Desexing Cats & Kittens: Benefits and costs of neutering or spaying your cat
Desexing your cat or kitten is a standard routine operation where the vet removes your cat’s reproductive organs to prevent breeding and to help ensure a more stress free co-habitation between humans and their cats. Learn about cat desexing benefits, when the best time is to desex your cat and the cost implications of spaying/neutering your cat.
Wondering why you should desex your cat or kitten?
There are a few reasons that people choose to sterilise their cat or kitten. From a personal perspective, your cat’s own health is likely to benefit from desexing. Another added bonus is that it is easier to live with a desexed cat.
But one of the biggest arguments for desexing cats is from a societal/ animal welfare perspective. Two cats can produce a mind-blowing number of kittens. In fact, it is estimated that just one pair of un-desexed cats can be responsible for 420,000 kittens, over a 7-year period (if the kittens don’t get desexed)! (Source: AWL). This is possible as female kittens can become pregnant from as young as four months of age, and a cat’s ability to breed does not diminish with age – she can reproduce for her entire life
There are estimated to be 3.3 million pet cats in Australia (source: RSPCA) and every year hundreds of thousand of cats get abandoned to shelters or left outside on the streets to face an uncertain future. There simply aren’t enough people in Australia willing to re-home all these unwanted cats and kittens, and a huge amount pressure is put on rescue organisations, that often have to resort to euthanising unwanted cats.
Desexing of cats is therefore a must in order to help control the reproduction of cats, but also to reduce the overpopulation and euthanasia of unwanted kittens. If you are considering adopting a cat, be aware that most rescue organisations will desex before you adopt a kitten or cat from them. More info find here.
Desexing benefits both humans and cats
If the reasons provided previously are not enough to change your mind on spaying your cat, this one might – research has shown that desexed cats can live much longer, as removing the reproductive organs helps minimise the risk of cats contracting diseases like testicular or ovarian cancer.
Desexing your cat also avoids unwanted annoying behaviours, like female cats howling for weeks when in season to call male cats for mating. Repeated heat cycles in female cats can also be very stressful for your cat.
Male cats that have not been neutered are also more prone to roaming and starting fights with other male cats.
Cat castration and spaying helps preserve Australia’s wildlife
Stray cats are cats that have been abandoned or become lost whilst out wondering. Stray cats will often end up feeding off Australian native wildlife.
Some stray cats can also carry some nasty diseases and bacteria, which can be passed on to wildlife or humans.
Feral cats are strays that have never been domesticated and live off killing wildlife to survive. Feeding feral and stray cats is not recommended. If you want to help them, it is preferable to capture them and take them to your local animal shelter.
One of the benefits of desexing a male cat is that is stops them roaming to find a mating partner. A desexed male is therefore less prone to go on unauthorised outside adventures, which also helps protect our wildlife.
For more information:
When should you desex your cat?
There are varying opinions about when is the ideal time to desex cats. It is recommended to spay cats before they get into heat, as you want to avoid the nightly cat howling to call potential partners for reproduction. In rare cases, this behaviour of night howling can potentially become a permanent behaviour in your cat.
Generally it is recommended to desex your cat just before its maturity, at around five months of age and before it goes in heat. Some cats, however, go into heat before they are five months old, therefore some vets will recommend desexing at a much earlier age.
A female cat can be desexed when she is already in heat, but the operation is more complicated and recovery can take a bit longer. During the heat cycle there is an increase in blood flow to the reproduction organs, which are removed during the operation. The increased blood flow can cause strong bleeding during the operation and adds another level of risk.
Cats can put on weight after desexing, this is because the cat is less active, therefore it using less energy. Food intake will need to be adjusted according to the cats energy use and to prevent your cat to become overweight.
The desexing procedure
You have made the decision to desex your cat and booked an appointment with your local vet. Here some details you should know about the surgery.
