All About Male Cat Desexing.

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Veterinary Advice Online: Neutering Cats Feline Neutering.

This is an image of a cat's testicles just prior to feline neutering or desexing surgery.
Male cat neutering, otherwise known as sterilisation, “fixing”, desexing, castration (castrating) or by its correct veterinary name: orchiectomy (also termed gonadectomy), is the surgical removal of a male cat’s testicles for the purposes of feline population control, medical health benefit, genetic-disease control and behavioral modification. Considered to be a basic component of responsiblecat ownership, the neutering of male cats is a simple and common surgical procedure that is performed by most veterinary clinics all over the world. This page contains everything you, the pet owner, need to know about feline neutering (

male

cat desexing). Neutering topics are covered in the following order:






1. What is neutering?



2. Neutering pros and cons – the reasons for and against neutering cats.




2a. The benefits of neutering (the pros of neutering) – why we neuter cats.

2b. The disadvantages of desexing (the cons of desexing) – why some choose not to neuter cats.





3. Information about neutering age: when to neuter a cat.




3a. Current desexing age recommendations.

3b. Neutering kittens – information about the early spay and neuter of young cats (kitten desexing).



4. Neutering procedure (desexing surgery) – a step by step pictorial guide to feline neutering surgery.



5. Neutering after-care – all you need to know about caring for your tomcat after neutering surgery.



Includes information on feeding, bathing, exercising, wound care, pain relief and stopping cats from licking surgical wounds.



6. Possible surgical and post-surgical complications of neutering cats.




6a. Pain after surgery (e.g. cat walking stiffly, not wanting to sit down and so on).

6b. Swollen, bruised, blood-filled scrotum after surgery.

6c. Wound infection.

6d. Penis and/or urethra laceration.

6e. Excessive wound hemorrhage (excessive bleeding during or after surgery).

6f. Failure to ligate (tie off) the testicular blood vessels adequately.

6g. Post-operative renal failure (kidney failure).

6h. Anaesthetic death.

6i. Tracheal damage in cats caused by overinflation of ET (endotracheal) tubes.



7. Late complications of neutering cats.




7a. Weight gain.

7b. Preputial scalding and infection – a potential complication of early underage desexing.

7c. The neutering didn’t deliver the change (improvement) in male behavior that you thought it would (i.e. behavioral problems such as aggression, dominance, marking territory (urine spraying) and roaminghave persisted despite desexing).



8. Frequently asked questions (FAQs) and myths about neutering cats:




8a. Myth 1 – All desexed toms gain weight (get fat).

8b. Myth 2 – Desexed male cats become lazy and lose their drive to hunt mice, rats and vermin.

8c. Myth 3 – Without his testicles, a male cat won’t feel like himself (i.e. he “won’t be a man”).

8d. Myth 4 – Male cats need to have sex before being desexed.

8e. Myth 5 – Male cats should be allowed to father (sire) a litter before desexing.

8f. Myth 6 – Vets just advise neutering for the money not for my cat’s health.

8g. FAQ 1 – Why won’t my veterinarian clean my cat’s teeth at the same time as desexing him?

8h. FAQ 2 – Why shouldn’t my vet vaccinate my cat whilst he is under anaesthetic?

8i. FAQ 3 – Is desexing safe? It’s just a routine procedure isn’t it?

8j. FAQ 4 – My veterinarian offered to perform a pre-anaesthetic blood screening test – is this necessary?

8k. FAQ 5 – When is feline desexing surgery not safe to perform?



9. The cost (price) of neutering cats:




9a. The typical cost of neutering a tom cat at a veterinary clinic.

9b. Where and how to source low cost and discount feline neutering.

9c. Free feline neutering.



10. Alternatives to neutering your male cat:




10a. Feline birth control method 1 – separate the tom from the queen and prevent him from roaming.

10b. Feline birth control method 2 – spay your female cat.

10c. Feline birth control method 3 – “the pill” and hormonal female oestrous (heat) suppression.

10d. Feline birth control method 4 – inducing ovulation to suppress feline estrus (heat).

10e. Feline birth control method 5 – feline vasectomy.

10f. Feline birth control method 6 – chemical castration – injecting sclerosing agents into the testicles.

10g. Anti-testosterone agents to reduce testosterone-related medical and behavioral problems.

WARNING – IN THE INTERESTS OF PROVIDING YOU WITH COMPLETE AND DETAILED INFORMATION, THIS SITE DOES CONTAIN MEDICAL AND SURGICAL IMAGES THAT MAY DISTURB SOME READERS.


