When it comes to contraception and neutering for their own cats, animal lovers are often unsure. Neutering at an early stage appears to be essential when looking at cats without owners and overcrowded animal homes. But is it going to affect my cat if I deny it the chance to have offspring? What is the right moment for neutering? What makes temporary procedures different from neutering? And when is the right time for the procedure to take place?
Regardless of whether you have a cat from an animal shelter a home or acquired one from a breeder, the question of potentially neutering your feline friend will have come up at some point. Cats from animal shelters are often already neutered before they are re-homed and as long as you aren't interested in founding a cattery, neutering is also recommended for pedigree cats.
Although we humans often take an emotional approach to contraception, we should keep in mind the fact that cats are driven by their instincts when it comes to reproduction. If cats acted entirely upon their instincts, they would produce a new litter of kittens several times a year. A pair of cats can produce hundreds of thousands of offspring in around 10 years! It's difficult for such large numbers to be fortunate enough to find a suitable home with loving owners and adequate nutrition. As a result, it's important to neuter cats in good time before they end up producing undesired offspring.
Furthermore, intact animals are often exposed to unimaginable stress. Whilst non-castrated male cats start to mark their territory with the onset of puberty, those that have had the procedure can cover many miles per day without searching for potential sexual partners. They are exposed to a high risk of accidents, intra-species fights and infectious diseases. Female cats show conspicuous behaviour and are permanently on alert for potential male cats whilst they are in heat. They roll around on the floor, wave their bottom high in the air, scream out for a male cat and often forget to even eat. If they don't manage to mate, hormonal changes in the body can lead to illnesses such as cysts, mammary tumours or inflammation of the uterus.
In contrast, many instinct-driven modes of behaviour fail to materialise in neutered cats. They live a more tranquil and often healthier life and can live to a much older age than their intact counterparts. The danger of potential offspring ending up in animal homes or contributing to further feline misery is also eliminated.
In short, neutering is beneficial for both the individual cat and the wider context of animal protection.
How to neuter
Twenty years ago, female cats were still given temporary contraception whilst male cats were castrated. This approach was eliminated and replaced with the simpler procedure of neutering both sexes. More and more experts are now advising to neuter at an early stage before the onset of puberty. Operating before the age of six months prevents unwanted offspring and is also much safer and less complex than for older cats. Early neutering is recommended, especially for outdoor cats between the ages of eight to 14 weeks.
Castration is a short procedure that only lasts around 20 minutes for male cats. The spermatic cord is cut and severed by about half a centimetre. A lot of the time not a single stitch is required!
When it comes to spaying female cats, the ovaries are cut off, bound and removed, as with castration. This leaves a small incision on the stomach, which can be sewn up with a few stitches. The procedure lasts around an hour.
Cats can go back home just a few hours after the operation. Tranquility is particularly important for the first few hours after the operation in order to allow them to slowly come round and reorient themselves.
So what comes next? Do neutered cats change? If you believe everything you read on the Internet, neutered cats become fat, lazy and indifferent. That isn't true, but neutering does interfere with the cat's hormonal balance and subsequently has consequences for its physical and mental state.
The cat's heat phase is no more. Male cats that previously left urine markings can reverse this behaviour after they have been castrated. However, there are no guarantees here, especially not if the castration takes place long after the onset of puberty!
Neutered cats become calmer and more relaxed due to the lack of hormonal fluctuations. In fact, they move around less and the body requires less energy for reproduction, but at the same time, the appetite can increase. The diet of neutered cats should be adapted to prevent excessive weight gain.
Opponents of neutering often claim that neutered cats will not experience healthy development, since the emergence of a larger head could have a negative impact, and that a reduction in the size of the urethra could lead to urinary stones or particle matter. However, studies were unable to prove this; in collaboration with the American Veterinary Medical Association, the WINN Feline Foundation established that neutering at an early age had no effect on the diameter of the urethra or bodily growth. The large head is determined purely by genetics and cannot be influenced by neutering. Whilst neutered cats are less aggressive, neutering itself does not change the cat's fundamental character. Your cat has more time to play with you, cuddle and frolic around at its leisure, but it very much retains its independence!
So don't worry! Neutering has a solely positive impact on your cat. We wish you both all the best!