Understand the benefits and drawbacks of desexing cats, like this lady in a grey sweater understands as she hugs her grey cat

So… Should You Desex Your Cat?

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Should you desex your cat? Many animal lovers across the world are having great internal and external debates about this, especially as Spay and Neuter Awareness Month is next month. Why such a debate about cat desexing? Why is desexing cats such a hot topic all year around?

Firstly, many animal experts believe spaying (female pets) / neutering (male pets) – or desexing, more informally – is good for your pet’s safety and health. Secondly, some experts disagree and feel there are drawbacks to consider.

Firstly, if you’re a pup parent, our ‘Neuter and spay: Desexing your dog’ article is for you.

For cat parents, you’ve come to the right place to explore cat desexing. Take this opportunity chance to learn if you should you desex your cat. Now, let’s explore the good, the bad and the ugly of pussycat spay and neuter. Because we all know how the ugly duckling grew up.

Two ginger kittens in basket ponder the conundrum of desexing cats

Understanding cat reproduction = understanding cat desexing

Did you know that in one year, a single cat can have up to 20 kittens (or more)! In addition, Australian households are already home to nearly 2.7 million cats.

Why spay and neuter?

Just imagine if half of these cats are female and unspayed… That could result in a grand total of 54 million new kittens in a single year. Now take a second to consider cat desexing now being a thing at all!!

Plus… Each girl kitten will already be old enough to produce her own first litter around the time she turns six months old. That’s a fast turnover. In addition, a cat’s peak fertility (being in heat) can happen at any time. Not just once a month like humans.

Cats are induced ovulators. Induced whaaa…? This means cats can induce ovulation just by mating. Mating stimulates the release of the egg making the chance of fertilisation almost a guarantee.

Desexing cats is important because…

So, what else is interesting about a cat’s reproductive cycle? These are some fun figures (which of course can vary):

  • Two – the number of minutes it takes for cats to mate
  • Four – the number of times cats need to mate in a 24-hour cycle to induce ovulation
  • Two – the number of months a cat’s pregnancy lasts
  • Three – the number of kittens in smaller litters
  • Twelve – the number of kittens in larger litters
  • Eight – the number of weeks after giving birth a cat can fall pregnant again

A cat’s first litter is often her smallest litter. As a result, her subsequent litters tend to boast even more cuddly furballs. Which in turn need even more new homes.

This white cats licking her new, suckling kittens did not undergo cat desexing

Benefits of spaying or neutering your cat

Although we love our felines, there aren’t always enough new homes for every year’s batch of cherubs. So, what happens when they’re unwanted?

Social benefits of desexing cats

Animal shelters in Australia are highly overpopulated with many unwanted and abandoned animals. Sadly, many of these animals are the result of indiscriminate breeding.

Shelters home, feed and care for thousands of unwanted pets, but sometimes it’s not possible to care for every animal that comes through their door. And sometimes unwanted pets are picked up by, or taken to, other places. Places that decide to put the animal to sleep (forever) if it isn’t claimed or re-homed within a certain amount of time.

As a result, many unwanted animals are euthanised every week.

In addition, when kittens and puppies do get adopted, it’s often at the expense of older cats and dogs. Whenever there is an influx of kittens or puppies at a shelter, the older animals tend to be overlooked.

Cat desexing for health benefits

Notwithstanding the benefits of fewer unwanted cats flooding our shelters, spaying female cats is also known to reduce the risk of mammary tumours (breast cancer). Spaying a cat before their first heat reduces this risk seven-fold. Spaying at any age beyond this reduces the chance by 40% to 60%.

Research shows cats live longer and healthier lives once they undergo cat desexing surgery. Male cats can live twice as long as their unneutered counterparts and females live 62% longer.

Desexing cats that are male removes the risk of testicular cancer. And even though male cats are less likely to get mammary tumours, neutering does still reduce the risk.

This ginger cat is covering its ears, wondering why desexing cats is a thing for humans. WHy do they want to spay and neuter?!

