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What Happens When A Cat Is Spayed (With Photos)

Updated on April 2, 2015

Why You Need To Spay Your Cat

There are many good reasons for neutering of all cats not intended for breeding. First and foremost, spaying reduces the risk of your pet contracting many common diseases such as pyometra (a serious infection of the womb), and mammary cancers. Over the course of their lives, cats are at risk of contracting several common viral infections which can be exacerbated by hormonal changes and stress, and which can be passed on to the offspring. For example, feline herpesvirus and feline leukemia virus are two chronic infections which can surface during pregnancy and lactation, and pose a risk to your cat and her kittens.

Cats are prolific breeders, and left unchecked, will have litter after litter of kittens. Mating, pregnancy, and birth are not without risk, and the continual drain on a breeding queen eventually leads to chronic ill health. Contracting FIV is also a serious risk during the breeding season, which runs for several months during months of increased daylight hours (spring and summer).

Population control is obviously also a good reason to argue for routine neutering, as even with the vast majority of responsible owners having their cats desexed, there are still many more kittens in rescue sanctuaries than can ever be rehomed. Unneutered cats also tend to be more prolific hunters, and your local wildlife population is likely to suffer as a result.

When Should You Spay Your Cat?

Although the traditional age for neutering has been 6 months of age, many cats experience puberty earlier than this, and begin to have their estrus cycle which repeats every 3-4 weeks until mating occurs. Very early neutering of kittens has been performed in rescue settings on a large scale, but can lead to some behavioral and health problems in later life. The current advice from international authorities on feline health is that all female cats should be spayed at 4 months of age. This is early enough to avoid unwanted sexual behavior, without being so early as to cause any problems.

Step 1- Surgical Approach To The Cat Spay

The skin, fat, muscle, and peritoneum have been incised. The surgeon is grasping the abdominal muscles in the tip of the forceps.
The skin, fat, muscle, and peritoneum have been incised. The surgeon is grasping the abdominal muscles in the tip of the forceps.

So What Happens When Your Cat Is Neutered?

Although it involves a full ovariohysterectomy with the removal of your cat's ovaries and uterus, spaying is considered a safe and routine procedure in cats. Your veterinarian will ask that you withhold food from your cat for around 12 hours before the procedure in order to reduce the risk of vomiting or regurgitation during anesthesia.

After being admitted to the veterinary clinic, your cat will receive a general anesthetic. There are many different anesthetic protocols which we can use for neutering; some involve inhaled anesthetic drugs, while others are administered only by injection. Feel free to ask your veterinarian or veterinary technician about the protocols used in your clinic.

Once anesthetized, an area on your cat's left flank (on the side of the belly just in front of the thigh) will be shaved of hair. It is also possible to perform the surgery on the midline of the underbelly; this is the approach usually used in dogs. The shaved area is then thoroughly disinfected by using a surgical scrub agent. The veterinarian scrubs his/her hands in the same manner. This ensures no bacteria are introduced into the surgical wound.

A sterile surgical drape is placed over the operating site to protect it from contamination with hair or other particles, and the surgeon makes a small incision through the skin. This is extended through the subcutaneous fat until the abdominal muscle layers can be seen. Using gentle dissection through the muscle fibres, the veterinarian reaches the peritoneum which lines the abdominal cavity, and makes and incision through it.

Feeding Your Cat After Her Spay

Royal Canin Vet Care Nutrition Feline Neutered Young Female 3.5 Kg
Royal Canin Vet Care Nutrition Feline Neutered Young Female 3.5 Kg

Incredible as it seems- did you know that cats begin to gain weight within 24 hours of neutering? Feeding her a neutered diet manages weight gain as well as providing balanced nutrition.

 

Cat Spay Step 2

The left ovary has been elevated- it can be seen just above the two metal forceps.
The left ovary has been elevated- it can be seen just above the two metal forceps.

Surgical Technique

Next, a small curved instrument known as a spay hook is gently inserted through the incision and is used to elevate the left horn of the uterus (womb). this is lifted through the incision and followed up to the left ovary. There is a large blood supply to the ovary, and this is clamped, tied off with suture material (known as ligation), and then cut. This leaves the left ovary and uterine horn free to be removed.

The left horn of the uterus is followed backwards to the body of the womb, and the surgeon then follows the right hor up to the right ovary. This is similarly clamped and ligated, and the ovary is cut free from its attachment.

The body of the uterus at the level of the cervix is then clamped, ligated, and cut. The 'Y'-shaped uterus has now been completely removed, leaving a 'stump' at the cervix. This is checked to make sure it is not bleeding, before being left back into the abdomen.

The abdominal incision is closed in three layers- muscle, fat, and skin. The skin sutures may or may not need to be removed after about 10 days, depending on the type of suture your veterinarian chooses to use.

Step 3- Ligating Ovarian Blood Vessels

The right ovary- notice the small ligature over the ovarian blood vessels just below the two forceps.
The right ovary- notice the small ligature over the ovarian blood vessels just below the two forceps.

Step 4- Ligating The Uterus

The body of the uterus is ligated below the forcep.
The body of the uterus is ligated below the forcep.

Cat Spay Technique Step 5

The cut surface of the cervix is inspected to ensure it is not bleeding before being released.
The cut surface of the cervix is inspected to ensure it is not bleeding before being released.
The small skin wound usually does not cause any problems after a spay. These are dissolvable sutures with the knots buried under the skin.
The small skin wound usually does not cause any problems after a spay. These are dissolvable sutures with the knots buried under the skin.

Caring for Your Cat After Her Spay

Although she has been through a major procedure, you should find that your cat shakes off the effects of the anesthetic and surgery within 24 hours. After this point, if she is showing signs that she is uncomfortable, lethargic, or unwell then you should bring her back to your veterinarian for examination. Complications from spaying are very uncommon in cats, but infection, bruising, bleeding or drug reactions can occasionally be seen, and as with all health issues it is better to be safe than sorry by having the vet check her again.

If she is licking excessively at her skin sutures it may be necessary to fit a plastic Elizabethan collar to protect her wound, but in my practice it is very unusual to have to use these. Most cats have at least a little common sense.

I hope you have found this a useful piece, if you have any questions or comments please use the section below to contact me.

Make Feeding Time Stimulating And Fun

Northmate Catch Interactive Feeder for Cats
Northmate Catch Interactive Feeder for Cats

By making your cat work for her food, you can satisfy her natural desire to hunt, while also decreasing calorie intake and preventing weight gain.

 

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