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Help, My Kitten Has Just Been Spayed: caring for your convalescent cat
Let's Discuss Her Future!
To spay or not to spay: a consideration
Generally speaking, it is highly recommended that all cats not specifically meant for breeding (i.e. fancy-pants purebreds, owned by fancy-pants licensed breeders) be "fixed." Of course, the subject is hidden: who recommends, and why? It's a painful and invasive operation, so "they" really need to sell it.
Well, there's the over-population problem that sees innumerable kitters put to death in shelters, while countless others roam the streets. So it's "the responsible thing to do" in that respect.
On a more personal level, it does have a significant impact on your cat's quality of life. According to the SPCA, cats that have been spayed (especially if the operation happened before they first go into heat) have a hugely decreased risk of breast cancer, and of course the lack of uterus and ovaries pretty much guarantees they'll be clean there too. They are also saved from any number of feline STDs and other reproductive diseases. You can let them out without fearing that they'll be ambushed by the neighborhood Man-Cats - every mother's dream.
Cats of both sexes who have been spayed or neutered live longer and are noticeably calmer than their fecund peers.
So I guess if we havta, we havta.
Choosing the Right Time
From nearly every corner we were told that no one would operate on a kitten under 6 months old. While it's true that many vets prefer not to, we took our not-quite-4 month-old to one of the vets who had given the 6-month criteria and after looking at her teeth and a quick blood test, they said that she was absolutely physically mature enough to have the operation. What a precocious little dear! (Although SPCA says that in the US, many vets will spay a cat or a dog at a puny 8 weeks.)
So besides physical maturity, what other considerations might affect your choice of when to do the operation?
- Whether you'll be able to stay with her during the recuperation period is a big one, and the fact that both my husband and I would be home for a full week (bless that academic calendar) was a big incentive for us to get the operation over with if the vet agreed that she needed it and was old enough. I'll admit that seeing her all small and scared on that shiny chrome table was enough to make me want to call the whole thing off... but we grit our teeth and waved goodbye, and yes I made it home without dissolving into tears.
- Finances can also be a consideration, although as I mentioned, there are organizations that may subsidize the operation for you. I have heard of these in the US, and if any of you know how more, or about similar organizations in other countries, please do fill me in! The operation is serious, and seriously invasive - there will be follow-up appointments, antibiotics, etc. This adds up. If you're going to come into some money in the coming month, and you don't mind keeping your cat under lock and key for another few weeks, it may be a good idea to wait.
- Time of year: although cats can mate year-round, they are typically seasonal breeders. If you're heading into November, that should be a three-month respite for all involved. This may mean you'd like to wait 3 more months, or that you have a nice quiet period to take care of it. Although some vets will perform the operation when your cat is in heat, most prefer not to.
The important thing to keep in mind is that the earlier you can do the operation, the easier (and shorter) the recuperation period will be and there will be a much lower risk of complications.
The Operation (dun dun dun)
Yes, it's pretty gruesome. Someone just sliced open your baby's tummy and pulled out all her lady parts! Oh god oh god oh god.
When you're back from the bathroom, here's what you should know:
They don't actually do the slit thing anymore. The process has been pretty much perfected. D came home with a bald patch, all nice iodine-yellow, with a tightly sutured nubbin of pain. No bandage (the wound looked pretty air-tight - nothin' getting in there). They even said not to worry if she licks at it or worries it; she's bound to do so and it'll hurt so she'll stop. It surely did, and boy-o did she ever let us know.
But this is what you should keep in mind:
- Your cat will be fully anesthetized. For slightly older cats (or any nervous parents of younger cats) there will be a blood test to make sure that she won't have a negative reaction to the drugs. This also means that she can't eat or drink for 12 hours before and after the operation.
- She will have to be left with strangers overnight. Your blissfully uninterrupted sleep will be tempered by visions of her sad, druggy, and alone in a metal crate.
- There are 3 days of antibiotics shots. You will have to bring her back the following day.
- After about 10 days, you will return to have her stitches taken out.
And that's about it. Live long and prosper.
After the Operation: Cuddles and Love, and what to watch out for
The big thing to watch for is vomiting and/or lack of appetite. If you give your cat too much food when she gets home, she might eat it so fast she vomits. Ignore that - it's normal. Kids do it, stoners do it. It's why we caution people to slow down when we're feeling like being obnoxious.
However, funny colors or smells coming back up might be a sign of infection or some other complication. And of course if she doesn't eat at all, that's no good. Call Yer Vet.
Anxious kitty-parents: do keep in mind that your kit has been pumped full of antibiotics and will have another shot of them tomorrow. Infection is highly unlikely.
Basically, any behavior that you might recognize in yourself, if you were all cranky and post-op without any pain killers, is all good. She's tired, she's uncomfortable, and she can't lose herself in Buffy reruns. Bummer for her.
We did get Milo and Otis though, just in case...
UPDATE: One Week Later
She was really unhappy for two days: scaring herself when she licked her stitches, having a lot of trouble getting comfortable - that sort of thing. She hung out on the bathroom floor for most of those two days, I assume because it was cool and dark? She had some trouble jumping up to her Guard Towers (we made steps for her where possible). Aside from her growls whenever she tried to clean her stitches, she made nary a peep: this was a little disconcerting.
But after the second day, she was completely herself - bald spot notwithstanding.
Long-term, it seems like a.) she really is much less eager to go out, and we don't have to be as vigilant when going or coming from the apartment; b.) she's not nearly as vocal as she had been, and her voice is quieter in general; c.) If possible, she would like to be in a lap at all times, so reports of animals being more affectionate after being spayed or neutered may just have some merit; d.) it took 3 days before her toilet training was back on track, for those of you interested in litter-free living.
Best of luck to you all.