Behavioural benefits of desexing

When female cats are on heat, you can expect a fair amount of territorial marking. They are more likely to spray outside of the litterbox (not an accident). This gives off pheromones to attract a mate. They tend to get more affectionate when they’re on heat and also more vocal.

When your female cat is on heat, expect to have tomcats (as in plural) arrive unannounced. A tomcat is a sexually mature male cat that hasn’t been neutered. Cat fights between the tomcats break out as they rival over the girl.

When tomcats roam, they’re not only more likely to be hurt in one of these fights, they’re more likely to be hit by a car or attacked by another type of animal. They may even get lost.

Therefore, by spaying and neutering your cats you’ll be rid of spraying, cat fights and more.

Now let’s consider why you might not want to desex your cat…

Desexing your cat – when you shouldn’t

The top answer is of course that you’re the cat lady (or lad). In addition, you have the resources and love to care for or rehome a batch of cute kittens. In which case here are the top 5 things new kitten parents need to know.

Spaying and neutering does have some potential health risks for your feline friend. These include:

  • Post-surgery infection
  • Internal bleeding
  • Allergic reaction to anaesthetic
  • Slower metabolism
  • Infected stitches

For some pet parents, keeping their cat intact is the right choice. For example, if you can keep your cat apart from other cats when they’re on heat. Every time. This of course takes time and determination.

Kittens like these multi coloured ones eating from their bowls will likely have a cat desexing (spay and neuter) operation

Spay and neuter – how is it done?

For boys and girls, the procedure for desexing cats is slightly different.

In both cases your pet will undergo a surgical procedure under general anaesthetic. Just like with humans, your cat will need to fast for the 12 hours leading up to the surgery. They can still have water during this time, just no food or they may vomit during cat desexing surgery.

Desexing cats that are female

When desexing cats that are female, a small incision is made in the midline of the abdomen. Your vet will remove the ovaries and uterus and close the incision with layers of sutures.

Cat desexing for males

When desexing cats that are male, an incision is made over each side of the scrotal sac, and each testicle is removed. Much of the reproductive tract structure isn’t removed because without the testes he won’t produce sperm to father kittens. The vet ties together blood vessels and spermatic cords to stop the bleeding, so stitches usually aren’t required.

A cat spay and neuter (or cat desexing) operation, like what's happening here with this ginger cat on the vet surgeon's table, is a same day procedure

Spay and neuter aftercare

In most cases, your cat will be able to come home on the day of the surgery. It’s a good idea to give the vet a call before pick-up. Sometimes kitty needs an overnight stay.

When they go home

Once your cat comes home from surgery, they’ll be tired and sore. They’ll need to rest in a quiet, dark room that’s warm. The 24 hours following surgery is the key recovery time.

Avoid doing the surgery at a busy time in your home. For example, holidays or kids having friends stay over. Keep all children and other pets away from your cat, so they can sleep and recover well. Keep a close watch to monitor his/her recovery.

What they’ll need

It can take 24 hours for the effects of the anaesthetic to wear off. In this time, only give your kitty a little water in a bowl and little or no food. Water could make him/her vomit, so smaller amounts are better. The following day you can resume a normal feeding routine.

Make sure kitty has a clean litter box nearby within their recovery room, to minimise walking. For girls especially, any dirt or bacteria from the litter tray that gets into sutures could cause an infection and complications.

Lay off the activity

Female cats shouldn’t do any strenuous activity for one to two weeks after surgery. This will give the sutures time to heal, so they don’t open/become infected. No climbing stairs, jumping, climbing and running, to give kitty the best chance to recover well.

Follow your vet’s advice – they can tailor aftercare for your cat’s age, breed and size.

This dark brown and white cat sleeping on a pillow has undergone a cat desexing procedure. Desexing cats is important

Spay and neuter… is it time to desex your cat?

Desexing your cat can be a super emotional time because your cat is going through something uber important. Well done for taking the time to read this through to the end so you know what to expect. Speaking of which, do you know what’s unexpected? Injury and illness in your cat. That’s why we recommend you also explore cat insurance.

Are you aware we offer new PD Insurance customers who sign up online one or more months of pet insurance for free? And no lock-in contracts so you can cancel anytime. No loss, all gain!

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