Should you spay and neuter your pets? This is the question on many an animal lover’s lips. It’s a topic avidly debated in pet parenting circles, vet circles and in the general google hemisphere.
Why? Firstly, many animal experts believe spaying (female pets) / neutering (male pets) – or desexing – is good for your pet’s safety and health. Secondly, some experts disagree and feel there are drawbacks to consider.
February is Spay and Neuter Awareness Month. For cat parents, it’s an important chance to consider if you should you desex your cat.
Come to the wrong place? Don’t go – if you’re a pup parent, desexing your dog explained is for you.
Now, let’s explore the good, the bad and the ugly of cat spay and neuter. Because we all know how the ugly duckling grew up.
Spay and neuter – understanding cat reproduction
Did you know that in one year, a single cat can have up to 20 kittens (or more)! In addition, Kiwi households are already home to nearly 1.5 million cats. Just imagine if half of these cats are female and unspayed.
That could result in a grand total of 15 million new kittens in a single year. And that’s not all…
Each girl kitten will already be old enough to produce her own first litter around the time she turns six months old. That’s a fast turnover. In addition, a cat’s peak fertility (being in heat) can happen at any time. Not just once a month like humans.
Cats are induced ovulators. Induced whaaa…? This means cats can induce ovulation just by mating. Mating stimulates the release of the egg making the chance of fertilisation almost a guarantee.
So, what else is interesting about a cat’s reproductive cycle…
These are some fun figures (which of course can vary):
- Two – the number of minutes it takes for cats to mate
- Four – the number of times cats need to mate in a 24-hour cycle to induce ovulation
- Two – the number of months a cat’s pregnancy lasts
- Three – the number of kittens in smaller litters
- Twelve – the number of kittens in larger litters
- Eight – the number of weeks after giving birth a cat can fall pregnant again
A cat’s first litter is often her smallest litter. As a result, her subsequent litters tend to boast even more cuddly furballs. Which in turn need even more new homes.
Benefits of spaying or neutering your cat
Although we Kiwis love our felines, there aren’t always enough new homes for every year’s batch of cherubs. So, what happens when they’re unwanted?
Social benefits of desexing
Animal shelters in New Zealand are highly overpopulated with many unwanted and abandoned animals. Sadly, many of these animals are the result of indiscriminate breeding.
Shelters home, feed and care for thousands of unwanted pets, but sometimes it’s not possible to care for every animal that comes through their door. And sometimes unwanted pets are picked up by, or taken to, other places. Places that decide to put the animal to sleep (forever) if it isn’t claimed or re-homed within a certain amount of time.
As a result, many unwanted animals are euthanised every week.
In addition, when kittens and puppies do get adopted, it’s often at the expense of older cats and dogs. Whenever there is an influx of kittens or puppies at a shelter, the older animals tend to be overlooked.
Health benefits of desexing
Notwithstanding the benefits of fewer unwanted cats flooding our shelters, spaying female cats is also known to reduce the risk of mammary tumours (breast cancer). Spaying a cat before their first heat reduces this risk seven-fold. Spaying at any age beyond this reduces the by 40% to 60%.
Research shows cats live longer and healthier lives once they’re spayed. Male cats can live twice as long as their unneutered counterparts and females live 62% longer.
Neutering male cats removes the risk of testicular cancer. And even though male cats are less likely to get mammary tumours, neutering does still reduce the risk.
Behavioural benefits of desexing
When female cats are on heat, you can expect a fair amount of territorial marking. They are more likely to spray outside of the litterbox (not an accident). This gives off pheromones to attract a mate. They tend to get more affectionate when they’re on heat and also more vocal.
When your female cat is on heat, expect to have tomcats (as in plural) arrive unannounced. A tomcat is a sexually mature male cat that hasn’t been neutered. Cat fights between the tomcats break out as they rival over the girl.
When tomcats roam, they’re not only more likely to be hurt in one of these fights, they’re more likely to be hit by a car or attacked by a another type of animal. They may even get lost.
Therefore, by spaying and neutering your cats you’ll be rid of spraying, cat fights and more.
Now let’s consider why you might not want to desex your cat…
Desexing your cat – why you shouldn’t
The top answer is of course that you’re the cat lady (or lad). In addition, you have the resources and love to care for or rehome a batch of cute kittens. In which case here are the top 5 things new kitten parents need to know.
Spaying and neutering does have some potential health risks for your feline friend. These include:
- Post-surgery infection
- Internal bleeding
- Allergic reaction to anaesthetic
- Slower metabolism
- Infected stitches
For some pet parents, keeping their cat intact is the right choice. For example, if you can keep your cat apart from other cats when they’re on heat. Every time. This of course takes time and determination.
This of course takes time and determination.
Spay and neuter – how is it done?
For boy and girl cats, the procedure is slightly different. In both cases your pet will undergo a surgical procedure under general anaesthetic. Just like with humans, your cat will need to fast for the 12 hours leading up to the surgery. They can still have water during this time, just no food or they may vomit during surgery.
Spaying female cats
A small incision is made in the midline of the abdomen. Your vet will remove the ovaries and uterus and close the incision with layers of sutures.
Neutering male cats
An incision is made over each side of the scrotal sac, and each testicle is removed.
Much of the cat’s reproductive tract structure isn’t removed. In other words, without the testes, he won’t produce sperm and won’t be able to father kittens. The vet ties together blood vessels and spermatic cords which stops the bleeding. As a result, stitches usually aren’t required.
Spay and neuter aftercare
In most cases, your cat will be able to come home on the day of the surgery. It’s a good idea to give the vet a call before pick-up. Sometimes kitty needs an overnight stay.
Once your cat comes home from surgery, they’ll be tired and sore. They’ll need to rest in a quiet, dark room that’s warm. The 24 hours following surgery is the key recovery time.
Avoid doing the surgery at a busy time in your home. For example, holidays or kids having friends stayover. Keep all children and other pets away from your cat, so they can sleep and recover well. Keep a close watch to monitor his/her recovery.
It can take 24 hours for the effects of the anaesthetic to wear off. In this time, only give your kitty a little water in a bowl and little or no food. Water could make him/her vomit, so smaller amounts are better. The following day you can resume a normal feeding routine.
Make sure kitty has a clean litter box nearby within their recovery room, to minimise walking. For girls especially, any dirt or bacteria from the litter tray that gets into sutures could cause an infection and complications.
Female cats shouldn’t do any strenuous activity for one to two weeks after surgery. This will give the sutures time to heal, so they don’t open/become infected. No climbing stairs, jumping, climbing and running, to give kitty the best chance to recover well.
Follow your vet’s advice – they can tailor aftercare for your cat’s age, breed and size.
Giving your cat the best of both worlds
Our feline friends love us unconditionally – especially around feeding time. The best we can do is love them and protect them, and this includes having a cat insurance plan. Cat insurance covers you for vet visits, desexing, medication, vaccination and so much more.
If you desex your cat, you’ll be able to think about cat TLC rather than the price of the procedure and medication.
Maybe you decide not to desex your cat. If so, your cat will still be able to get the best health care – as pregnancy is very taxing on a cat’s body. You’ll be able to get your tomcats microchipped in case they don’t come home after roaming. Not to mention assistance with a reward for their return.
In addition, if there are any nasty cat fights, you can give them the best medical care, when they most need it.
Spay and neuter – over to you
Desexing your cat can be a super emotional time, because your cat is going through something uber important. Tell us about your experience – do you have any tips for after surgery TLC? Do you have any advice for pet parents who are still making the decision to spay or neuter their pet?
Leave a comment – we’re all (pointy fluffy) ears!