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What is meant by ovariohysterectomy or spaying? Spaying is the common term used to describe the surgical procedure known scientifically as an ovariohysterectomy. In this procedure, the ovaries and uterus are completely removed in order to sterilize a female cat.
Why should I have my cat spayed? We recommend that all non-breeding cats be sterilized. Here are several health benefits associated with spaying your cat.
- Spaying eliminates the risk of ovarian and uterine cancers.
- Breast cancer is the number one type of cancer diagnosed in intact or un-spayed female cats.
- If your cat is spayed before her first heat cycle, there is less than ½ of 1% (0.5%) chance of developing breast cancer.
- With every subsequent heat cycle, the risk of developing breast cancer increases.
- After 2½ years of age, ovariohysterectomy gives no protective benefit against developing breast cancer.
- Pets with diabetes or epilepsy should be spayed to prevent hormonal changes that may interfere with medications.
Are there other benefits to spaying my cat? The most obvious benefit is the prevention of unplanned pregnancies. There is no medical or scientific reason for letting your cat have a litter before she is spayed.
Once a cat reaches puberty, usually at around seven months of age, she will have a heat or estrus cycle every two to three weeks for most of the year, unless she becomes pregnant. She will be “in heat” or receptive to mating for approximately one week in each cycle. During “heat” she may display unsociable behavior such as loud and persistent crying and frequent rubbing and rolling on the floor. This behavior coupled with her scent, will attract male cats from miles around. Removal of the ovaries will stop her estrus cycles.
When should I have my cat spayed? Spaying should be performed before the first estrus or “heat cycle”. Most cats are spayed between four and six months of age although some veterinarians choose to spay cats at two to three months of age. It is possible to spay your cat if she is pregnant.
What does a spay surgery involve? This is a major surgical procedure that requires a full general anesthetic. You will need to fast your cat the night prior to surgery. Most cats return home within 24 hours after surgery.
The operation is performed through a relatively small incision made most commonly in the midline of the abdomen, just below the umbilicus. Both ovaries are removed along with the entire uterus. The surgical incision will be closed with several layers of sutures. In many cases, skin sutures will be placed, and these will be removed after seven to ten days.
Are complications common with spaying? In general, complications are rare during spaying of cats. However, as with all anesthetic and surgical procedures, there is always a small risk. The potential complications include:
- Anesthetic reaction It is possible that any individual animal could have an adverse reaction following the administration of a drug or anesthetic. Such cases are impossible to predict, but are extremely rare. Pre-operative blood work is a useful screening test that may detect pre-existing problems which could interfere with the pet’s ability to handle the anesthetic drugs.
- Post-operative infection This may occur internally or externally around the incision site. In most cases the infection can be controlled with antibiotics. This most commonly occurs when the cat licks the site excessively or is in a damp environment.
- Sinus formation or Suture Reaction Although extremely rare, occasionally the body will react to certain types of suture material used during surgery. This results in a draining wound or tract that may appear up to several weeks after the surgery was performed. Often a further operation is required to remove the suture material.
It is important that you properly fast your cat prior to surgery according to your veterinarian’s instructions. In addition, any signs of illness or previous medical conditions should be reported to your veterinarian prior to any sedation, anesthesia or surgery.
Will spaying have any affect on my cat? In the vast majority of cats, there are absolutely no adverse affects following spaying. In certain cats, notably the Siamese breed, the hair that grows back over an operation site may be noticeably darker, believed to be due to a difference in the skin temperature. This darker patch may grow out with the following molt as the hair is naturally replaced.
There are many myths and rumors that are not supported by facts or research. Be sure to address any questions or concerns you may have with your veterinarian prior to surgery.
What is meant by castration or neutering? Neutering and castration are the common terms used to describe the surgical procedure known scientifically as orchidectomy or orchiectomy. In this procedure, both testicles are removed in order to sterilize a male cat.
Why should I have my cat neutered? Neutering is very beneficial to the health of the cat, especially if performed at an early age. Following puberty, which occurs at approximately eight to nine months of age, the male cat often develops a number of undesirable behavioral changes. He will become territorial and start to mark areas, even inside the house, by spraying urine. This urine has a particularly offensive odor and is difficult to remove. As the tomcat reaches sexual maturity, he will start to enlarge his territory, straying ever farther from the house, particularly at night. It is for this reason that many of the cats that are hit by automobiles are non-neutered males. By increasing the size of his territory, he increases the likelihood that he will come into contact with other cats and will get into fights for territorial dominance. Inflicted fight wounds can result in severe infections and abscesses. Diseases such as FIV and FeLV, which can cause AIDS-like syndromes and cancers in cats, are spread through cat bites, these cats are most commonly affected by such incurable diseases. Last, but not least, neutering prevents unwanted litters and the needless deaths of tens of millions kittens and cats each year.
The longer a tomcat sprays and fights, the less likely neutering will stop these behaviors.
When should I have my cat neutered? In most cases, it is recommended to neuter your cat before the onset of puberty. Puberty normally begins between six and ten months of age. The actual age chosen for castration will depend upon the preference of your veterinarian. Many veterinarians recommend castration at around five to seven months of age, although it is becoming more common to perform this procedure at an earlier age, such as two to three months, in an attempt to control overpopulation. Please contact your veterinary hospital for further details regarding their specific sterilization policies.
What does the operation involve? Your cat will undergo a general anesthetic. You will need to withhold food for twelve (12) hours prior to surgery. However, your pet should have free access to water during most of the pre-operative fasting period. Your veterinarian will advise you how long to withhold water before surgery.
In male cats, both of the testicles are removed through a small incision in the scrotum. Since the incisions are very small, and since stitches may cause irritation of the sensitive skin of the scrotum, it is rare for the incisions to be sutured.
What surgical complications could arise? In general, complications are rare during castration surgery, however, as with all surgical procedures, there is always a small risk:
- Anesthetic complication It is always possible that any pet could have an adverse reaction following the administration of any drug. Such cases are impossible to predict, but fortunately are extremely rare. One potential danger arises from the cat not being fasted properly prior to anesthesia. It is essential that all instructions are strictly followed. In addition, any signs of illness should be reported to your veterinarian prior to an operation.
- Post-operative infection This may occur internally or around the incision wound. In most cases the infection can be controlled with antibiotics.
What adverse affects might neutering have on my cat? In the vast majority of cases no adverse affects are noted following neutering. In certain cats, notably the Siamese breed, the hair that grows back over an operation site may be noticeably darker, believed to be due to a difference in the skin temperature. This darker patch may grow out with the following molt as the hair is naturally replaced.
This client information sheet is based on material written by Ernest Ward, DVM © Copyright 2005 Lifelearn Inc. Used with permission under license. April 29, 2016