What Happens When You Spay a Cat?

Kittens are adorable but can be difficult to find homes for.
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Thousands of unwanted animals struggle to find homes every day so it is important for responsible cat owners to avoid adding to the already severe overpopulation problem. Spaying your cat is a safe and effective way to make certain she does not produce any unwanted kittens.

Why You Should Spay Your Cat

The term "spaying" refers to the surgery your veterinarian performs in order to sterilize your female cat and prevent her from ever having kittens. (The equivalent procedure in male cats is called "neutering.") Spaying is an invasive surgical procedure that requires full anesthesia as well as aftercare. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals estimates that approximately 84 million pet cats live in the United States and that 88 percent of those pet cats have been either spayed or neutered. The ASPCA also reports that if left to her own devices, the average breeding female cat (known as a queen) will produce at least two litters of kittens each year, with an average litter size of four to six kittens.

Another argument for spaying is that it reduces or eliminates your cat's chances of developing certain cancers. A spayed cat can't get ovarian or uterine cancer, and has a reduced risk of developing breast cancer. You may also appreciate that she won't go into heat and make a nuisance of herself by yowling to attract all the neighborhood toms.

Before the Surgery

Spay surgery is also known as giving your cat an ovariohysterectomy. Before the surgery occurs your veterinarian will assess your cat to make sure she is healthy enough to operate on. Cats can be spayed when they are as young as 8 weeks old and the ASPCA recommends spaying your cat before she reaches 6 months, in order to reduce the risk of an accidental pregnancy occurring. (Spaying early also gives a greater health benefit.) Older animals may be spayed, but only if your veterinarian determines they are healthy enough to withstand the surgery. It is generally not a good idea to spay a cat who is in heat, because this carries an increased chance of blood loss. Most animal shelters require that animals be spayed before they can be adopted out.

During the Surgery

When your cat is spayed, your veterinarian will sedate her so that she is unconscious and then remove her ovaries, fallopian tubes and uterus. By completely removing your cat's reproductive organs the surgery guarantees your cat will be unable to reproduce. Your veterinarian will close up the surgery location with stitches and your cat should wake up shortly after the surgery is completed.

Risks of Spaying

As with any type of invasive surgery, there is always a chance that your cat could suffer negative side effects after being spayed. Some animals have adverse reactions to the anesthesia used in surgery and serious complications can occur, including death. Infections can also occur at the site of the surgery. Antibiotics will be used to treat infections and keeping the surgery site clean can help reduce the risk of infection. If your cat chews her stitches she may need to have a no-chew cone put on her neck to restrict her access to the surgery site until it heals completely.

Always check with your veterinarian before changing your pet’s diet, medication, or physical activity routines. This information is not a substitute for a vet’s opinion.

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