The term spay or spayed is used to describe the removal of the female reproductive organs in cats. Neuter (etymology = neither, French) can denote the removal of the male testicles or also the female spay. We will use the inclusive term neuter to denote the removal of any reproductive organs whether female or male and will qualify which gender if necessary.
Neutering can add several years to the life of your pet and prevent costly and fatal diseases. It eliminates the possibility of uterine and ovarian cancer and reduces the occurrence of mammary cancer in females and should be done before the first heat for maximum benefit. Neutering a male cat eliminates the possibility of testicular tumors and reduces the risk of prostate problems. Neutering can also reduce the occurrence of hernias in older animals.
Neutering greatly reduces the risks of male cats living outdoors. Neutered males tend not to stray as far from home and do not get into as many territorial battles, thus reducing the chance of injury and contraction of deadly diseases. Males and females neutered before the age of puberty (approximately 5-9 months old) often do not spray (territory marking with urine) as much or at all and are less aggressive.
Neutering is essential in the United States. There are more than 65 million cats in American households (as of 2000-US Census Bureau) with an estimated 60 million more cats roaming the streets. With 10-15 million cats and dogs euthanized in the nation’s shelters each year because of the lack of good homes, some states have considered making it mandatory to neuter cats. The state of California requires neutering of all adopted cats. The law states that if a cat is too young to be neutered when adopted, you have until puberty (~ 5 months old) to neuter it. Veterinarians now say that it is safe to neuter cats by the age of 8 weeks old and many shelters in metropolitan areas do not adopt cats out until they are neutered. According to the Humane Society of the United States, there can be 420,000 cats from one male and one female cat in seven years. Of course, many of these kittens and cats will die due to accident, illness, starvation, abuse, predation, or euthanasia in a shelter. Spaying that one female cat could possibly have prevented more than 200,000 deaths!
Some neutered cats will put on weight due to the fact that they use less energy patrolling their territory and looking for mates. Outdoor cats may stick closer to home. Indoor cats however tend to be less active as a rule and need to be entertained and exercised on a regular basis whether they are neutered or not.
Preparing Your Cat for Surgery
Your veterinarian will advise you on what preparations you need to do for your cat before surgery. Generally speaking, most veterinarians suggest no food past 10pm at night and no water past 12 midnight the night before surgery. These precautions are used to prevent the animal from vomiting during surgery in which the vomit can flow down the trachea into the lungs, thus causing the animal to choke to death on its own vomit (aspiration pneumonia). This is rare but may happen so the precautions have been put in place. Some veterinarians will require the cat be bathed prior to surgery but this may only be done with outdoor cats or cats infested with fleas and/or ticks. Usually a blood test is also required prior to any surgery to make sure the animal is healthy and can handle the anesthesia, however, in young seemingly healthy cats, especially ones in for neuters, this is usually bypassed.
In females, the uterus, fallopian tubes, and ovaries are removed completely. This is properly called a hysterosalpingo-oophorectomy. “Hystero” refers to the uterus, “salpingo” the fallopian tubes, “oophor” the ovaries, and “ectomy” means removal. It is widely known as an ovariohysterectomy and many times the term is shortened to just hysterectomy.
The female is usually sedated with a drug such as Ketaset (injectable anesthetic) and then intubated (breathing tube is inserted into trachea) and hooked to a gas machine which gives a mixture of nitrous oxide and oxygen. This process is referred to as general anesthesia. The wound is stitched and the cat can usually go home the same day. The surgical site requires no bandaging as cats rarely disturb surgical wounds, however, if bandaged, a cat may become extremely agitated and panic. Quite often, an antibiotic injection is administered at the conclusion of the surgery. This is mostly precautionary and may or may not be included in the price of the surgery. For some animals that may attempt to groom the area, an Elizabethan collar or surgery recovery suit may be required.
Watch the wound for infection and make sure your cat does not remove the stitches. If there are any problems, contact your veterinarian immediately. You’ll have to return 7 – 14 days later for suture removal which is usually always included in the price. Some veterinarians use soluble sutures which are absorbed into the body and you will not have to return for suture removal. Your cat may feel some pain for a day or so but should be eating and drinking fine. Pain medications are usually given at the time of the surgery and you may receive some for home administration post operation. Monitor her excretory functions as well to make sure she is urinating and defecating normally. You may want to change out your regular litter for shredded paper (for about a week) to make sure the litter does not get in the wound. This may not be necessary, so check with your veterinarian.
In males, the testes and part of the vas deferens (tubes that carry the sperm to the penis) are removed. This is termed a castration which is properly called an orchidectomy, “orchid” meaning testis.
The surgery may be performed with just a sedative such as Ketaset but males may also be put under general anesthesia. The operation takes only minutes and usually the male can return home the same day. Mainly speaking, the surgery requires no sutures but this is entirely up to the veterinarian. An antibiotic injection may be administered at the conclusion of the surgery. This is mostly precautionary and may or may not be included in the price of the surgery.
Observe the scrotum for infection and make sure your cat does not constantly lick the area. Contact your veterinarian immediately if you notice any problems. Your male cat should be eating and drinking regularly with little to no discomfort. Pain medications are usually given at the time of the surgery and you may receive some for home administration post operation. Monitor litter box habits to make sure he is urinating and defecating normally. Check with your veterinarian to see if you should change the litter to shredded paper.
Defraying Surgery Costs
If you can’t afford the surgery for your pet, check into your local shelter, Humane Society, or Animal Care and Regulation Division for information on reduced cost or free spay and neuter surgeries available in your area.
For a list of low cost or free neutering offers in your state, visit the ASPCA‘s website. You may also want to contact your local pet store for reduced cost neutering, vaccinations, and dewormings, many have programs set up with local veterinarians.
Friends of Animals – Pet owners may purchase a certificate from Friends of Animals that can be used for a routine spay or neuter surgery at any of FoA’s participating veterinary hospitals. You may order a certificate using the online form, or you can call the FoA spay/neuter hotline at 1-800-321-PETS (1-800-321-7387).
Price List for Friends of Animals Spay and Neuter Certificates: (prices from July 2022)
Female Cat – $85
Male Cat- $61
Female Dog – $160
Male Dog – $74
Information on this site is for general information purposes only and is provided without warranty or guarantee of any kind. This site is not intended to replace professional advice from your own veterinarian and nothing on this site is intended as a medical diagnosis or treatment. Any questions about your animal’s health or diet should be directed to your veterinarian.