Should I Neuter My Cat?

Neutering is a routine procedure carried out by a vet, where the reproductive organs are removed from your cat. This process causes the cat to become infertile. Neutering is known as castration in male cats, and in females it’s called spaying. Both castration and spaying are performed under general anaesthetic, and cats can usually come home the same day. The average recovery time for neutering while the skin heals is 10-14 days. There are many benefits and a few risks to getting your cat neutered, which we’ll discuss in this blog.

Cat Castration

Castration is the term used for neutering a male cat. It’s a surgical procedure where a vet removes a male cat’s testicles. This removes the main source of the hormone testosterone. Castrated cats are infertile.

Should I Castrate My Cat?

Castrating your cat can have lots of benefits to the cat themselves, as well as to the owner and other cats in the neighbourhood. Some of these benefits include:

  • Preventing unwanted litters. Male cats that have been castrated cannot breed.
  • Avoiding bad smells. Uncastrated male cats often have a distinctive and unpleasant tomcat smell.
  • Reducing the risk of road accidents. Unneutered cats are more likely to roam, and they therefore have a higher chance of getting into car accidents.
  • Reducing fighting. Male cats that haven’t been castrated are much more likely to get into fights with other cats. Cat fights often result in injuries and abscesses and they also risk the spread of diseases like feline leukaemia virus.
  • Reducing the likelihood of spraying. While castration does not prevent cats from spraying urine, it does make it much less likely that they will carry out this behaviour.

Cat Spaying

Spaying is a surgical procedure performed by a vet where the ovaries and uterus are removed from a female cat. This leaves the female cat unable to become pregnant or have seasons.

Should I Spay My Cat?

There are lots of reasons why spaying your cat can be a good idea. The benefits of spaying your cat include:

  • Preventing unwanted pregnancies. Cats can become pregnant from a very early age – as young as 4-6 months old. In fact, two thirds of cat litters are unplanned. Spaying your cat will prevent them from becoming pregnant unexpectedly, and protect them from the risks associated with giving birth.
  • Preventing seasons. While cats can get pregnant any time of year, between March and September, female cats come into season every 3 weeks. During this time, they are extremely vocal, often sounding like they are shrieking in pain!
  • Preventing cancer. Not only does spaying your cat remove the risk of cancer of the ovaries and uterus, but it also vastly reduces the risk of mammary (breast) cancer, provided they are neutered before they are a year old. This kind of cancer can be extremely aggressive.
  • Preventing infections of the uterus. This kind of infection, known as pyometra, requires emergency surgery.
  • Reducing the risk of traffic accidents. Unspayed females often run off to look for a mate. This makes them more prone to car accidents and other injuries than neutered cats.

Risks of Neutering a Cat

As with any surgical procedure, spaying or castrating a cat comes with a few risks. These are listed below:

  • Neutering involves the use of anaesthetic. Excessive bleeding and fatalities during surgery can occur, but they are extremely rare for routine procedures such as neutering.
  • The surgery wound could swell or become infected. Before the skin has healed, there is a small risk that the surgery wound could become infected. This risk can be reduced with the use of a recovery cone collar and rest.
  • Cats may gain weight after being neutered. Energy requirements drop drastically for cats after they’ve been neutered, so weight gain can occur. This is not usually an issue however, just be sure to speak to your vet who may recommend a reduction in your cat’s portion sizes, or direct you to specific diets intended for neutered cats.
  • Cats may experience changes in coat colouring. In order to carry out the procedure, a section of fur will need to be shaved. For colourpoint cats, the fur can grow back darker. A midline spay rather than a flank spay will make this less visible.

However, neutering is generally considered a routine and safe procedure, where the benefits outweigh the risks in most cases.

When to Neuter a Cat

Usually, both male and female cats can be neutered from 4 months of age, after they’ve had their primary vaccinations. Your vet might advise you to wait a bit longer to neuter your cat if they are very small, provided they don’t live with another cat of the opposite sex. It’s also safe to neuter older cats.

Neutering from an earlier age can be a suitable option for some cats, so it’s best that all owners discuss the most appropriate time with their vet.

Until they have been neutered, cats should be kept indoors.

It’s a good idea to fit your cat with a microchip at the same time as they get neutered, while they are already under anaesthesia. This saves having to take them in for a procedure twice. You should get your cat microchipped even if you aren’t planning on letting them outside. From 10th June 2024, it will be a legal requirement for all cats to be microchipped before they are 20 weeks old.

How Much Does it Cost to Neuter a Cat?

The cost of neutering a cat can vary a lot depending on the individual vet practice, so ask your vet for a more accurate estimate. However, as a rough guide, the average cost in the UK for neutering a cat is around £50-£100. As mentioned, you should also get your cat fitted with a microchip at the same time, which is an extra £20-£30.

Spaying female cats is usually a bit more expensive than castrating male cats. This is because female cats require internal surgery.

If you adopt a cat from a rehoming shelter, they should already be neutered.

Can I Get My Cat Neutered for Free?

If you are struggling financially, there are various schemes for UK cat owners that can provide support. If you’re eligible, charities such as Cats Protection offer a neutering scheme for just £10 across participating vet practices. Blue Cross and the Mayhew Animal Home also have financial support schemes that cover neutering.

Having a membership with The Healthy Pet Club, allows you to get 20% off neutering surgery.

Wrapping Up

While there are a few risks associated with neutering, for the majority of cats, the ample benefits far outweigh the risks. As well as preventing unwanted litters, neutering dramatically minimises the risk of certain cancers and traffic accidents, and can also reduce the risk of unwanted smells and behaviours like spraying. Of course, all cats are different, so always speak to your vet to determine what’s best for your individual cat.

For information on neutering dogs, read our blog.

Animed Veterinary Nurse, Beth Walker