Neutering Cats: Everything You Need to Know
Veterinarians recommend neutering most male cats. Unless you plan to breed your cat responsibly and are prepared to keep him indoors, neutering will reduce the risk of unwanted behaviors, health problems, and feral cat populations.
Still, any procedure that involves surgery can cause anxiety for owners. We will go over the risks and benefits of neutering your cat, as well as how the procedure is performed, so that you have all the information you need prior to his surgery.
What is Neutering?
Neutering, or castration, is a procedure performed by a veterinarian to remove your cat’s testicles. Your veterinarian will make an incision over the scrotum, then remove the testicles.
The wound will be small and heal well on its own, so skin sutures are not typically necessary, unless an abdominal exploration for retained testicles was performed. (However, the incidence of retained testicles in cats is exceedingly rare.)
In cases of trauma, infection, or cancer, your veterinarian may also perform a scrotal ablation, which is the removal of both the scrotum and the testes.
What are the Advantages of Neutering Your Cat?
There are several advantages to neutering your cat. Perhaps the biggest incentive for owners is the reduced risk of health problems like testicular cancer.
If performed when cats are young, neutering can also alter behavior, making cats less aggressive and decreasing the likelihood of cat bite abscesses or contracting Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV, or cat “AIDS”) from cat fights.
Neutering also prevents your male cat from adding to the cat population. Unlike female cats, male cats do not need to go through heat cycles in order to breed, so one male cat can theoretically be responsible for hundreds of kittens over the course of a year.
In most cases, neutering is the responsible decision, as the number of feral cats and cats in shelters is very high.
What are the Side Effects of Neutering Your Cat
Population and health risks aside, neutering also comes with behavioral side effects that can make your cat a better pet. When carried out at a younger age, neutering decreases male aggressiveness. This, in turn, reduces the risk of your cat fighting with other toms and getting injured. Likewise, neutered cats do not roam as frequently as their intact counterparts, which reduces the risk of injury from cars, wild animals, and toxins.
Finally, intact male cats are known for marking, or spraying areas with urine to mark their territory. This can quickly become a problem as cat urine is notoriously hard to eliminate from living spaces. While neutering later in life may not cure this behavior, neutering when cats are young lowers the likelihood that your cat will mark outside the litter box.
When carried out at a younger age, neutering decreases male aggressiveness, reducing the risk of your cat fighting with other toms and getting injured.
When Should I Neuter My Cat?
Most veterinarians recommend neutering cats between three and six months of age, but your veterinarian may recommend you neuter sooner or later depending on their practice or your cat’s situation.
Neutering your cat when he is still a kitten will help you take full advantage of the health and behavioral benefits of neutering.
Older cats may not see the same level of behavioral benefits. However, neutering will still reduce the incidence of testicular tumors (or treat them), in addition to eliminating your cat’s ability to reproduce.
Neutering may also be necessary if the area is infected or injured.
Is My Cat Already Neutered?
It is a little harder to see if a cat is intact than it is a dog, as the scrotum is not as visible. However, your veterinarian will be able to tell if your cat has been neutered during a physical exam.
Neutering: What to Expect
Neutering is a surgical procedure. Your veterinarian will most likely ask you to withhold food (including treats) and sometimes water for a specific period of time before the surgery. This helps prevent your cat from aspirating while under anesthesia. Talk to your veterinarian about any concerns you have regarding medication that your cat takes with food.
Prior to surgery, your veterinarian will check your cat’s recent blood work, or run new blood work, to make sure your cat can tolerate anesthesia and is healthy enough for a surgical procedure.
Older cats or cats with health problems may need additional blood work and laboratory tests so the vet can be aware of potential complications.
Once at the vet, your cat will have an IV catheter placed. The surgery itself is usually very quick, and most cats go home the same day.
Neuter Home Recovery Kit
There are things you can do to prepare for your cat’s neuter, like creating a neuter home recovery kit. You will need:
A quiet room with clean, dry bedding
Elizabethan collar (if one is not provided for you by your vet)
Litter box with the right kind of litter
Containing cats is notoriously tricky. So if possible, confine your cat to a room while he recovers from his neuter. This allows you to keep a close eye on him for signs of complications, and also helps ensure that he doesn’t make a break for the outdoors. Provide him with clean, dry bedding and plenty of food and water.
Veterinarians recommend avoiding granular, clay, or clumping litter until the scrotal incisions have healed—usually several days. Remember to spend some time with him throughout the day so he doesn’t get lonely.
Cats typically recover from neuters without complications, especially if you provide the right care at home. Keep your cat indoors in a dry, clean environment.
Use an Elizabethan collar (or find one at your local pet store) to keep your cat from licking his surgery site. Licking can open the wound up to infections and cause trauma to the incision site. Make sure to use the kitty litter your vet has recommended.
Keep your cat calm and indoors for 10 to 14 days in the unlikely event that abdominal surgery was performed, to prevent the surgical site from reopening; if possible, try to prevent him from leaping or climbing during this time as well.
Recheck visits are usually not needed if external sutures were not used.
In most cases, neutering your cat is the responsible decision. Not only does it prevent your cat from adding to the overpopulation problem, but it also reduces his risk of developing certain health problems and behavioral issues.