The Altered Cat

Learn what you can and cannot expect from spaying or neutering your cat.

By Koren Wetmore | Posted: Tue Sep 28 00:00:00 PDT 2004

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About a month after getting spayed, Pat Curry's then 1-year-old shorthair cat started packing on pounds. Within 18 months, the cat weighed a hefty 20 pounds. "Before spaying, she was slim and trim. Now she's a big, fat cat," Curry said. "I took her to the vet and was told to put her on a low-fat, low-calorie diet."

In 1995, researchers at the University of Minnesota compared the body mass index of intact and altered cats and discovered a higher metabolic rate in intact cats than their altered counterparts. Based on their findings, the researchers recommended reducing the daily caloric intake of neutered males by 28 percent and spayed females by 33 percent to prevent obesity. Always consult your veterinarian before changing your cat's diet.

Some Surprises
With the hormonal push removed, you may be shocked to find your male cat mounting a female cat or biting her neck. However, such behavior, if learned prior to altering, may persist because the cat has already associated it with pleasure, Reid said.

Even male cats that have not previously experienced sexual activity may suddenly mount a female simply because their brains have been biologically wired for it. "People operate under the myth that an altered animal is an 'it,' neither male nor female," Reid said. "But hormones in their youth formed their brains into masculine or feminine brains. So, male cats may still mount or exhibit other sexual behavior because their brain is still masculinized and they are acting on that."

Spraying can also persist or suddenly appear in the altered cat, because the behavior isn't always hormonally driven, Bergman said. "Since the hormones have been removed, it's our feeling that this is a normal feline response to stress," she said. "Typically we see spraying or marking in interaction with other cats. Very often it's territorially driven. It could be that another cat has been introduced to the household or there could be a new cat in the neighborhood and the cat sees it coming up to the windows."

While undesirable sexual behavior can be handled by simply breaking up the amorous couple, spraying requires a little detective work. These steps will help you discover the cause of this troublesome behavior:

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