7 Cat Spay and Neuter Facts

Celebrate Spay Day! Get answers to common cat spay and neuter surgery questions.

Updated: February 25, 2013, 12 p.m., EST

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The Humane Society of the United States estimates that 6-8 million dogs and cats are euthanized in shelters across the country, due to overcrowding and overpopulation. The HSUS helped to create Spay Day to draw attention to the importance of spaying and neutering cats and dogs.
Some cat owners think spay/neuter surgery is too invasive or dangerous for their cat to undergo. Never fear. The Doris Day Animal Foundation, in conjunction with the organization's annual Spay Day USA, helps answer common questions about spay and neuter surgery.

Q: What does it mean to spay and neuter?
Spaying and neutering, the most common surgical procedures performed on cats, prevent them from being able to reproduce. Female cats undergo spay surgery, called ovariohysterectomy, which involves removing the ovaries and uterus. Males have neuter surgery, called orchidectomy, where cats' testicles are removed.

Q: Does spay and neuter surgery hurt?
Veterinarians provide cats with general anesthesia so the surgery itself is painless. Any discomfort a cat experiences afterward is minimal and part of the normal healing process. Most cats recover quickly, resuming normal activity within three days.

Q:Does spaying and neutering provide any other health benefits?
Yes. Spaying greatly reduces the risk of breast cancer and prevents various reproductive tract disorders. Neutering often resolves undesirable behaviors such as aggression, spraying and roaming, and eliminates the risk of various testicular diseases.

Q: Does spaying and neutering make cats less protective?
No. Any changes brought about by spaying or neutering are generally positive. Neutered male cats usually stop territorial spraying. Neutered cats tend to fight less and are less likely to become lost due to straying from home in search of a mate. Spayed cats do not go into heat or need to be confined indoors to avoid pregnancy. Cats do not become less protective or loyal to their owners as a result of being altered.

Q: Is it really necessary to neuter male cats? Males don't give birth!
The old saying "it takes two to tango" is as true for cats as it is for humans. Even if you can keep your male cat under control at all times, accidents do happen and he may escape. In fact, he will likely try repeatedly to escape. Male cats roaming in search of a mate are susceptible to being injured by traffic and in fights with other males. And while a female cat can only have one litter at a time, male cats can impregnate many females each day.

Q:When should I spay or neuter my cat?
As early as possible! Although cats traditionally are altered at six months, many veterinarians now practice early-age spay/neuter surgery, which can be performed on cats as young as six to eight weeks. Doctors practicing this technique report that the surgery is significantly easier and quicker to perform; owners who have had early-age spay/neuter performed on their pets report fewer medical problems than those who have older pets altered; and spaying or neutering homeless pets before adopting them out is the best way to prevent unwanted births.

Q: Is spaying and neutering expensive?
Although to some pet owners the cost of surgery may seem high initially, it's a bargain when compared with the cost of raising a litter of kittens. Spaying and neutering also saves taxpayer dollars. A 1999 survey of 186 shelters revealed an average cost of $176 to handle each homeless animal* a cost that ultimately comes out of taxpayer dollars.

While prices for spay/neuter surgery vary considerably, many humane societies, welfare organizations and municipal animal care and control departments will spay/neuter animals at a reduced fee for people who truly need them: those struggling to make ends meet on a low income, animal rescue workers such as those who trap and neuter feral cats and Good Samaritans who are paying for someone else's animal(s).

Spaying or neutering is as vital to your pet's health and happiness as routine physical examinations, good nutrition, grooming, playtime and love.

* Wenstrup, John, and Alexis Dowidchuk, "Pet Overpopulation: Data and Measurement Issues in Shelters," Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science, 2(4), 1999, 303-319.
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Reader Comments

Jenny    Monticello, MN

3/9/2013 11:28:43 AM

Great article because people need to be aware of what cats go through when they aren't spayed or neutered. It is also a hard topic for some people because if we spay and neuter all cats then they will die off.

Alissa    Talladega, AL

3/4/2013 11:32:23 AM

Great article!

Bill & Lorraine    Manhattan, NY

2/28/2013 8:26:44 PM

Thank you for such an important article. Our boys were neutered directly from the Animal Rescue Center which we adopted them from.

CatChannel Editor    Irvine, CA

2/27/2013 12:13:26 PM

M -- Consider talking to local vets about partnering with them for low-cost spay/neuter services. Many vets are interested in donating time or all costs to their community, as it benefits the pet population of the entire vicinity. Good luck!

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