Pre-operative care before your cat gets desexed
Prepare your cat or kitten by removing food and water the night before surgery or as advised by your vet. An empty stomach will ensure that your cat doesn’t vomit or choke whilst under general anaesthetic.
Keep your cat safe the night before the operation by not allowing her to go outside. You don’t want to have to cancel or delay surgery due to a last minute injury.
Desexing in male cats is called castration. This is where the testicals get removed under general anaesthetic during surgery under sterile conditions. The area around the scrotum is shaved to remove hair before the procedure. A small incision is made to remove both testes. By removing the testicals the cat will no longer produce sperm and male sex hormones won’t be present anymore.
Desexing in female cats is called spaying. The cat’s abdomen is shaved prior to performing the midline incision of the abdomen. Under general anaesthetic and sterile conditions the ovaries and uterus are then completely removed. This prevents pregnancy and stops the cat falling into heat.
Male cats are generally sent home on the day of the operation, whereas female cats are commonly held over night for further observation.
Note: When your cat gets desexed it is also worthwhile to get him/her vaccinated and micro chipped whilst under anaesthetic.
Risks of surgery
Desexing female cats is a major surgical procedure, as the abdomen is opened and there is therefore a risk of haemorrhaging (internal bleeding). The castration of male cats is considered a low risk operation, but potential risks for both male and female cats include:
- You cat pulling out their stiches, which can cause the surgical wound to re-open and get infected.
General anaesthetic can also cause side effects. Please speak to your local vet if you have any concerns.
Post care for cats
Just like humans, each cat recovers differently after a general anaesthetic and experiences a different amount of post surgical pain. Male cats are usually up and running around one to two days after desexing with very little pain whereas female cats can take up to 3-4 days to recover with moderate pain. Some vets will prescribe pain relief for your cat after desexing, if required.
Let the cat determine how active they want to be after the surgery and take your vet’s advice as to how much activity you should allow or if you should consider crating your cat for a period of time during the recovery period.
Once your cat has woken up from surgery and you have taken him/her home, you may offer them some food and water. Don’t panic if your cat is not interested in either, but call your vet if you have any concerns.
Keep your cat comfortable and warm and don’t allow them to wander outside, even if they are an outside cat, until they are fully recovered and the all clear has been given by your vet. Ensure you administer the painkillers the vet prescribed – they are important to keep your cat comfortable during recovery from the procedure.
Check the surgery wounds daily to ensure there are no infections or discomfort for your cat.
Cost of de-sexing your cat
Your local vet can guide you on the costs of desexing your cat. The costs vary between $115 – $300 for male/female cats (Source RSPCA NSW). Some vets will charge more as they get blood work done before the surgical procedure to ensure that your kitten/cat doesn’t have any liver or kidney issues and the anaesthetic will not be a problem for.
Some local councils offer a contribution towards cat desexing. Please contact your council to find out if there are any available contributions/rebates.
You can also apply to the National Desexing Network for a reduction in cost if you can’t afford to desex your cat. More information find here. Alternatively, contact your local Animal Welfare League.
Myths surrounding cat desexing
There are several commons myths around cat desexing. These include that you should let the cat fall into its first heat and another that is worthwhile for a cat to have one litter and desex it after its first litter. Rest assured that these are all myths and that the disadvantages of not desexing your cat, as mentioned above, far outweigh any benefits gained.
It is highly recommended to leave cat breeding to a reputable breeder who knows the risks and will potentially keep unwanted kittens.
In a nutshell
Desexing your male or female cat or kitten is a surgical procedure to ensure your cat will not be able to reproduce. The surgery is conducted under full anaesthetic. While it is a minor surgery for males, the surgery for females is more complex and can take longer to recover from.
Desexing your cat will help to control cat overpopulation, remove the stress and problems of unwanted litters and also have positive effects on your cat’s health. As your cat will stop being in heat, desexing will also make living your cat a bit more relaxed and help avoid annoying behaviour like night howling.
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