Sterilization of an animal is a surgical procedure where certain reproductive organs are removed, making the animal unable to produce offspring and eliminating behavior that is related to the breeding instinct.
- The sterilization of male cats is called neutering or castration, while the sterilization of female cats is termed spaying.
- Spay/neuter clinics are a great option for straightforward feline neuter procedures, as they are efficient, skilled, and cost-effective.
- Feline neutering is considered one of the most routine surgical procedures in veterinary medicine.
- A beneficial byproduct of removing the testicles in male cats is eliminating the source of testosterone in the body.
Not sure whether to see a vet?
Neutering a male cat involves removing both testicles. It is the best decision to help a male cat become a well-adapted housemate.
Most feline litters are unplanned, and this leads to overpopulation issues. The most common reason to neuter your male cat is to eliminate his ability to reproduce.
What Does It Cost to Neuter a Cat?
Cat neuters vary in price depending on where and how they are performed. Most rescues and humane societies perform these surgical procedures prior to a person adopting a cat from them. If the cat is considered too young for this procedure, the facility will often have the new pet parent sign a contract and give the pet parent a certificate for neutering later at no additional cost (as it is usually included in the adoption fees).
Spay/neuter clinics are a great option for straightforward feline neuter procedures, as they are efficient, skilled, and cost-effective. Costs range from $30 to $100 at these clinics, depending on your location.
Costs at larger vet chains and smaller veterinary businesses can range from $100 to $500, with possible higher price tags if the cat is cryptorchid (where one or both of the testicles fails to descend into the scrotum). These costs include pre-operative bloodwork, physical examination, anesthesia, nursing care, surgical instruments and materials, medications both in the hospital and to take home with the cat, and a follow-up examination for monitoring how the cat is healing from the surgery. Higher prices are necessary for cryptorchid cats, as the surgery also includes opening and examining the abdomen to locate and remove the testicles.
When to Neuter a Cat
As a male kitten grows, his testicles form and gradually descend to the scrotum—the sac of skin that is designed to hold and protect them. This process of the testicles moving down into the scrotum occurs between 3 and 6 weeks of age.
Rarely, testicles may not descend (cryptorchidism), and a cat may appear to be neutered when his sex organs actually remain inside his abdomen. Unpleasant behaviors such as spraying and/or aggressiveness can be seen, and hormonal testing may be considered to determine if the cat requires sterilization.
Male cats reach sexual maturity by around 4 months of age, at which time they can impregnate female cats. To avoid unwanted pregnancies, neutering prior to this age should be considered if the male cat is in the same environment as unsterilized female cats. Recovery times will be shorter at this age, and cats will have a lower chance of displaying secondary hormone behaviors that occur around 5-6 months of age, such as:
Attempting to escape for mating
Fighting with others
Though it is never too late to neuter a cat, kittens that are neutered between the ages of 8 weeks and 6 months have fewer postoperative complications due to the smaller size and particular development stage of the reproductive organs.
Early neutering (prior to 8 weeks old) is often performed so a kitten can be adopted out to a family quickly and to prevent unwanted pregnancies. Some possible negative health effects have been reported with early neutering, including socialization issues, smaller size due to early closure of growth plates, possible predisposition to urinary obstruction later in life due to stunted urethral growth, and possible growth plate fractures/luxations. These risks are minimal and are often outweighed by the positive effects from neutering a young kitten.
Talk to your vet about the right time to neuter your cat. The age of your cat when he undergoes neutering surgery may change the surgery’s expectations and potential complications.
How Is a Cat Neutered?
Feline neutering is considered one of the most routine surgical procedures in veterinary medicine. The cat is placed under heavy sedation or general anesthesia (gas inhalant or injectable anesthesia is used). A small incision is made in the scrotum over each testicle. The testicles are exposed and the cords that carry the sperm are either tied together in a knot or a suture is used to tie them together. The testicle is then cut away from the body.
Usually, no skin sutures are needed in the scrotum since the incisions are so small; the body heals these incisions on its own in a few days.
The time of the surgical procedure is often 5-10 minutes, with the setup for anesthesia and monitoring recovery typically around 30-60 minutes. Usually, neuters are performed on an outpatient basis, meaning that you drop your cat off at the veterinarian in the morning and pick him back up in the afternoon. Overnight hospital stays are rare and usually are related to issues with anesthesia or post-operative bleeding.
Aftercare for Cat Neutering
Minimal recovery is needed with this surgical procedure, since male cats tend to heal very quickly after the procedure. Bleeding and swelling are minimal. Often, veterinarians will recommend using paper litter during healing to avoid litter particles sticking to the incisions. No baths are recommended until the incisions are fully healed. Full healing of the scrotum usually takes 7-14 days, depending on the individual cat.
Veterinarians will recommend a follow-up appointment during this time frame to confirm that healing is complete. They will also commonly send your cat home with an Elizabethan collar to prevent licking the incisions during healing. Anti-inflammatory and/or pain medications are sometimes prescribed for a few days after the procedure for comfort purposes.
How Long After Neutering Does a Cat’s Behavior Change?
A beneficial byproduct of removing the testicles in male cats is eliminating the source of testosterone in the body. Testosterone is a hormone that leads to breeding-related behaviors in cats, many of which can be frustrating for housecats and their pet parents. These behaviors include fighting, urine marking (or spraying), and roaming.
Neutering will help to decrease these unpleasant behaviors that occur when a male cat reaches sexual maturity, or puberty. In fact, the reported reductions in these behaviors are significant, with up to 60-90% improvements seen almost immediately after sterilization.
Do Neutered Cats Gain Weight?
Neutered cats often will gain weight after the surgical procedure. Neutered cats require only 75% of the food needed by unneutered male cats to maintain their body weight. This is due to the sudden loss of testosterone in the system, which leads to decreased metabolism. Obesity can be prevented by reducing the calories taken in, and once healed from the procedure, your cat engaging in more playtime.
After neutering, your cat’s body weight and body condition should be monitored closely for 6-12 months to confirm appropriate caloric intake. Diet changes may be recommended by your veterinarian if there is a concern about weight gain, to prevent future medical issues associated with obesity.
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