Have you recently welcomed a kitten to your home? You may be wondering if you should get your new furry friend fixed. Our Austin vets explain what you can expect with a spayed or neutered cat and why this procedure is important. 

Should you get 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 Austin area shelters. 

However, the benefits of spaying or neutering your pet don't stop at population control. Getting 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. 

When should you have your cat neutered or spayed?

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.

However, as long as your cat is in good health, these procedures can be performed at any time during his or her life. Your veterinarian can examine your cat and advise you on when it is best to schedule a spay or neuter surgery.

What is the difference between spaying and neutering?

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

Spaying Female Cats 

A spayed cat's ovaries and uterus, or sometimes just the ovaries, of the female cat are removed surgically. 

Your cat 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. 

The Spay or Neuter Procedure 

Here are the steps involved in spaying or neutering a cat:

  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 is complete, 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. 

Recovery from Spaying Surgery

Most pets will feel better within 24 to 48 hours, but full recovery may take 10 to 14 days. Keep your pet calm and do not allow them to jump during this time, as this can cause their incision to reopen. Examine the incision daily for signs of infection, such as swelling, discharge, redness, or a foul odor. If you notice any of the following, please contact your veterinarian.

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. 

Benefits of a Spayed Cat

Population Control 

Before she is even six months old, your tiny little kitten may actually 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 numbers of homeless cats to a minimum can help to 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 have a tendency to spray, fight and caterwaul. Spaying your female cat can help to keep male cats out of your backyard.

Benefits of a Neutered Cat

Population Control 

While male cats don't actually 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 tend to spray more inside the home than neutered males and can be aggressive toward their owners. Having your male kitten neutered while young can help prevent these behaviors from developing. Unneutered male cats often roam large areas, looking for unspayed females to mate with. These males will spray to mark their territory and frequently fight with other male cats, which can be aggravating, noisy, and unpleasant.

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.

Is it time to schedule your cat or dog's spaying or neutering procedure? Contact our Austin vets to learn how you can protect your pet's health.