No one needs to tell you to spay or neuter your cat. Even a housecat might be tempted to make a dash through the door if feeling the urge to mingle with the locals. Spay and neuter clinics around the country work with cat owners to make the procedure accessible and affordable.
Understanding how to care for your cat after getting spayed or neutered is important to their long-term health and recovery. Before we dive into how to care for them after the procedure (or any cat surgery), let’s go over exactly what to expect in the spay and neutering process.
Spay and Neuter Meaning
Getting your cat, or even feral cats, spayed and neutered helps prevent unwanted kittens and make owning cats more enjoyable. Spay and neuter are separate medical procedures based on cat (or dog) sex. It stops females from being able to have kittens and males from impregnating the ladies of the neighborhood.
Animal advocacy groups, veterinarians and public health officials all recommend that cats and dogs get spayed and neutered to limit shelter animal overcrowding and prevent neighborhood issues with feral animals. The goal of spay and neuter campaigns is to reduce the 3.7 million unwanted animals euthanized annually.
Difference Between Spay and Neuter
Those handsome males get neutered and all those pretty diva females get spayed. Yes, for boys it’s castration but neutered sounds less harsh. Spay is another term describing ovariohysterectomy. There are some less invasive procedures that have been introduced into veterinarian practices that are finding popularity.
If you get confused who gets spayed and who gets neutered, it’s okay. As long as your veterinarian does the right thing, everyone is great. Our experience is that veterinarians are really good at sexing dogs and cats. We are confident you are in good hands at the local vet clinic.
Types of Spay and Neuter Procedures
There are several options when it comes to spay and neuter procedures. They vary slightly for males and females.
Options for neutering male cats:
- Traditional Neuter: a surgical process that removes the male testes. Can reduce male cat aggression, spraying and yowling.
- Vasectomy: a surgical procedure where an incision in the scrotum blocks off tubes. This has a faster recovery than traditional spay but testosterone is still produced thus behavioral problems still exist.
- Injectable Sterilant: a chemical injected into the male cat’s testicles resulting in sterility. This is still not approved in the United States but is widely used abroad.
Options for spaying female cats:
- Traditional Spay: a surgical procedure removing the ovaries, fallopian tubes and uterus. This helps to reduce behavioral problems, potential long-term health issues and makes owning a female cat cleaner without monthly menses messes.
- Tubal Ligation: a surgical procedure that blocks the fallopian tubes so sperm is unable to reach eggs. This is less invasive but may not alleviate behavioral issues.
- Left Lateral Flank Spay: a surgical procedure primarily done abroad that uses a side incision rather than a midline incision to spay the female.
- Progestins: an injection or oral medication given to female cats similar to human birth control pills with hormones to control ovulation.
When to Spay or Neuter a Cat
Cats should reach sexual maturity before being spayed or neutered. This means kittens will be four to six months before they have the procedure. Adult cats can be spayed or neutered at any age. Do check with a veterinarian to make sure you cat is healthy enough for the procedure.
Caring for Your Cat After Surgery
The more invasive the spay or neuter procedure, the more concern there is for post-operative care. When your cat has a surgical procedure, she is put under anesthesia. When she comes out of anesthesia, the vet clinic will monitor her until they feel it is safe for you to take her home.
Anesthesia Recovery Problems
It won’t take long after the procedure for her to return home. Being in the comfort of her favorite spots is good for recover. But you need to be aware of the signs of problems.
Abnormal surgery recovery symptoms of your cat include:
- Lethargy, weakness
- Dramatic changes in body temperature
- Pale gums
- Labored breathing
- Wobbly when walking
If you notice any of these symptoms, contact your veterinarian immediately. They may want you to bring her back in or they may give you directives to watch her and keep her comfortable.
Medications After Surgery
Your veterinarian may prescribe pain medication and/or antibiotics for your cat after surgery. Follow instructions to administer these prescriptions. If you haven’t been given a prescription but feel that your cat is in a lot of pain or the surgery site may become infected, call your veterinarian to get a prescription.
Never give your cat human medications. While there are some human medications that cats can take and adequately metabolize, do so under the direct care and instruction of your cat’s veterinarian. They will confirm all prescriptions and dosage requirements.
Food and Water After Surgery
Anesthesia is known to create stomach unrest. While you should give your cat water when she gets home from her procedure, limit it to small quantities. Make sure she doesn’t vomit after having some water and replenish in small quantities.
Food portions should start at a quarter of what she normally eats. If she vomits, remove food. If this happens again, call your veterinarian.
Litter Box Guidelines After Surgery
Do not use kitty litter for at least a week after your cat has had surgery. The dust can lead to serious infection. Prepare a new or disinfected litter box with shredded paper. Keep the litter box close to where your cat is resting. The first few days may be difficult for your cat to urinate or defecate.
Don’t allow them to walk extensively. There may be a small amount of blood in stool or urine after surgery. If this persists, contact your veterinarian immediately.
Returning to Normal After Surgery
Most cats return to normal activity two to three days after being spayed or neutered. Keep an outdoor cat indoors for seven days to prevent unwanted interactions, activity or potential infection.
Monitor your cat as she progresses. Many cat owners will keep a recovering cat in a kennel or small room away from temptations to jump and run. This is especially important if you have other animals in the house.
It’s okay to pamper her a bit. Carry her up stairs or to her favorite spots on the bed or recliner. Keep an eye on the surgery site and incision. If it becomes bright red, flared or hot to touch, contact your veterinarian immediately. This is a sign of infection and needs to be cared for immediately.
Final Thoughts on Spay and Neuter Recovery for Cats
Cats across the country are spayed and neutered daily. This is a common procedure that vets do regularly. Rarely are there complications. With that said, be a proactive cat owner and monitor your cat so she can heal quickly without problems. It won’t be long before she is chasing the dog once again.
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