1. What is neutering?

Neutering is the surgical removal of a male (tom) cat’s testicles. During the procedure, each of the cat’s testes and testicular epididymi are removed along with sections ofthe feline’s testicular blood vessels and spermatic ducts (vas deferens or ductus deferens).The remainder of the male cat’s reproductive tract structures: the prostate, bulbourethral gland, urethra, penis and much of the cat’s testicular blood vessels and spermatic ducts,are left intact. Basically, the parts of the male reproductive tract that get removed are those which are responsible for sperm production, sperm maturation and the secretion of testosterone (the majormale hormone). Removal of these structures plays a big role in feline population control(without sperm, the tomcat can not father young); genetic disease control (male cats withgenetic disorders can not pass on their inheritable disease conditions to any young if they can not breed); preventionand/or treatment of various medical disorders (e.g. castration prevents and/or treats a number of testicular diseases and testosterone-enhanced medical conditions) and male cat behavioral modification (testosterone is responsible for many tomcat behavioral traits that some owners findproblematic – e.g. roaming, aggression, inter-male aggression, dominance, urine spraying – andcastration, by removing the source of testosterone, may help to resolve these issues).

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2. Neutering pros and cons – the reasons for and against feline neutering.

Neutering is the surgical removal of a male (tom) cat’s testicles. During the procedure, each of the cat’s testes and testicular epididymi are removed along with sections ofthe feline’s testicular blood vessels and spermatic ducts (vas deferens or ductus deferens).The remainder of the male cat’s reproductive tract structures: the prostate, bulbourethral gland, urethra, penis and much of the cat’s testicular blood vessels and spermatic ducts,are left intact. Basically, the parts of the male reproductive tract that get removed are those which are responsible for sperm production, sperm maturation and the secretion of testosterone (the majormale hormone). Removal of these structures plays a big role in feline population control(without sperm, the tomcat can not father young); genetic disease control (male cats withgenetic disorders can not pass on their inheritable disease conditions to any young if they can not breed); preventionand/or treatment of various medical disorders (e.g. castration prevents and/or treats a number of testicular diseases and testosterone-enhanced medical conditions) and male cat behavioral modification (testosterone is responsible for many tomcat behavioral traits that some owners findproblematic – e.g. roaming, aggression, inter-male aggression, dominance, urine spraying – andcastration, by removing the source of testosterone, may help to resolve these issues).

2a. The benefits of neutering (the pros of neutering) – why we neuter male cats.

There are many reasons why veterinarians and pet advocacy groups recommend the neutering ofentire male tomcats. Many of these reasons are listed below, however the list is byno means exhaustive.

1. The prevention of unwanted litters:



A litter of 3-week-old kittens dumped at a shelter in Australia. This was one of hundreds of feline litters dumped in that one shelter that year.
Pet overpopulation and the dumping of unwanted litters of kittens (and puppies) is anall-too-common side effect of irresponsible pet ownership. Every year, thousands of unwanted kittens and older cats are surrendered to shelters and pounds for rehoming or dumped on the street (street-dumped animals ultimately end up dying from neglect, predation or transmissiblefeline diseases like FIV or finding their way into pounds and shelters that may or may not beable to find homes for them). Many of these animals do not ever get adopted from the pounds and shelters that take them in and need to be euthanased. This sad waste of healthy life can be reduced by not letting pet cats breed indiscriminately and one way of preventing any accidental, unwanted breeding from occurring is through the routine neutering of all non-stud (non-breeder) male tomcats (and female cats too, but this is another page).


Author’s note:

The deliberate breeding of family pets should

never

be considered aneasy way to make a quick buck. A lot of cost and effort and expertise goes into producing a quality litter for profitable sale. And that’s only if nothing goes wrong! If your queenneeds a caesarean section at one in the morning or develops a severe infection after queening (e.g. pyometron, mastitis), then all of your much planned profits will rapidly turn into financial losses (the vet fees for these kinds of treatments are high). On top of that, if you fail to do your homework and breed poor quality kittens or poorly socialisedkitties that won’t sell, then you’ve just condemned some of those young animals to a miserablelife of being dumped in shelters or on the streets.

