Cats

Spay and Neuter Cats: All Questions Answered

A female cat can have up to 20,000 descendants in just a span of five years. If you don’t want to take care of tons of cats or feel responsible for many homeless ones, it’s a good idea to spay or neuter your cat.

Both spaying and neutering are sterilization processes performed with a scalpel. What sets the two apart is that spaying is done on female cats (or any other female animal) and neutering is performed on male cats (or any other male animal). Spaying and neutering are 100% effective. Also, they can help considerably lower the risk of certain feline diseases.

Unfortunately, spaying and neutering are irreversible. They have a few cons, too.

Myths about spaying and neutering come aplenty, which is why some cat owners do not consider taking their purring pets to the veterinarian to spay or neuter them.

It’s true that there are some drawbacks associated with spaying and neutering cats. And just like other surgical procedures, there are also certain risks and complications involved. However, the many benefits of spaying and neutering easily outweigh the few downsides, which makes sterilizing male and female cats recommended.

Continue reading if you are planning to get your four-legged friend spayed or neutered but having second thoughts. Below, we will answer many pressing questions about spaying and neutering cats.

How Much to Spay or Neuter a Cat?

Let’s address the elephant in the room without delay: Many cat owners steer clear of spaying and neutering their feline friends because of the cost.

Spaying or neutering cats can come with different price tags because of different factors. Some of them include the cat’s size and breed, veterinary clinic’s location, and the veterinarian’s experience level and professional fee. Generally speaking, spaying costs more than neutering because it’s a more complicated procedure.

To give you an idea of the cost of having your cat spayed or neutered, check out this table:

LOCATIONSPAY COSTNEUTER COST
SPCA$55$50
The Humane Society$60$50
PetSmart$70$60
Petco$70$60
Banfield$300$250

Please note that the cost of spaying and neutering cats at a particular establishment can vary from branch to branch. Certain events can also affect the amount of money you will have to pay to get your cat fixed.

For instance, Petco’s “Spay Today 2000” program allowed the customers to get their hands on a voucher that enabled them to have their cat spayed or neutered for $10 only. Back in March 2020, cat owners could register for the “PetSmart Grant” program, which allowed them to get their feline pets fixed for $20 only.

Worry not if you are on a budget and cannot wait for a cheap spay or neuter event to be offered.

Across the US, there are many low-cost spay and neuter clinics. As a matter of fact, a visit to the website of a non-profit animal welfare organization, such as the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) or North Shore Animal League America (NSALA), allows you to find one near you — all you have to do is enter your zip code.

In California, for instance, some low-cost spay and neuter clinics are:

  • FixNation (Clybourn Avenue)
  • Valley Veterinary Clinic (Simi Valley)
  • Pasadena Humane Society (Pasadena)
  • Contra Costa Spay and Neuter (Martinez)
  • Turlock Spay and Neuter Clinic (Turlock)
  • ACT Spay/Neuter Clinic (Stockton)
  • Animal Discount Clinic (Garden Grove)
  • Community Spay/Neuter Clinic (Sacramento)

Getting a female cat spayed and a male cat neutered at a low-cost spay and neuter clinic is around $50 only. The cost can be higher or lower, depending on where you live or the ongoing program.

However, to be able to take advantage of any pocket-friendly spaying and neutering services, most clinics offering them require the customers to meet the income requirement based on annual gross household income and the number of people in the household.

For instance, a low-cost spay and neuter clinic in Albuquerque, New Mexico requires a four-person family to have an annual gross income limit of $25,750 to be able to get its cat fixed.

On the other hand, taking your cat to a private, full-service veterinary clinic to get it fixed will require you to shell out significantly more cash than that amount. For instance, spaying a female cat typically costs anywhere from $300 to $500. Neutering a male cat is cheaper, costing around $200.

This brings us to a pressing question cat owners on a tight budget would like to ask…

Are there free cat spay and neuter services?

cat surgery
Image credit: Canva

Free feline spay and neuter services are available for low-income families with cats. Usually, cost-free spaying and neutering come from non-profit animal welfare organizations in the form of programs. Many agencies also refer low-income families to free feline spay and neuter veterinary clinics.

