Two simple surgical procedures, spaying and neutering, are performed on cats to prevent reproduction. Spaying is the surgical removal of the reproductive organs of the female, and neutering is the surgical removal of the reproductive glands of the male.
These quick and routine procedures are done by a veterinarian and with anesthesia. Often, a cat will enter the hospital in the morning and be home in the evening.
Aftercare depends on your vet and your cat. Some cats are practically back to normal in a day or two. Others may need quiet and reduced exercise for a week or so after the surgery.
The majority of veterinary practices offer spaying and neutering services. And because animal-health professionals feel so strongly about the importance of preventing unwanted litters, the cost is a relative bargain by surgical standards: generally around $100 for males, under $200 for females. Many humane societies offer the procedures at an even lower cost.
Six months is the average age for spaying and neutering in cats, but some practices start spaying and neutering as early as 8 weeks old. Older cats can be spayed or neutered, too, if they are in good general health. (It's a myth that neutering adult males makes them aggressive.)
Neutering eliminates the risk of testicular cancer and other testicular diseases, and reduces the incidence of prostate disease and hernias. Spaying eliminates the risk of uterine cancer, Pyometra (a life-threatening uterine disease), and uterine infections. If you spay your female cat before her first heat, her changes of getting breast cancer are practically zero. She also will never be at risk for the complications associated with pregnancy and giving birth.
If you think you're sure to find homes for all the adorable kittens from your cat, think twice. Millions of unwanted cats are euthanized each year, and for every cat reclaimed or adopted from a shelter, there are already two or three waiting for a home. Why add to those numbers?
Think just one litter won't hurt? Here's another mind-boggling statistic: Start with just one cat and her kittens, and in six years, you may have an incredible 420,000 kittens. Unless you are a committed, accredited breeder, spaying or neutering your cat is the only sensible option. If you want to work with a breeder to mate your purebred cat, make sure you keep the animal out of situations where an accidental pregnancy could occur.
Spayed and neutered animals are not seeking a mate, so they have less of an urge to roam. They are happy to stay close to home and avoid such dangers as cars, fighting cats, and contagious diseases.
A cat's natural affection for the people around him can get sidetracked by his reproductive urges. Without the distractions of finding a mate, your cat is free to focus his love and attention on you and your family. Spayed or neutered animals can be less aggressive, which allows them to get along better with the people and other animals they live with. Neutering will also make your male cat a much more pleasant housemate. Unneutered males spray walls, drapes, and furniture with strong-smelling urine.
Due to hormonal changes, cats often need a smaller caloric intake after spaying or neutering. If you continue to feed your cat the same amount she was eating before she was spayed, she will likely become obese. If you feed your cat a smaller portion and exercise her regularly through play, she will retain her healthy form.
You may hear someone attribute a reduction in a cat's activity level to spaying or neutering. It is more likely that the kitten is merely maturing, and the changes in his eating and sleeping patterns reflect that.
Consider the alternatives: Paying for health-care expenses from the diseases you could have avoided if you had spayed or neutered your cat. Paying for kitten care. Paying health-care costs related to roaming, such as wounds and infections from cat fights or broken bones and lacerations from car accidents. In some areas, annual animal-license fees for neutered pets are reduced. Do the math.