2. The reduction of stray and feral animal populations:



A spotted pardalote killed by a feral cat.
By having companion tomcats neutered at young ages, they are unable to go out and mate with feral or stray queens and get them pregnant. This results in fewer litters of stray and feral cats being bornwhich, in return, benefits not just those unwanted kittens (who lead a tough neglected life), butalso society and the environment in general. Feral and stray cat populations pose a significant risk of predation to native wildlife (see image on right – just one of millions of such occurrences); they carry diseases that may affect humans (e.g. rabies, worms) and their pets (e.g. rabies, FIV, FIA, FeLV, parasites); they fight withdomestic pets, giving them nasty cat-fight infections and abscesses; they steal the foodof domestic pets and they place a huge financial and emotional burden on pounds, shelters and animal rescue groups.

3. To reduce the spread of inferior genetic traits, genetic diseases and congenital deformities:



Cat breeding is not merely the production of kittens, it is the transferral of genes and genetic traits from one generation to the next in a breed population. Petowners and breeders should desex male tom cats that have conformational, coloring and temperamental traits,which are unfavourable or faulty to the breed as a whole, to reduce the spread of thesedefects further down the generations. Male cats with heritable genetic diseases andcongenital defects/deformities should also be desexed to reduce the spread of thesegenetic diseases to their offspring.

Some examples of proven-heritable or suspect-heritable diseases that we select againstwhen choosing to neuter male cats include: cryptorchidism, polycystic kidney disease (PKD),lysosomal storage diseases and amyloidosis. There are hundreds of others.

4. The prevention or reduction of testicular (and epididymal) diseases:



It is difficult to contract a testicular disease if you have no testicles. Early neutering prevents tomcats from contracting a range testicular diseases and disorders including: testicular cancer,epididymal cancer, orchitis (testicular inflammation with or without infection), epididymitis, testicular torsion, testicular abscessation and testicular trauma.


Note

– although testicular and epididymal cancer can occur in the cat and is prevented by castration, itis nowhere near as common for testicular or epididymal cancer to occur in entire tomcats as it is in entire dogs.

5. The prevention or reduction of testosterone-induced diseases:



It is well known that entire

dogs

can suffer from a range of diseases and medical conditions that are directly associated with high blood testosterone levels. These disease conditions include:benign prostate hyperplasia (BPH), prostatitis, prostatic abscesses, perianal or perineal adenomas (small cancers that occur around the anuses of entire male dogs), perineal hernias and certain castration-responsive skin disorders (dermatoses). Desexing these dogs removes the main source of testosterone from the animal’s body (the testes), which not only prevents the onset of these diseases but can even help to control or cure these diseases if they are already present.

Entire

cats

, on the other hand, very rarely suffer from testosterone-associatedmedical conditions such as prostatitis, BPH, perianal adenoma and perineal herniation. Thus, the prevention of testosterone-associated disease should be considered a very minorreason for male

feline

desexing. Certainly, the desexing of male cats

will

most likelyprevent these testosterone-mediated conditions from occurring if the individual cat happens to be prone to them: it’s just not very common for these types of diseases to occur in this species. Likewise, if these disease conditions are already present then,like the dog, desexing the cat may go some way towards helping to resolve and treat them.

6. The prevention or reduction of testosterone-mediated behavioural problems:



The testicles are responsible for producing testosterone: the hormone that makes male animals look and act like male animals. It is the testicles that make male catsexhibit the kinds of “male” testosterone-dependent behaviors normally attributed to an entire animal. Entire cats are likely to be more aggressive and more dominant and more prone to male-to-male aggression (inter-male aggression) and fighting than neutered animals are: i.e. they act like bossy entire males. They will tend to exhibit sexualised behaviors including: aroused interestin females of their own species; mounting of females (particularly in-heat, estrus females) andmating of females. They are more prone to displaying unwanted masculine territorial behaviours such as the guarding of resources (food, territory, companion people and so on) and the marking of territory with urine and feces (e.g. entire tomcats will commonly exhibit urine spraying in the house). Additionally, entire male animals are more likely than neutered animals areto leave their yards and roam the countryside looking for females and trouble. Roaming is a troublesome habit because it puts other animals (wildlife and other pets) and humans at risk of harm from your feline pet and it puts the roaming pet at risk from all manner of dangers including: predation by other animals, cruelty by humans, poisoning, envenomation (e.g. snake bite) and motor vehicle strikes. The neutering of entire animals may reduce some of these problematic testosterone-mediated behaviours.


Author’s note:

Fighting between cats is more common when cats are left entireand undesexed. Owners of fighting cats often spend many hundreds of dollars treating theirpets for fight wounds and cat-fight abscesses. Animals that fight are also more likely tocontract the deadly feline AIDS virus (FIV – feline immunodeficiency virus), which is predominantly spread between tom cats through warring activities (biting and scratching).By reducing the hormonal drive to guard territory and females, desexing reduces the incidenceof fighting and its secondary complications (clawed and lacerated eyes, catfight abscesses, FIV-spread and so on).

