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Neutering your cat :: Kitten Care

From around the age of 5 to 8 months, kittens reach sexual maturity and are therefore capable of breeding and producing kittens themselves!

Neutering your catMost people do not have the time or desire to breed from their cat and do not wish to add to the number of unwanted cats and kittens already looking for homes. Neutering a cat - castration in the male (removal of the testes), and spaying the female (removal of the ovaries and uterus) not only prevents unwanted pregnancies occurring, but also curbs unwanted behavioural patterns associated with sexual maturity and reduces the risk of certain diseases.

What sex is my kitten ?   

It is surprising how often mistakes are made with the sex of kittens. If you are in any doubt you should ask your vet (they will check prior to neutering anyway). To tell the difference between the sexes you will need to lift the tail and look at the genitals. In the male, about 1cm below the anus is the opening of the prepuce with the scrotum immediately above this. The anus and prepuce appear like two 'dots'. In the female, the vulva is a vertical slit which is almost joined to the anus, like a letter i.

Spaying a female  

In the past it has been suggested that all female cats should be allowed to have one litter of kittens. However, this is totally unnecessary and carries no benefit whatsoever to the cat. It is therefore preferable to have a female spayed before she reaches sexual maturity. Once sexual maturity is reached, the cat will begin to come into season or 'call'. Cycles of sexual activity typically occur every three weeks, and when a cat is 'calling', as its name implies, this can be a very noisy affair! Certain drugs can be used to suppress the sexual cycle, but these carry quite a risk of significant side effects in cats and are not recommended for long-term use. If you are not going to breed from your female kitten, having her spayed will eliminate the sexual behaviour, the possibility of unplanned pregnancies and the risk of diseases associated with the genital tract later in life.

The spaying operation involves the administration of a general anaesthetic and the surgical removal of the ovaries and uterus through an incision made on the flank or belly of the cat. The fur at the site of the incision will have to be shaved before surgery and your vet will ask you to withhold food from the evening prior to the anaesthetic. Usually your kitten will be able to return home the same day and the skin sutures are generally removed after 7 to 10 days.

Castrating a male     

Castrating a male is equally important as spaying a female to prevent unwanted pregnancies. Furthermore, entire male cats have a strong tendency to roam, to be aggressive to other males, to fight and to mark their territory by spraying urine (often indoors!) The aggressive behaviour puts an uncastrated male at much higher risk of serious infectious disease such as feline immunodeficiency virus (feline 'AIDS') and feline leukaemia virus , both of which are transmitted through cat bites.

Castration involves removing both testes under general anaesthetic through small incisions into the scrotum. As with the spay operation, withholding food from the previous evening will be required to minimise potential anaesthetic complications, and the kitten can usually go home the same day. Usually the skin incisions for a castration are so small that sutures are not required.

Post-operative care     

Cats usually recover from the neutering operation remarkably quickly. They may be a little drowsy for a few hours, but by the next day they are usually very lively again. It is sensible to try to keep your kitten fairly quiet for a day or two to allow the internal wounds some time to heal. However, if your kitten seems unusually quiet or dull you should contact your vet. Also, if your kitten starts to lick or scratch excessively at the skin sutures, contact your vet to get a dressing or special collar to prevent any damage being done to the wound.

It is important to remember that once a cat has been neutered, there is a stronger tendency for it to become obese. You may therefore need to adjust the amount of food you provide should your cat start to put on too much weight.

Dark patches of fur  

The skin temperature is important in determining the hair colour of some cats (e.g. Siamese cats). This means that when a patch of hair is shaved (e.g. for the spay operation) the new hair may grow back a darker colour. However, this is only temporary and, as further hair growth occurs, the dark hairs are replaced by normal lighter coloured hairs.

Age for neutering  

A cat can be neutered at virtually any age although it is usually done at 4 - 6 months old. Undesirable behaviour patterns may be more difficult to alter if cats are neutered when they are older. Some vets will undertake neutering in much younger kittens (2 - 3 months old) and this appears to have no adverse effects.

Related Articles:
Caring for your kitten
How to Train a Kitten to the Litterbox
First Weeks With A New Kitten
Hand rearing kittens

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