a surgical procedure that prevents unwanted pregnancies in cats. It is a different procedure for male and female cats and has a different name:
- Male cat neutering: males are castrated, which means his testicles are removed
- Female cat neutering: females are spayed, which means her ovaries and usually also the uterus are removed
What are the benefits of cat neutering?
Neutering your cat can be beneficial for you and your feline friend:
- No unwanted pregnancies. This is the obvious one! Unless you are planning to breed from your cat, a litter of kittens is probably not what you want. It is extremely difficult to stop an entire cat from breeding – if they can get outside, sooner or later they will find a mate. Neutering permanently prevents this risk.
According to the RSPCA, the cat population in the UK has reached crisis point, with more and more cats going into care, so if you definitely do not want your cat to become pregnant – or make other cats pregnant – neutering is the way to go.
- A calmer cat. Neutered cats tend to be much calmer. Neutered male cats are less aggressive with other cats, and roam less, and neutered female cats will not wail as much, and won’t gain lots of attention from eager Tomcats!
- A healthier cat. Neutered cats are less likely to contract diseases such as feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) – the cat equivalent of HIV – spread by bites and mating behaviour. It also removes the risk of ovarian or testicular cancer.
- A fresher home: Neutered males are less likely to "spray" or mark their territory in the home as they're not driven to look for a female mate.
What are the potential downsides of neutering?
Not every cat owner will decide to have their cat neutered, usually for one of the following reasons:
- It is permanent. A neutered cat will never reproduce. If you want to breed from your cat, then it is not an option.
- It may cause weight gain. Neutered cats are more ‘homebodies’ and may eat much more, in addition to having a slightly reduced metabolic rate. This means that, combined with less energy expenditure from no longer roaming and looking for mates, some cats may put on weight. This can be simply dealt with by offering less food after consultation with your vet.
- The worry of surgery. While the surgical procedure is very straightforward, some cat owners naturally worry about their cat going under general anaesthetic, particularly at a young age. But in reality, this is a very routine operation & any risk to your cat is extremely low.
At what age is neutering recommended?
While it is safe to neuter a cat at any age, it is generally advised to have it done when they are around four months old. Cats can become sexually active from as early as five months, so if you decide you would like your cat to be neutered, it is a good idea to have it done when they are young.
Is it painful for my cat?
The actual surgical procedure – whether castration or spaying – is a very simple one, which vets do all the time. Cats are given a general anaesthetic, so they feel no pain at all during surgery.
After surgery, they may feel a little sensitive for a day or two, but your vet will probably give you some pain medication to give to your cat. They are usually back up and about very quickly.
How much does it cost?
The cost of cat neutering can vary from vet practice to vet practice. Spaying usually costs a little more than castration. If you adopt a rescue cat, it will usually have been neutered by the rescue centre.
Your vet will be able to provide you with a quote and give you the advice you need.
Why not take a look at our essential list of tips for caring for your cat?