7. The reduction of tom cat urine odours:



People with inside cats often have to put up with smelly urine and fecal odours coming fromtheir cats’ litter boxes just prior to those feline lavatories being cleaned out. As owners of entire tomcats can attest to, this urine smell can be very pungent andnoxious when it comes out of an

intact

tomcat, heavy with the stench of male cat pheromones(the odour is the result of testosterone and the retrograde ejaculation of sperm into the bladder). Male cats that have been neutered do not seem to produce as pungent a urine smell asentire toms and, therefore, neutering should be considered a means by which owners of inside cats can seek to reduce litter box urine odors.

Additionally, if the cat in question is a naughty cat that likes to spray inside or toiletin inappropriate areas (beds etc.), reducing the pungency of the urine smell by neuteringwill at least aid you in cleaning up the soiled regions. As an added bonus, neuteringwill sometimes cure inappropriate spraying and toileting behaviour in some tomcats altogether.It is thought that neutering can eliminate urine spraying activities in up to 87% of cats.

2b. The disadvantages of desexing (the cons of desexing) – why some people choose not to neuter cats.

There are many reasons why some individuals, breeders and pet groups choose not to advocatethe sterilization of entire male cats. Many of these reasons have been listed below, however the list is byno means exhaustive.

1. The cat may become overweight or obese:



Studies have shown that neutered animals probably require around 25% fewer caloriesto maintain a healthy bodyweight than entire male animals do. This is because a neutered animalhas a lower metabolic rate than an entire animal does (it therefore needs fewer calories to maintain its bodyweight). Because of this, what tends to happen is that most owners, unaware of this fact, continue to feed their neutered tomcats the same amount of food after the surgery that they did prior to the surgery, with the resultthat their feline pets become fat. Consequently, the myth of automatic post-desexing obesity has become perpetuatedand, as a result, many owners simply will not consider desexing their cats becauseof the fear of them gaining weight and developing weight-related problems (e.g. diabetes mellitus).


Author’s note:

The fact of the matter is that cats will

not

become obese simply because they have been desexed. They will only become obese if the post-neutering drop in their metabolic rateis not taken into account and they are fed the same amount of food calories as an entire animal.


Author’s note:

Those of you who care about your finances might even be able to see the benefits of desexing here. A neutered tom cat potentially costs less to feed than an entire animalof the same weight and, therefore, neutering your animal may well save you moneyin the long run.

2. Desexing equates to a loss of breeding potential and valuable genetics:



There is no denying this. If a dog or cat or horse or other animal is the ‘last of its line’ (i.e. the last kitten in a long line of pedigree breeding cats), a breeder or pet owner’s choice to desex that animal and, therefore, not pass on its valuable breed genetics will essentially spell the end for that breeding lineage.


Author’s opinion point:

of all the reasons given here that argue against the desexing of male cats, this is probably the only one that has any real merit. Desexing does equate to a loss of breeding potential. In an era where many unscrupulous breedersand pet owners (“backyard breeders” we call them) will breed any low-quality cat regardless ofbreed traits and temperament to make a quick buck, the good genes for breed soundness, breedtraits and good temperament are needed more than ever. Desexing a male cat with good breedcharacteristics, good temperament and no genetically heritable defects/diseases willcount as a loss for that breed’s quality in general, particularly if there are a lot of subqualitystuds around saturating the breeding circles.

3. Loss of testosterone as a result of desexing mayresult in immature development of masculine characteristics and a reduced body musculature:



The testicles are responsible for producing testosterone: the hormone that makes male animals look and act like male animals. It is the testicles that make male animalsdevelop the kinds of masculine, testosterone-dependent body characteristics normally attributed to an entire animal. These include: increased muscle size and development; reduced body fat; mature penis development; mature prepuce development (mature penis sheath development); the ability to extrude the penis from the sheath (prepuce) and the suppression of development of feminine characteristics (mammary gland development, milk production etc.). Desexing, particularly early age desexing, may limit the development of mature masculine features such that they remain immature and juvenile looking and cause the neutered animal to have a reduced muscle mass and strength compared to an entire animal of the same size and breeding.