Besides low-cost spay and neuter clinics, there are also free spay and neuter clinics and programs. The majority of them provide service to low-income pet owners only, although some are open to all regardless of income. Also, some clinics and programs accept sterilization of pet cats only, while others accept sterilization of pet, stray and feral cats.

Earlier, we mentioned some spay and neuter clinics in California that offer affordable feline fixing. Now, here are some clinics in the state that offer free cat spaying and neutering:

  • Los Angeles Animal Services (Los Angeles)
  • SNAP – Spay Neuter Assistance Program (Los Angeles)
  • Animal Save (Grass Valley)
  • Feral Cat Coalition (San Diego)
  • Best Friends Catnippers (San Diego)

In some instances, mobile clinics offering low-cost or free spaying and neutering services travel to many neighborhoods. Most of the time, they only visit underserved communities in the US. Many non-profit organizations related to animal welfare offer registration of the cats of families that qualify.

What Do Vets Do When They Neuter a Cat?

Some cat owners refuse to have their pets spayed or neutered, and it’s usually for various reasons. And one of the most common reasons for not getting their purring pals fixed is that they want to spare them from experiencing unnecessary pain and discomfort. If it involves a scalpel, they believe, then it must be unpleasant.

The good news is that a cat won’t feel any pain during the surgery because it is unconscious.

After the spaying or neutering, the vet will administer pain medications to the feline to keep it from experiencing post-surgery pain, which can last for a few days. Usually, pain medications are administered via an injection.

If you are one of those cat owners who are hesitant to take their pets to a veterinary clinic for spaying or neutering, having a better understanding of the surgical procedure, such as the things that will take place while your cat is lying unconscious on the operating table, can help alleviate any doubts and fears of yours.

For your peace of mind, let’s get you acquainted with the procedure by answering these questions…

What do they do when they spay a cat?

Throughout the surgical procedure, the female cat being spayed is unconscious. An incision is made just below the belly button, and the ovaries and uterus are removed. The incision is closed under the skin using dissolvable sutures. The skin is then closed with stitches, staples or surgical glue.

It takes about 15 to 20 minutes to complete spaying a female cat. It depends on factors such as age and where the cat is in the heat cycle. Needless to say, it is possible to spay a female cat in heat.

Spaying a female cat is a longer procedure than neutering a male cat — we will talk about this in a few, so don’t stop reading now. Because of this, it will take a feline fresh from being spayed a longer time to bounce back. For instance, for the next 24 hours, you may notice that a newly fixed female cat is groggy or always sleepy.

What do they do when they neuter a cat?

The male cat to be neutered is put under general anesthesia, which means that it will be unconscious throughout the surgical procedure. A small incision is made on the scrotal sac, and the testicles are removed. Afterward, the incision is closed using either dissolvable sutures or surgical glue.

Male cats are easier to neuter than male dogs because of their size. As a matter of fact, the process of feline neutering can be done in under two minutes only!

However, it doesn’t mean that the cat will awaken as soon as the procedure is over. Veterinarians usually use a reversible anesthetic shot that allows male cats to recover rather quickly. Usually, a cat that has undergone neutering is awake enough for it to walk around in about 10 to 15 minutes. For male dogs, it’s usually from 15 to 30 minutes.

Besides pet cats, stray and feral cats can be neutered, too, which brings us to this question…

Why neuter stray and feral cats?

Stray and feral cats should be neutered, first and foremost, for population control. Sterilization means fewer free-roaming cats will experience hunger, develop diseases and die from being hit by vehicles. Also, fewer people will suffer from witnessing stray and feral cats suffering unnecessarily.

Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR), which is a humane and effective alternative to the lethal management of stray and feral cats, was introduced to the US back in 1992 in Newburyport, Massachusetts.

Sterilization will reduce aggressive behaviors in stray and feral cats alright, which is also why many male cat owners whose pets are misbehaving are in favor of neutering. Despite this, neutered free-roaming cats will still remain helpful in controlling rodent population — fixed cats still find hunting pesky mice and rats fun!

If there are lots of homeless cats in your area and it pains you to think that many of them are pointlessly suffering, you can spring into action. What you can do is catch a stray or feral cat using a humane box trap or drop trap and take it to a TNR clinic or shelter near you for the animal to be sterilized and then released again.

You may also report a stray or feral cat to a local agency with a TNR program and let it take care of it.

