Feline Wellness

The Importance of Spaying or Neutering Your Pet

February 26, 2024

Spaying or neutering your cat not only helps control pet overpopulation but can also prevent certain medical and behavioral issues from developing, allowing them to live their healthiest and happiest life with you.

Spaying is the surgical removal of a female cat’s ovaries and uterus and neutering is the removal of a male cat’s testicles. They are both routine procedures that are conducted while your cat is under general anesthesia. Cats typically feel fine within a day or two - especially kittens - and the surgery site usually heals within 10-14 days. Your cat may be a little sleepy or uncomfortable after surgery, but it’s a much needed procedure that has long-term benefits to their health and well-being.

Cats can become pregnant when they are as young as four months old. An average litter has 4-6 kittens so the cat population can grow exponentially if cats don’t get spayed or neutered. Spaying and neutering helps to control the pet overpopulation crisis by decreasing the number of community cats born outside. Many of these kittens born outdoors end up in animal shelters in the United States where hundreds of thousands of cats are euthanized annually simply because there isn’t enough space to house all of the animals that are awaiting adoption. 

The general rule for animal rescue is kittens as young as two months or two pounds can get spayed or neutered. This is to help facilitate the adoption process since all animals adopted from shelters and rescues are spayed or neutered before going to their forever homes. Private vets tend to want the kittens to be a bit older, more in the three-four month range, before undergoing surgery since the cats are already in their forever homes. To avoid potential behavioral issues with mating, especially an unwanted pregnancy, spaying or neutering your cat before they are five months old is recommended. 

Typically, spayed and neutered cats live longer, healthier lives than those left unaltered. According to Banfield Pet Hospital’s State of Pet Health Report from 2013, spayed female cats in the study lived 39% longer while neutered male cats lived 62% longer.

One of two major reasons for the increased lifespan in altered cats is because spaying and neutering prevents serious diseases from ever developing. Spaying a female cat, especially if she is sterilized before her first heat cycle, helps to prevent uterine infections such as pyometra, cervical and ovarian cancers, and mammary tumors while neutering male cats eliminates the chance of them developing testicular cancer and decreases the risk of prostate problems.  

The second reason why the lifespan of unaltered cats is so much shorter than fixed cats is because intact cats often try to venture outside to mate. Their instincts are telling them to find a mate so even if your cat is indoor only, they will likely try to escape through an open door or window. As a result of roaming outside, cats can get into fights with other cats, which can cause painful injuries and wounds and expose them to diseases, including feline immunodeficiency virus. Cats face multiple other dangers while outside like being hit by a car, encountering predators, and being exposed to the elements. If they are spayed or neutered, however, they will be less likely to try to escape the home and go outside, which will keep them much safer.

Spaying and neutering your pets can also curb undesirable behaviors. Female cats typically go into heat for four to five days every three weeks during breeding season. When they are in heat, they yowl in their search for a mate. They also secrete bodily fluids that contain scents to alert male cats that a fertile female is ready and waiting. To help spread the scent and entice a mate, unspayed females often urinate in areas aside from their litter box while they are in heat. Additionally, female cats can easily become stressed when they are in heat so getting your cat spayed can improve her overall mood and help keep her calm.

Unneutered male cats typically display aggressive behavior toward other male cats in efforts to defend their territory and successfully mate. Getting a male cat altered greatly reduces the levels of testosterone he produces, usually leading to a decrease in his aggression and the likelihood of him getting into fights with other cats. 

Similar to a female cat in heat, male cats often spray urine on vertical surfaces in order to mark their territory and attract mates. Housing an unneutered adult male cat can be quite messy, especially if you have multiple cats in the home. Neutering a cat greatly reduces the instinct to spray, and if they do, the scent will be much less pungent.  

While the age, health, and personality of your cat should be taken into consideration, spaying or neutering your pet greatly increases their quality of life and helps you keep them safe. You should feel proud to spay or neuter your cat knowing that you are doing your best to prevent future medical and behavioral problems so they can spend as many years as possible with you.

Love, Nala