4. Loss of testosterone as a result of desexing mayresult in delayed growth plate closure:



Animals that have been desexed early in life (before the age of 12 months) tend toexhibit delayed closure of their growth plates. Growth plates are the cartilage bands locatedin the ends of the animal’s long bones, which are responsible for making the bones grow and elongateduring juvenile bone development and formation. As a result of delayed growth plate closure, desexed animals will often be taller and longer in limb than entire male animals.Whether this increase in growth plate closure time or bone length should be considered a problem or benefit reallydepends on the individual owner, but some people choose not to desex animals early because of it(i.e. there is a concern that these animals may be more prone to orthopedic injuries).


Author’s note

– Any concerns about the effects of delayed growth plate closure, whilst not normally a problem, can be overcome by desexing after the growth plates have closed.

5. Neutering reduces the male cat’s drive to hunt vermin:



Although this phenomenon has yet to be proven, many owners of male mousers (cats kept forthe purpose of keeping rodent numbers low) will refuse to desex them because of the fear that their neutered animals will no longer have any drive to perform the work required of them. This topic is discussed in more detail in section 8b.


Author’s note:

one could well argue that such a cat might work better if it does not have testosterone-fuelled hormonal urges distracting it from the task at hand.

6. As an elective procedure, desexing costs too much:



The high cost of veterinary services, including desexing, is another reason why somepet owners choose not to get their pets desexed. See section 9 for more on the costs of neutering.

7. The cat will “no longer be a man” without his testicles:



It sounds silly, but it is a very common reason why many owners, especially male owners, will not get their male cats and dogs neutered. See myth 3 (section 8c) for more.

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3. Information about feline neutering age: when to neuter a cat.

The following subsections discuss current desexing age recommendations and how they have been established as well as the pros and cons of early age (8-16 weeks) neutering.

3a. Current desexing age recommendations.

In Australia and throughout much of the world it is currently recommended that male cats beneutered at

around 5-7 months of age

and older (as far as the ”

older

” goes, the closer to the5-7 months of age mark the better – there is less chance of your cat developing a testosterone-dependant behavioural condition if he is desexed at a younger age).

The reasoning behind this 5-7 month age specification is mostly one of

anaesthetic safety

for elective procedures.

When asked by owners why it is that a cat needs to wait until 5-7 months of age to be desexed, most veterinarians will simply say that it is much safer for them to wait until this age before undergoing a general anaesthetic procedure. The theoryis that the liver and kidneys of very young animals are much less mature than those of older animals and therefore less capable of tolerating the effects of anaesthetic drugs and less effective at metabolizing them and breaking themdown and excreting them from the body. Younger animals are therefore expected to haveprolonged recovery times and an increased risk of suffering from severe side effects, in particular liver and kidney damage, as a result of general anaesthesia. Consequently, many vets will choose not to anesthetize a young kitten until at least 5 months of age foran elective procedure such as neutering.


The debate:


Whether this 5-7 month age specification for general anaesthesia and desexing is valid nowadays (2008 onwards), however,is much less clear and is currently the subject of debate. The reason for the currentdesexing-age debate is that the 5-7 month age specification was determined ages ago, way back in the days when animal anaesthesia was nowhere near as safe as it is now and relied heavily upon drugs that were more cardiovascularly depressant than modern drugs (e.g. put more strain on the kidneys and liver) and required a fully-functioning, almost-adult liver and kidney to metabolize and excrete them from the body. Because modern animal anaesthetic drugs are so much safer on young animals than the old drugs used to be, there is increasing push to drop the age of desexing in veterinary practices. This puts us onto the topic of early age neutering (see next section – 3b).


Are there any disadvantages to desexing at the normal time of 5-7 months of age?


Just as there are disadvantages of desexing an animal at a very young age (see section 3b), thereare also some disadvantages associated with desexing at the usually-stated age of 5-7 months:

  • Some people find it inconvenient to wait until 5-7 months of age to desex.
  • There is a chance that an early-maturing tom may be able to mate and sire unwanted kittens before this age, adding to the number of unwanted litters destroyed and dumped.
  • For people who choose to have their pets microchipped during anaesthesia, there is an inconvenient wait of 5-7 months before this can be done. If the animal gets lost prior to this age, the unchipped cat may fail to find its way home.
  • Many of the behavioural issues commonly associated with entire male animals may become manifest

    before

    the time of the desexing age recommendations (e.g. urine spraying, fighting). These behavioural problems, once established, may persist and remain problematic even after the animal is sterilized.


