Neutering in Cats

Neutering in Cats - Conditions Treated, Procedure, Efficacy, Recovery, Cost, Considerations, Prevention

What is Neutering?

Neutering of male cats, also referred to as castration, refers to the removal of the male reproductive organs responsible for sperm and testosterone production. These include the testicles, the sperm ducts, and the tubes that connect the ducts to the testes. It is non-invasive procedure with few side effects or complications that is commonly performed on male cats that are being kept a pets. The main purpose of neutering a cat is to prevent them from breeding and increasing the population of unwanted cats. 

Currently in the US there are estimated to be approximately 70 million stray and unwanted cats. Many of these cats end up in shelters each year and are euthanized. Neutering of a male cat that is not part of a breeding program will prevent them from contributing to the cat overpopulation problem, but it also has several other benefits that improve your cat’s suitability as a house pet. 

Neutering of a male cat may prevent unwanted behaviors such as marking their territory with urine, fighting with other cats, and roaming. Neutering also presents several health problems of the male reproductive system. It is traditionally recommended that pet, male cats be neutered at approximately 6 months of age, as they reach sexual maturity and the risk of anesthesia is minimized due to adequate maturity. Neutering can be performed at an earlier age, and this is becoming more common as anesthesia procedures and techniques improve. This procedure should always be performed by a certified veterinarian under general anesthesia.

Neutering Procedure in Cats

This procedure has traditionally been performed when a male cat begins to reach sexual maturity or adolescence, at around 6 months of age. This is primarily due to a decreased level of risk in administering anesthesia to a cat that has reached this developmental stage. However, in recent years, with improvements in anesthesia procedures, neutering of male cats may occur at an earlier age and is often performed at around 3 months of age.

Your veterinarian may perform routine tests prior to neutering your cat, such as blood and urine tests to ensure the health and organ functioning of your cat prior to administering anesthesia.

You will be asked to fast your cat from food the night prior to the surgery.

When you arrive with your cat for surgery, your vet will check your cat's temperature and perform a brief physical exam to look for signs of viral or bacterial infection that would preclude surgery.

Usually, a sedative will be given to your cat prior to anesthesia to relax him and make him cooperative. This will be followed by intravenous anesthetic, and if anesthesia is to be maintained by inhalation, a breathing tube will be inserted and anesthesia maintained by gas.

Your cat’s scrotum will be shaved and and scrubbed with an antiseptic solution. Surgical drapes will be used to maintain a sterile area.

Your veterinarian will make an incision in the scrotal sac skin over each testicle, taking care not to injure the penis or urethra. The testicle will be pulled through the incision. Due to natural lubrication present, the testicle usually slips easily through the incision. The vas deferens (sperm duct) and epididymal structures (connecting tubes) will be separated from the testicular blood supply. The blood vessels and spermatic cords are knotted around each other to stop blood flow to the tesitcles. This prevents bleeding when the testicle is cut away. The testicle is then cut off above the knot and removed. The same procedure is used for the other testicle. 

If your cat has undescended testicles, a different, more invasive surgical procedure will be required.

Your cat's penis, urethra and prostate are left intact.

The procedure is performed on an outpatient basis and cats are usually released the same day from the veterinary hospital.

Efficacy of Neutering in Cats

This procedure is completely effective at preventing reproductive capability in your cat. It also is effective at preventing several reproductive tract diseases. Neutering may also alter unwanted behaviors common to breeding males. In addition, neutering may prevent enlarged prostate glands and prostate cancer. Non-surgical castration with medications is also available, however, this does not accrue all the benefits of surgical castration to your pet.

Neutering Recovery in Cats

Neutering cats is a relatively non-invasive procedure, performed under anesthesia with little discomfort to your pet. Post-surgical recovery is usually quick and complication-free. Painkillers or anti-inflammatories may be prescribed post-surgically for your cat's comfort. These medications may need to be taken with food; follow your veterinarian's instructions regarding any prescribed medications. The recovery period is short, usually only a few days, and there is a minimal risk of infection. Your cat’s incisions should be monitored and veterinary care sought if redness, discharge or inflammation that would indicate infection occurs. Antibiotics will be used to treat any post-surgical infections. Pet owners should also check for signs of swelling in the scrotal sac, which may indicate hemorrhaging. If this occurs get immediate veterinary assistance. If the wound gets dirty it can be cleaned with warm salty water.

You may choose to feed your cat a bland diet for a few days post-surgery, as anesthesia may cause an upset stomach, but this is usually not necessary. Activity should be limited for several days to ensure healing and your cat should be kept indoors during the recovery period. 

If your cat tries to lick or bite the wounds in their scrotum, you may need to use an Elizabethan collar or a bitter spray on the wounds to prevent your cat’s interference.

If your cat is not eating, drinking, urinating, and defecating as normal within a day or two of surgery, contact your vet for follow-up. Any non-dissolving sutures will need to be removed after several days. Your veterinarian will book a follow-up appointment if this is required.

Cost of Neutering in Cats

The cost of neutering your cat is relatively inexpensive. Depending on the area you live in this procedure usually costs from $50 to $150.00. The cost of anesthesia is included however, pre-surgery tests may incur an additional cost.

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Cat Neutering Considerations

The benefits to you and your cat in terms of decreased health problems, behavior problems and population control usually outweigh the risks and concerns with this routine surgery.

Post-surgery some pet owners report weight gain.This can be mitigated with exercise and appropriate diet.

Castration of your cat may impede the closure of growth plates, as a result many neutered cats may have longer limbs and bodies than their unaltered counterparts. There is concern this could put them at risk for increased arthritis, but this has not been established and no significant health risk is associated with this.

Risks from the surgery include tracheal damage from a breathing tube, injury to penis or urethra, infection, hemorrhage, or renal failure from low blood pressure if hemorrhaging occurs. These complications are extremely rare and this surgery is routinely performed without incident of complication.

Neutering Prevention in Cats

Neutering of your pet male cat is in itself a preventative measure. Beides preventing unwanted kittens and avoiding contribution to the cat overpopulation problem, several diseases and behaviors are prevented through castration. Testicular diseases, prostate disease, and testosterone-mediated diseases are all eliminated or mitigated by neutering, resulting in a healthier cat. In addition, neutering your cat will usually curb roaming behavior which puts your cat at an increased risk for becoming lost, involved in an accident, or injured due to fights with other animals. Territorial behavior such as spraying urine and territorial aggression with other cats is usually eliminated or reduced in a neutered male cat, making your cat a better pet and easier to care for.

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