Speying your female cat: part of responsible cat ownership.
We often hear about the problem of unwanted pets in the media. These animals are often dumped or surrendered to charity organisations, all because there are simply not enough potential owners to go around.
Cats reach sexual maturity at approximately 6 months of age. From this time onwards they are highly likely to become pregnant if allowed to mix with the other cats in the neighbourhood. This contributes to the births of unwanted kittens, placing extra strain on charity organisations. For this reason speying your female at approximately 6 months of age is widely viewed as an integral part of being a socially responsible pet owner, but before you consider whether or not your cat should be speyed there are a number of other advantages that you should consider.
Cats are induced ovulators. This means that once their reproductive system starts to cycle they will not actually shed any eggs (ovulate) until they are mated by a male cat. A female cat that comes into season and is not mated will remain in season for between 3 and 16 days, after which she will come back into season every 2-3 weeks. The situation that arises from this is frustrating for both cat and owner. The cat’s behavioural patterns will change; she will become very vocal and fractious (often at 2am!), show a strong desire to escape the house and /or yard in search of males, and may begin to urine spray. She may also become unusually affectionate, and start to rub her hindquarters more often against you and the furniture. In-season cats are sometimes seen adopting the mating position (called lordisis), where the head remains down, with the forelegs bent and rear end raised. When your cat is in season male cats will be also be attracted from the local surrounds, and may begin to urine spray in your house or garden.
Quite apart from the social, behavioural and hygienic implications of owning an entire (unspeyed) female cat are the numerous health benefits that a speyed cat will enjoy. Speying dramatically reduces the risk of mammary tumours and stops your cat from potentially spraying indoors. Speying your cat also prevents pyometra which is a potentially be life threatening infection of the womb (uterus).
So what does the procedure involve?
The majority of cats in the UK are flanked spayed; this involves a small incision on one side of the flank of the animal, as shown by the diagram below.
With a flank incision there is reduced tension on the incision as there is no weight from the abdominal contents. The incision tends to be smaller, requiring less suture material to be placed underneath the skin. This minimises the risk of reactions to the suture material, and also reduce the risk of post-operative infections. It is also possible to perform this procedure via a midline incision (running from front to back, just behind the “belly button”). Your vet will determine which procedure will be most suitable depending on the individual case. The recovery time for the spey procedure is generally 5-10 days.