Spaying and neutering are surgerical procedures performed on female and male animals, respectively, to remove reproductive organs. Having these procedures done on your cat or dog prevents unwanted litters, thereby decreasing pet overpopulation. In addition, spayed and neutered pets live longer and healthier lives, and make better pets.
Immediately After Surgery
Your female cat or dog will have an incision in her abdomen. Male dogs have an incision just above the scrotum and male cats have two incisions, one in each side of the scrotum. It is extremely important that you follow your vet’s instructions for postoperative care. Typically, she will recommend that you keep an eye on the incision and look for swelling or discharge, keep your pet from licking the incision site, advise you to limit your pet’s activity for a week to 10 days and do not bathe your pet during recovery. Your vet might put an Elizabethan collar on your pet to prevent access to the incision site. You also might be advised to use shredded paper instead of litter in your cat’s litter box.
What the Procedure Does
Spaying a female cat or dog removes the ovaries, fallopian tubes and uterus. She will no longer go into heat or produce estrogen or progesterone, and she cannot get pregnant. Neutering a male cat or dog removes the testicles but not the scrotum. Removing the testicles prevents the animal from producing sperm or testosterone, which drives many undesireable behaviors in males. Spaying is more invasive than neutering, but both procedures are performed with the animal under general anesthesia.
Effects on Cats
Spayed cats are less likely to have breast cancer and will not be at risk for ovarian or uterine cancer, while neutered males will not get testicular cancer. Neutered males have a reduced urge to roam and, therefore, a reduced risk of injury and disease from fighting other males. Neutered males also spray less, and early neutering may prevent this altogether. Your female cat no longer will come into heat and so won’t yowl to attract males or exhibit other annoying behaviors associated with a cat in heat. After neutering, cats don’t become lazy, but because they roam less they are expending less energy and you might discuss any dietary adjustments with your vet.
Effects on Dogs
Spaying or neutering your dog decreases the risk of several types of cancer, including mammarian, uterine, testicular and prostate carcinoma. In addition, it eliminates many hormone-induced diseases in females, such as cysts and mammary enlargment. Without testosterone, your male dog no longer will try to escape your yard to find a female in heat, and neutering prevents or decreases territorial behavior, such as urine marking, humping behavior, as well as male aggression behaviors, such as food guarding. In females, spaying prevents the messiness that can occur with females in heat, as well as bothersome behaviors associated with females in heat, such as over-affection to their owners.
Leslie Darling has been a writer since 2003, writing regularly for "Mississippi Magazine" and "South Mississippi Living," specializing in food and wine, animals and pets, and all things Southern. She is a graduate of the University of New Orleans.