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Neutering your cat

Neutering, sometimes called sterilisation, is a common procedure in pets and it prevents pets being able to reproduce. When female cats are neutered it is called spaying, and male cats are castrated. Although both are routine procedures, they require do anaesthesia and surgery and in the female in particular, it’s fairly major surgery. In the vast majority of cases though, pets bounce back quickly after neutering, often returning to their usual level of activity within a few days.

What’s the ideal age to neuter a pet?

Pets are usually neutered from around 6 months of age, although many veterinary practices will perform this operation earlier in the pet’s life. Many authorities now recommend neutering at 4 months or even earlier, as female cats can become pregnant from this age. A female cat does not have to have an oestrus cycle (also called ‘heat’ or a ‘season’) before being neutered, nor do they have to give birth to a litter. 

What does neutering a pet involve?

· Pets will be checked before their operation to make sure they are in good health
· A pre-op blood screen might be performed to check organs are healthy
· Pets will usually be hospitalised as day patients, or in some cases kept overnight at the practice
· Before the op, pets are usually sedated
· A general anaesthetic is administered prior to and throughout surgery
· Females will have their womb and ovaries removed; males have both testicles removed
· Expect your pet to have some form of pain relief to help them post operatively
· Female cats will have stitches post-op. Male cats do not usually have stitches.
· You will probably be asked to bring your pet back to the practice for a post-operative check and/or stitch removal.
· All practices can have slightly different procedures so ensure that you discuss everything that is going to happen with your vet and feel fully informed.

Neutering pets – is it a good idea?

The main advantage of neutering is that it prevents pets from breeding and producing unwanted kittens. Around 90% of all cats are now neutered. There are other advantages that result from neutering. Male cats that are neutered are less likely to wander which reduces their chances of getting involved in road accidents. They will be less aggressive in defending their territory and therefore less likely to fight and get bitten. Cat bites not only become infected quite quickly but they can also pass on life threatening viruses from one cat to another. Urine spraying and territory marking with strong smelling urine is also a common behaviour in unneutered tom cats and neutering makes them much more pleasant to live with. 
Many people also prefer to neuter their pets as it allows males and females to be easily kept in the same household. 
Depending on the age a female pet is neutered, there may be some protection against mammary tumours (or breast cancer). 

Neutering – an easy decision?

Neutering is widely advocated by vets, animal welfare charities and other experts. There are some downsides to neutering though, so always discuss the procedure with your vet first. It is, after all, a surgical procedure and although routine, any surgery has a small element of risk.
Once neutered, cats may be more likely to gain weight, especially if fed at the same level as before. By adjusting food intake to body condition, weight gain can be prevented but do be aware of the need to control food intake, or to feed a ‘light’ diet to help control weight gain.
Neutered cats are more likely to suffer bladder stones and some owners opt to feed special diets that reduce this risk by controlling the levels of certain minerals in the diet. In some female dogs urinary incontinence can occur after spaying. This can also be treated, so if your pet does experience problems always speak to your vet.  
There are clearly many health benefits to neutering and reducing the number of abandoned puppies and kittens is clearly a priority for the nation’s pet owners.  Always fully discuss any concerns with your vet to feel happy about your decision.