The medical term used to describe the spaying of a female cat is an ovario-hysterectomy. This surgical operation involves the removal of the ovaries and uterus of the animal. It is considered a major operation since the procedure takes place by entering the abdominal cavity. Before it has been spayed, a female cat is known as a Queen. Spaying can take place as early as two months though most veterinarians advise the operation to be performed after five to six months of age. Queens are usually de-sexed in order to prevent litters of unwanted kittens and hence prevent overpopulation, prevent certain diseases and reduce some unwanted behaviour.
At what age should a female cat be spayed?
The more common age for a female cat to be spayed is during or after six months of age. It is possible, however, to spay a cat as early as two months of age. Despite the belief that this can stunt growth evidence suggests otherwise since there have been no documented effects on this nor on the development of the skeleton. It must be noted that at this age, the animal is more prone to complications following the general anaesthetic. The same is true for elderly cats although veterinary practices will ensure a health check is carried out and if the cat passes then there should be little or no complications during the operation.
In order for the operation to commence the cat must be under a general anaesthetic. The first step is to give the cat a pre-medicated sedating drug which will induce relaxation. This drug will also contain an analgesic for pain relief which will last before, during and after the operation. An intravenous (IV) general anaesthetic is given in order to place a breathing tube into the cat so that more anaesthetic can be inhaled in situ with the oxygen supply. During a mid-line ovario-hysterectomy, the cat is laid on its back and the surgical area is clipped and scrubbed with surgical soap.
The veterinary surgeon creates an incision an inch away from the umbilicus. It is cut in the direction of the tail and is usually less than half an inch long. The incision continues through the subcutaneous fat, of which there is more of as the cat ages. Occasionally, it is required that some of this fat is removed in order to have a better visualisation of the surgical area. The following incision is made through the abdominal muscle, along the linea alba, allowing access to the abdominal cavity.
The reproductive organs of the female cat are now able to be removed. In order to prevent a haemorrhage the ovarian pedicles and the uterine body must be carefully ligated. This means they must be tied off. The following step is to have them cut, allowing the removal of the uterus and ovaries. It is of the upmost importance that no internal bleeding occurs as this can prove to be fatal though this is a rare occurrence.
The linea alba is closed using dissolvable sutures. This means that, over time, the sutures will be absorbed into the body and the veterinary surgeon does not need to remove them. The subcutaneous layer is also sutured using dissolvable sutures. The next layer to be closed is the skin though this time with non-dissolvable sutures which are to be removed by the veterinary surgeon in the next ten days. However, it has become more and more common for intra-dermal sutures to be used for this. This allows for the post operative care to be less difficult since the cats will be less likely to pull out the sutures.
Post op care
The cat should be able to return home on the same day as the operation. It is advisable to prevent the cat from going outside for a few days in order to protect the surgical wound against infection. A clean cat litter should be available at all times along with fresh water. The cat should not be forced to eat but should only be offered a small amount of food after several hours after coming home. After this period food can be left and easily accessed throughout the whole day.
Is there another way to sterilise my female cat?
Sterilising tablets may be given to the female cat but these cannot be used for a long period of time. They have many undesirable side effects and a spay operation is generally the preferable method in all veterinary practices. Another method is tube ligation which only sterilises the cat but does not prevent it from coming into heat or experiencing any behavioural problems.
It isn’t natural to prevent a cat from having kittens
When it comes to domesticated animals, what is natural and unnatural is entirely different to wild animals. The way cats live in our modern world is far from natural and the cats themselves are mainly as a result of human interference with nature. The cat itself would probably not exist if its ancestors had been allowed to live a natural life. Thus, the decision process for the spaying of a cat should not depend on this.
I can’t afford to have my cat spayed
With diseases such as pyometra, most owners can’t afford not to have their cats spayed. In spite of this, there are charities available that are more than willing to help with the payment of sterilisation. The owner should simply ask their veterinary practice and they will be given the contact details for these charities.
My cat is a pure breed so I should not sterilise it
If you do not intend to breed from the cat then this is not true. Many of the thousands of unwanted cats and kittens that are euthanized (put down) every year in animal shelters are purebred breeds as well as cross breeds. If the cats previously had been sterilised then their kittens would not have to be put down because they have no homes to go to. Owners do not want to have to worry every time their female cat goes outside due to the risk of it becoming pregnant. Therefore, regardless of the breed, spaying is the most favourable option.
My cat will become fat if I have it spayed
The cat will not become overweight due to the removal of the ovaries and uterus. Without the stress of heat cycles and the need to find a mate, it will almost certainly have an increased appetite. This does not mean that the cat needs more food. So long as a balanced diet and an adequate amount of exercise is maintained for the cat then the gaining of weight should not occur.