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Everything you need to know about a spayed cat

White cat with yellow eyes advice
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Your female cat will reach her sexual maturity at around six months old. Here’s everything you need to know about spaying a female cat

By Nick Whittle

Your female cat will reach her sexual maturity at around six months old. Here’s everything you need to know about spaying a female cat. 

Spaying constitutes a sizeable surgical undertaking, but its benefits outweigh the risks involved: a spayed cat is less prone to nasty diseases, and of course cannot get pregnant (which brings its own health risks). 

Spaying has only a minor impact on a cat’s later life. An increased proneness to incontinence is one such condition seen of older spayed cats (this is easily treated with medications and is not seen of all spayed cats). Spayed and castrated cats are also said to be prone to weight-gain after their operations. There is some evidence to show that a cat’s metabolism sinks slightly but any weight gain is completely avoidable if an owner does not over-feed their cat. 

The biggest advantages to the cat arising from spaying are: 

  • No pregnancy
  • No uterine or ovarian infections
  • Reduced likelihood of mammary cancer

And for an owner, the advantages are: 

  • Zero inconvenience (and cost) of caring for a pregnant cat
  • Cat’s behaviour is easier to control
  • Cat does not come into heat
  • Cat does not attract tom cats

Unless you are intent on responsible breeding of cats and selling their litters in a regulated manner you should have your cat spayed. 

What does spaying mean?

The word ‘spay’ comes from the Middle Ages and related to a French word for ‘cut’; it defines the surgical procedure to remove the reproductive organs of a female cat. 
 
Most veterinary surgeons in the UK who perform spaying tend to remove the cat’s ovaries and uterus (womb). Some surgeons will leave the uterus alone unless there is an obvious problem with it. 

Your cat will be sedated with a general anaesthetic and her tummy will be shaved. The surgeon and his team scrub up to ensure that everyone involved in the operation is as germ-free as possible. The cleanliness and hygiene of veterinary practices has come a long way in a relatively short space of time; these days vet’s operating rooms often look the same as they ones you may find in a hospital. 

The surgeon will make a small incision about one inch below the umbilicus and along the midline of the abdomen. A spay ‘hook’ is inserted into the abdominal cavity and the first ovary is drawn up and out of the abdomen. The blood vessels of the cat's ovary are clamped off allowing the surgeon to safely remove the ovary; this he repeats for the second ovary and finally what remains of the uterus. 

Post-operative recovery from spaying

Your cat will not feel very well when she wakes up from the anaesthetic. That is to be expected. She is looked after by the vet’s nursing staff and soon moved to her own cage which contains a bed and a bowl of water. 

You will be notified when your cat is fully recovered and is able to walk of her own accord. 

The vet will give you instructions for how best to care for your cat during the next stage of her recovery. You are normally advised to be vigilant of your cat’s overall health and routinely check the scar for signs of infection, bleeding or dehiscence (loosening of the sutures). 

Most of all you are told to limit your cat’s exercise for two to three weeks. Doing so gives the sutures the best chance of healing. Stitches are removed around 10 days after surgery.

Medications prescribed by the vet should be administered to your cat according to the instructions. Do not over-medicate a cat. Medications will include anti-inflammatories and (sometimes) antibiotics. 

After a couple of weeks, you should have a good idea of how speedy your cat’s recovery is. Around this time her strength should have returned and there should be very little swelling and tenderness of the area of the operation. If you are confident that your cat has made a fully recovery you can allow her to exercise and roam more freely.  

When should you have your cat spayed?

Both male and female cats become sexually mature at around six months old but you may want to begin discussions with your vet about neutering from when the cat reaches four months. 

The age at which a car reaches sexual maturity varies considerably. However, you will be aware of the cat’s transition to sexual maturity because both toms and queens are very vocal and toms tend to forcibly spray urine around their ‘territory’. 

How much does it cost to get a cat spayed?

The cost of the neutering operation is determined by the vet’s practice you choose to perform it. In the UK the average cost of tom cat neutering is between £40 and £80. The average cost of neutering a queen is between £50 and £100.

There are concerns among some owners of queen cats following the cat’s spaying the animal’s behaviour will change. We have remarked about the possibility of your cat gaining weight and becoming incontinent in later life, but behaviour is something we have not touched on. There is a good reason for that: it does not change! 

Yes, your cat may appear more docile and more intent to sleep but culturally speaking these are far preferable to your cat’s excessive vocalisation and her determinations to be pregnant. By all manner of reason spaying improves a cat’s behaviour and ensures too that her health is not beset by conditions in later life related to elevated levels of oestrogen. All in all it is worthwhile to consider spaying your female cat.