Here’s another noble step that you may take else that you can do: If you have been thinking about having a cat, don’t buy — adopt a stray cat or kitten and head to the nearest spay and neuter clinic. Please help save some of the over 40% of cats in shelters that end up being euthanized just because they cannot find a home!

What Age Do You Spay or Neuter Cats?

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Adult cats can be spayed and neutered at any given age. This means that it is possible to sterilize them whether they are in their teens or prime. However, when spaying or neutering mature cats, veterinarians will perform blood work before doing surgery to determine whether or not there are health problems that can complicate the procedure.

Kittens that are too young, on the other hand, cannot be spayed and neutered. It’s because the cons of sterilizing kittens will outweigh the many pros if they are sterilized too soon.

Unfortunately, many veterinarians cannot agree on the right time to spay or neuter kittens. Some think that it’s a good idea to fix them as soon as the procedure is possible, while others believe that cat owners should wait for their kittens to get a little older before they undergo surgery.

There are three general options regarding this debated matter:

  • Early or pediatric spay or neuter (done on kittens six to eight weeks old)
  • Standard spay or neuter (done on kittens five to six months old)
  • Delayed spayed or neuter (done on cats eight to twelve months old)

Because opinions on the right time to spay or neuter a cat are divided, it’s a good idea to get the opinion of the veterinarian that you can completely trust. This is especially true since he or she will carry out a thorough assessment of your kitten or adult cat, thus allowing him or her to know what’s best for your pawed pal.

Let’s answer the following important question according to general consensus…

When is the best time to spay or neuter a cat?

Generally, the best time to spay or neuter a cat is before it turns five or six months old. Pet cats can be spayed or neutered at four to five months of age. On the other hand, the best time to spay or neuter stray or feral cats or cats in shelters is when they are as young as eight weeks.

Fixing kittens younger than eight weeks is not a good idea. That’s because it can do more harm than good.

Many veterinarians agree that spaying and neutering young cats is easier for both felines and vets than spaying and neutering older cats. However, carrying out the surgical procedure on very young kittens can keep them from growing and developing properly. Some health-related concerns may appear when they are older.

It’s all due to the fact that spaying and neutering remove the ovaries of female cats and the testicles of male cats. These reproductive organs produce hormones that kittens need for proper growth and development.

And this takes us to a pressing question that requires an answer…

What happens if you spay or neuter a cat too early?

Some veterinarians say that spaying or neutering a cat too early may increase risks and complications associated with the procedure. They add that too early fixing may deprive a cat of sex hormones necessary for proper growth and development, which is why some health problems are linked to it.

Animal shelters spay or neuter kittens as young as eight weeks old. They believe that it’s safe to sterilize kittens at this age. Besides, in most states, it’s illegal to transfer or adopt out unsterilized cats.

Unfortunately, unlike with many things in life, when it comes to spaying or neutering cats, sooner is not necessarily better. It’s all due to the fact that the organs removed by veterinarians during spaying and neutering are responsible for the production of hormones that have tremendous effects on various feline bodily processes.

Because fixing a cat too early will keep its rapidly growing and developing body from getting essential hormones, it’s very much likely for the overall health of the feline to be put in some form of jeopardy. Many veterinarians blame spaying or neutering cats too soon for a number of health-related concerns.

Some of the health risks of spaying or neutering a cat at a very early age include:

  • Urinary tract problems as a result of a narrowed urethra
  • Epiphyseal fractures due to delayed closing of the growth plates
  • Obesity because of a slowed metabolic rate
  • Behavioral issues such as shyness and fearfulness

Besides the best time to fix kittens, a lot of cat lovers or owners also have no clear idea of the best time to spay female cats that have just given birth to a litter. They may be happy that their pets have produced adorable kittens alright, but they do not necessarily want to take care of (or adopt out) more tiny whiskered creatures in the future.

And this is why it’s a must for us to answer this critical question…

When to spay a cat after having kittens?

A female cat can come into heat about eight weeks after giving birth. It coincides with the time that its kittens are already weaned, which is why it’s the best time to spay it. Besides, spaying a female cat while it’s still nursing can make the surgery difficult for veterinarians to perform.

Spaying a female cat while its babies are still breastfeeding is very much possible. Some vets even agree that there is no need to wait for the kittens to be completely weaned before fixing their mothers.

