Spaying Or Neutering Your Cat: What To Expect

A cat with a cone on its head after being spayed

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Your little baby is all grown up and about ready to be spayed (if she is a girl) or neutered (if he is a boy). Naturally, you are worried, but while any surgery has its risks, spaying and neutering is a common procedure that most veterinarians have had lots of practice doing. What should you expect before, during and after the operation?

Pre-surgical preparation

Most veterinarians will ask that you fast your cat (no food, and in some cases, no water) for 12 hours prior to surgery. This is to reduce the likelihood that your cat will vomit during the procedure, which can cause very serious complications.

If your cat goes outdoors, you should keep him indoors for the night prior to surgery to ensure he is home in time for the appointment and that he does not eat or drink anything during the night. If your kitty is the type to disappear when he sees the cat carrier, you may consider closing him in a bathroom for the night so you can more easily catch him in the morning.

The spay/neuter procedure

Spay and neuter are considered surgical procedures, so a licensed veterinarian, typically assisted by one or two technicians will perform the operation in a sterile environment. Some clinics will place an intravenous catheter, to administer supportive fluids or drugs in case of an emergency, and some will not. If a catheter or other monitoring equipment is used, the technicians will shave areas on either the front or back leg, and possibly the bottom of a back foot as well. Your cat will be sedated and anesthetized, and the procedure will usually last anywhere from five to thirty minutes, depending on the age, size, and health of the animal and the spay/neuter experience level of the surgeon.

The incisions on a male cat’s scrotum will be very small, and without any sutures. It is very rare for a male cat to have complications following a neuter procedure. For females, the procedure is more invasive, and there will be a shaved area on the belly with a small incision just below the navel. Many veterinarians will use dissolvable suture, reducing the need for post-surgical visits, but the incision should be closely watched by the owner for any sign of bleeding, swelling or infection.

Post-surgical care

Barring any complication, owners can expect to pick up their cat a few hours after the surgery has been performed. Some cats may be groggy, but most will be relatively alert. Male cats and young kittens will have the shortest recovery period. All cats should be kept indoors for a few days following the procedure to allow for adequate healing.

Females who were in heat when the spay was performed should be kept inside for at least a week to minimize the chance of breeding attempts by males which can result in serious injury. Especially playful cats should be contained in a small area to keep boisterous activity to a minimum while they heal.

Most owners will be surprised at the speed at which their kitty recovers from a spay or neuter surgery. Within 24 hours, most cats will be acting normally- eating, playing and purring, so if kitty seems lethargic, check in with your vet to make sure that she is healing properly.