Neutering a Cat: Everything You Need to Know

Written by Small Door's medical experts

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. Feline neutering is a common procedure and complications are rare. Still, any procedure that involves surgery can cause anxiety for pet 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.

In This Article

What is neutering a cat?

Neutering (also referred to as feline castration, or getting your cat “fixed”) is a surgical procedure performed by a veterinarian to remove your cat’s testicles.

How do they neuter a cat?

Your veterinarian will make a small 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 does neutering your cat do?

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 breeding and adding to the cat population. Unlike female cats, male cats do not need to go through heat cycles in order to breed.

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?

There are several benefits to neutering your cat:

  • Prevents unwanted breeding

  • Decreases aggressiveness

  • Reduces roaming

  • Eliminates “spraying”

  • Reduces risk of certain cancers such as testicular cancer

  • Reduces risk of contracting Feline Immunodeficiency Virus

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.

Will a neutered cat stop spraying?

The majority of male cats will stop spraying within 6 months of being neutered. However, cats may still spray long after being fixed. When a cat experiences a stressful situation, such as a change in environment or the addition of new pets or people to the home, their reaction may include urine marking.

Will a neutered cat calm down?

Yes, many neutered cats are less territorial and aggressive toward other animals, due to a reduction in male reproductive hormones.

Will a neutered cat still try to mate?

In some instances, yes, a neutered cat will still retain sexual urges and try to mate. If a male cat is neutered later in life, he’ll still have testosterone in his system that can induce sexual activity. It may take weeks or several months for the testosterone to leave the body.

What are some complications of neutering?

While neutering is a routine procedure, some rare complications could arise. These include:

  • Inflammation

  • Infection

  • Scrotal hematoma (swelling at incision site)

Can you neuter your cats at home?

No. It is against the law to neuter animals at your home. As it’s a medical procedure that requires an anesthetic, you could potentially kill the animal you are attempting to neuter. Take your cat to a licensed veterinarian to be neutered instead.

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 to neuter a cat?

Most veterinarians say that the best age to neuter a kitten is between three and six months of age. In some cases, your veterinarian may recommend you neuter your kitten sooner or later depending on 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 medically necessary if your cat’s testicles become infected or injured.

How to tell if a cat is 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.

What to expect before your cat is neutered?

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.

Post-neuter care

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.

Summary of neutering your cat

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. If you have any additional concerns, then talk to your veterinarian to receive more information specifically related to your cat and his individual needs.

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