However, spaying a nursing cat can come with risks and complications. For instance, the incision, which is made just below the female cat’s belly button, can become infected when the kittens’ dirty paws come into contact with it while breastfeeding and kneading — most of the time, it takes two weeks for the incision to heal fully.

Some veterinarians also wait for the kittens to be completely weaned before spaying their moms. That’s because the enlarged mammary glands of nursing cats can get in the way of the surgical procedure.

How to Neuter a Cat at Home?

Some cat owners refuse to have their feline pets fixed. One of the reasons is that they find spaying or neutering their cats too expensive. As mentioned earlier, spaying a female cat can cost $300 to $500, and neutering a male cat can cost $200 when performed at a private, full-service veterinary clinic.

It’s true that there are low-cost and free spay and neutering services available. However, opting for them is not as hassle-free for many cat owners. That’s because there are requirements to meet and schedules to follow.

This is why many people who own cats would like to ask this question but are too embarrassed…

Can you neuter a cat yourself?

Neutering a cat can be done through an inhumane process called banding. As the name suggests, it involves putting a rubber band around the testicles. The rubber band is tightened regularly until the testicles fall off. Neutering a cat via banding is painful for the animal. It comes with risks, too.

Also called elastration, banding is used for castrating livestock such as cattle, sheep and goats. However, the procedure is now banned in many countries because of welfare reasons.

You can easily come across steps on banding livestock, which may also be applied for neutering other male animals such as cats. However, please refrain from attempting to band your male cat, and it’s for a couple of reasons. First, it will put your male feline friend in a lot of pain and at risk of severe infections, too.

Second, you could be charged with animal cruelty — you could be fined or sent to prison, or both.

Why Spay or Neuter a Cat

Sterilizing cats come with an assortment of perks. It may seem like it’s a cruel process because it keeps felines from reproducing as nature intended. However, it’s also important to note that nature did not intend for a lot of cats to become free-roaming and wind up getting hungry, suffering from all sorts of diseases and being hit by cars.

This is why spaying and neutering are beneficial not only to the cats themselves but also to cat lovers (and animal lovers in general) and the entire community.

Unfortunately, there are also some disadvantages associated with getting male and female cats fixed. It’s important to get to know both the pros and cons of spaying and neutering before you bring your pet cat to the nearest veterinary clinic or report a stray or feral cat to the local shelter for sterilization.

Let’s begin weighing the pros and cons by answering this question…

Why neuter cats?

Spaying and neutering cats can help prevent the birth of unwanted kittens. It can also help save pet cats from getting lost due to roaming to find mates. Spaying and neutering cats can help lower the risk of many feline health problems, too. Sterilization can help make male cats less territorial.

If your cat is a female, getting it spayed can spare you from the stress of taking care of lots of kittens or the heartbreak of adopting out the little ones of your pet.

And if your cat is a male, having it neutered can keep you from potentially losing your pet as a result of escaping to be with a female cat that’s in heat. As a matter of fact, fixing a male cat can reduce roaming in about 90% of all cases. Neutering can also help reduce a male cat’s desire to fight with other make cats and spray your interiors with its pee.

There are also health perks associated with spaying and neutering, such as:

  • Lowered risk of breast cancer and pyometra (infection of the uterus) in female cats
  • Lowered risk of testicular cancer in male cats

And because it’s less likely for cats, especially male ones, to roam around, sterilizing them can lower their risk of contracting communicable diseases such as feline leukemia virus (FLV) and feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV). If a cat is infected with FLV or FIV, it can spread it to other cats when it goes back home.

While we’re on the subject, let’s answer this question…

What happens if you don’t neuter your cat?

Failure to neuter a male cat causes it to be territorial and develop aggressive behaviors. It also makes it prone to getting lost while searching for a mate. Failure to spay a female cat causes it to give birth to unwanted kittens. Both male and female cats may develop certain diseases if not fixed.

While there are many unfavorable things that spaying and neutering cats can keep from happening, sadly, there are also negative things that can come from it. But still, the many pros of sterilizing them outweigh the few cons.

