Preventive care is vital to protecting the lifelong health of your feline friend. This includes reproductive surgery. Our Doraville vets share what to expect with a spayed or neutered cat, the benefits of this veterinary surgery and what happens if you don't have them fixed.

Why should you have your cat fixed?

About 3.2 million cats end up in animal shelters across the United States each year, according to the ASPCA (American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals). 

Having your cat spayed or neutered is the absolute best way to help reduce the number of unwanted cats in Doraville area shelters. 

However, the benefits of spaying or neutering your pet don't stop at population control. Veterinary surgery to have your cat fixed can help to curb many undesirable behaviors cats may exhibit and help to reduce the risk of your cat developing numerous serious health conditions. 

What is the best age to spay or neuter your cat?

Kittens can be neutered or spayed as young as six to eight weeks of age. However, standard spay and neuter procedures are often performed when a kitten is between five and six months old.

That said, it's important to note that these procedures can be performed at any time during your cat's life provided your pet is healthy. Your vet can examine your cat and advise when it would be best to schedule a spay or neuter procedure. 

What is the difference between spaying and neutering?

When we discuss getting a cat 'fixed', we're using a blanket term that covers both female animals' spaying and neutering male animals. 

Spaying Female Cats 

A spayed cat's ovaries and uterus, or sometimes just the ovaries, of the female cat are removed surgically. She will not be able to have kittens after she has been spayed. 

Neutering Male Cats

Neutering (sometimes called castration) refers to the removal of a male cat's testes. Your neutered male cat will not be able to father kittens. 

What to Expect From the Spay or Neuter Procedure

Here are the steps that will occur for your pet's spay or neuter surgery:

  1. Your vet will conduct the appropriate diagnostic tests before surgery to ensure your pet is healthy enough to safely undergo the operation. Spay and neuter procedures are done using general anesthesia and typically take between 20 and 90 minutes to complete, depending on your pet's size and any specific medical considerations.
  2. Following anesthesia, the hair on your pet's abdomen will be shaved down and the skin thoroughly disinfected. The organs are then removed, either laparoscopically (with surgical lasers) or with a traditional scalpel, both of which are safe.
  3. After the procedure, the vet will use skin glue, sutures (stitches) or surgical staples to close your pet's skin. Staples or stitches will need to be removed by your veterinarian 10 to 14 days after the procedure. 
  4. While the actual procedure is relatively quick, you can generally expect your pet to spend a few hours at the hospital, allowing time for check-in, initial physical assessment, the surgery itself and time for recovery from anesthesia. 

What to Expect After the Procedure

While most pets will begin to feel better in 24 to 48 hours, full recovery may take between 10 and 14 days. Keep your pet calm and refrain from allowing them to jump during this period, as this can cause their incision to reopen. Check the incision daily for signs of infection, which can include swelling, discharge, redness or foul odor. Contact your vet if you notice any of these. 

Also, monitor your pet's behavior. If they still seem lethargic or are not eating or drinking after 48 hours, this could indicate infection. Bring them to an emergency veterinarian for care or follow up with your primary vet or veterinary surgeon. 

What are the benefits of having your female cat fixed?

Population Control 

Before she is even six months old, your tiny little kitten may be mature enough to have kittens of her own. By spaying your female cat before she reaches this age of maturity, you can help reduce the population of unwanted cats in your neighborhood. 

In addition, female cats can birth as many as four litters a year. When we consider that the average litter can range in size from two kittens (from a young mother) to as many as 10 kittens, that's a staggering number of potentially unwanted cats. 

Animal Health

Spaying your kitten before she has her first heat can help to reduce her risk of pyometra (infection of the womb) as well as mammary tumors. It's also important to note that female cats carrying infectious diseases can pass serious conditions on to their kittens who go on to spread the disease even further. Pregnancy and the birth process can be risky for young cats, and costly to their owners. 

Save Wildlife

It is estimated that cats in the USA kill between 1.4 billion and 3.7 billion birds each year. Keeping the number of homeless cats to a minimum can help save the lives of countless birds and other wildlife.

Deter Nuisance Behaviors

Female cats who are not spayed will go into heat frequently throughout the year, attracting male cats from across the neighborhood to your home and garden. Unneutered male cats prowling around your property, looking for your female, can be problematic since these males tend to spray, fight and wail. Spaying your female cat can help to keep male cats out of your backyard.

What are the benefits of neutering your male cat?

Population Control 

While male cats don't have kittens themselves, one unneutered male cat in your neighborhood can make many female cats pregnant. That's why neutering male cats is as important as spaying females when it comes to population control!

Health Issues

Neutering your male cat may help slow the spread of serious cat diseases such as Feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) and Feline leukemia virus (FeLV) that are often spread between cats during fights. Neutering can help to reduce cat aggression and may mean fewer injuries from fighting. Neutered males also tend to stay closer to home which helps to reduce their risk of being injured by vehicles. 

Deter Undesirable Behaviors

Unneutered male cats typically spray inside the home more than neutered males and may be aggressive towards their owners. Having your male kitten neutered while young can help to prevent these behaviors from starting. Also, male cats who are not neutered, frequently roam over large areas in search of unspayed females to mate with. These males will spray to mark their territory and often fight with other male cats which can be bothersome, noisy, and smelly.

Expectations When You Don't Have Your Cat Fixed

Female Cats

If you choose to not have your female cat spayed you can expect them to go into heat as often as every two to three weeks. When she is in heat you can expect her to wail. This noise is to try to attract potential mates.

Male Cats

If you have an intact male cat, he is likely to spray around your home (and yard if he's allowed outside). This is to mark his territory. If you do not allow your unneutered male to breed then he is likely to become stressed and may take it out on your furnishings. If you do allow him to mate then you may deal with aggression while he is home.

These behavioral concerns, along with the financial and health implications of intact cats, indicate that having your cat fixed is ideal for your sake, and theirs.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

Do you need to schedule your cat (or dog) spaying or neutering surgery? Contact our Doraville vets to book an appointment.