Here are the side effects of spaying a female cat:

  • Risk of complications associated with general anesthesia use
  • Inability to get pregnant and give birth to a litter of kittens
  • Potential weight gain due to an eliminated mating desire, which burns calories

Here are the side effects of neutering a male cat:

  • Risk of complications as a result of general anesthesia use
  • Inability to impregnate female cats and produce offspring
  • Increased risk of becoming obese as a result of a slowed down metabolic rate

What to Expect After Cat Spaying or Neutering?

neutered cat
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Before fully enjoying the many perks that come with fixing your cat, you and your feline pal will have to go through some post-surgery matters. For instance, a male cat will remain unconscious for 10 to 15 minutes after the vet stitches up the incision — it can take a female cat longer to wake up due to a higher dose of anesthesia (spaying is a longer process).

For the next 24 hours, your cat will not seem like itself. It will act groggy or spend a lot of time sleeping. In some instances, a cat may be aggressive or agitated about a day after spaying or neutering.

Do you have other pets? Then it’s a must to check out the answer to this question…

How long to keep cats separated after spaying or neutering?

It is a good idea to keep cats separated for about 10 days after spaying or neutering. This can save them from fighting — newly sterilized cats may smell differently, and other cats may fail to recognize them. Fighting can increase the risk of the incision breaking open or becoming infected.

The incisions of most cats fully heal 10 to 14 days after the surgical procedure. That’s how long the incisions of most people that have gone through surgery heal, too.

It’s rare for male cats to develop complications while healing from neutering. The same is true in recovering female cats. However, there are more unwanted things that could come into being among them. Some complications in female cats after spaying include hernias and infection of the remaining piece of the uterus.

Speaking of which, an infection may also result from licking the suture, which is why we should answer this…

How to keep cats from licking after spaying or neutering?

Because the incisions of most cats that have just been fixed take 10 to 14 days to heal, cats should be kept from licking the wound for up to two weeks or until their wounds are completely healed. Otherwise, they might pull out the stitches, which could break open the incision or cause an infection.

The tongues of cats are rough because of the presence of backward-facing spines called papillae. These spines help cats groom themselves better and also allow them to tear through the flesh of their prey.

It’s also because of those spines in their tongues why cats should be kept from licking their incisions for up to a couple of weeks — the sutures could be pulled out, causing the incision to reopen. It’s due to this why felines need to wear a cone as soon as they awaken from surgery.

And this takes us to a critical question that requires an answer…

How long to keep a cone on a cat after spaying or neutering?

After a cat has undergone surgery, it should wear a cone for 10 to 14 days. The goal is to keep the cat from licking the incision until it’s fully healed. Some cats may need to wear a cone for a shorter or longer time period. There are instances, too, in which the wearing of a cone is unnecessary.

If it seems like your cat likes to lick itself a lot before spaying or neutering, it’s very much likely for it to lick its incision after the procedure, thus keeping it from healing properly and without any complications.

Make sure that your cat wears a cone for up to two weeks or until the incision looks fully healed.

Some cats seem oblivious to the fact that they have an incision on their abdomens or testicles. If such is the case, wearing a cone is no longer necessary. But just to be safe, it’s a good idea to have your feline friend wear a cone for a while — that is, if it’s not showing any signs that it doesn’t like to wear a cone!

Fret not if your cat seems unhappy donning a cone, which is also referred to as the cone of shame. That’s because there are alternatives to it that your four-legged chum may find trouble-free to sport.

One example is SunGrow Cat Recovery Cone, which is a wonderful replacement for a cone out of hard plastic that can startle a cat each time it comes too close to the wall, tackles a toy, or eats kibbles. The product is made of lightweight foam and fabric and has an adjustable collar size. It’s so pretty, too, that your cat won’t mind wearing it.

Another great alternative to a cumbersome traditional cone is Alfie Pet Noah Recovery Collar. It’s also made of soft and lightweight materials. It maintains your pet’s utmost comfort while pleasing your eyes.

Just Before You Spay or Neuter Your Cat

When it comes to feline spaying or neutering, there are many factors to consider. They include the amount of money you will need to shell out, where you will have to take your pet and who will sterilize your cat. It’s also important that the advantages and disadvantages of spaying or neutering your cat are taken into account.

Above, we answered some of the most pressing questions that cat owners would love to ask about getting their cat fixed. By now, hopefully, you have an idea of what’s best for your purring buddy.

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