Author’s note on points made above:

According to references used to research this web page,it is considered unusual for male cats to produce viable sperm and therefore impregnatefemales before the age of 30-36 weeks (i.e. 7 months on). Full sexual maturity in tomcatsis usually achieved at around 18 months to 2 years of age. It is also uncommon for toms to start urine spraying andfighting for females and hierarchy before the age of 12 months (usually 18 months to 2 years).

According to references used to research this web page,it is considered unusual for male cats to produce viable sperm and therefore impregnatefemales before the age of 30-36 weeks (i.e. 7 months on). Full sexual maturity in tomcatsis usually achieved at around 18 months to 2 years of age. It is also uncommon for toms to start urine spraying andfighting for females and hierarchy before the age of 12 months (usually 18 months to 2 years).

3b. Neutering kittens – information about the early spay and neuter of young cats (kitten desexing).

We kittens can be desexed at 8-12 weeks. Then we will be ready to find homes!
As modern pet anesthetics have become a lot safer, with fewer side effects, thedebate about the recommended age of feline neutering has been reopened in the veterinary worldwith some vets now allowing their clients to opt for an early-age spay or neuter, provided theyappreciate that there are greater, albeit minimal, anaesthetic risks to the very young pet when compared to themore mature pet. In these situations, cat and dog owners can now opt to have their male and femalepets desexed as young as 8-9 weeks of age (the vet chooses anaesthetic drugs that are not as cardiovascularly depressant and which do not rely as heavily upon extensive liver and kidney metabolism and excretion).


Powerful supporters of early spay and neuter

– in 1993, the AVMA (American Veterinary Medical Association) advised thatit supported the early spay and neuter of young dogs and cats, recommending that puppiesand kittens be spayed or neutered as early as 8-16 weeks of age.


IMPORTANT

– because of the rising problems of pet and feral animal overpopulation,it is now the

law

in many states (e.g. Canberra, Australian Capital Territory) for kittensto be desexed prior to 12 weeks of age. What this means is that early age desexing is now compulsory, regardless of any (minor) anaesthetic risks to the animal, andveterinarians who advise desexing at 5 months of age onward are breaking the law. Owners ofcats (and dogs) need to check their local state laws on pet neutering ages.


The advantages of the early spay and neuter of young cats:


Certainly, there are some obvious advantages to choosing to desex an animal earlier ratherthan later. These include the following:

  • People do not have to wait 5-7 months to desex their pets. The procedure can be over and done with earlier.
  • Tom cats neutered very early will not attain sexual maturity and will therefore be unable to sire any kittens of their own. This role in feline population control is why most shelters choose to neuter early.
  • It makes it possible for young kittens (6-12 weeks old) to be sold by breeders and pet-shops already desexed. This again helps to reduce the incidence of irresponsible breeding – cats sold already desexed cannot reproduce.
  • For owners who choose to get their pets microchipped during anaesthesia, there is no inconvenient wait of 5-7 months before this can be done.
  • Some of the behavioural problems and concerns commonly associated with entire male animals may be prevented altogether if the kitten is desexed well before achieving sexual maturity (e.g. urine spraying, marking territory, fighting for territory).
  • From a veterinary anaesthesia and surgery perspective, the duration of surgery and anaesthesia is much shorter for a smaller, younger animal than it is for a fully grown, mature animal. I take about 1 minute to neuter a male kitten of about 9 weeks of age compared to about 3-5 minutes maximum for an older tom.
  • The post-anaesthetic recovery time is quicker and there is less bleeding associated with an early spay or neuter procedure.
  • From a veterinary business perspective, the shorter duration of surgery and anaesthesia time is good for business. More early age neuters can be performed in a day than mature cat neuters and less anaesthetic is used on each individual, thereby saving the practice money per procedure.
  • Routine, across-the-board, early spay and neuter by shelters avoids the need for a sterilization contract to be signed between the shelter and the prospective pet owner. A sterilization contract is a legal document signed by people who adopt young, non-desexed puppies and kittens, which declares that they will return to the shelter to have that dog or cat desexed when it has reached the recommended sterilisation age of 5-7 months. The problem with these sterilisation contracts is that, very often, people do not obey them (particularly if the animal seems to be “purebred”); they are rarely enforced by law and, consequently, the adopted animal is left undesexed and able to breed and the cycle of pet reproduction and dumped litters continues.


The disadvantages associated with the early spay and neuter of young kittens:


There are also several disadvantages to choosing to desex an animal earlier ratherthan later. Many of these disadvantages were outlined in the previous section (3a)when the reasons for establishing the 5-7 month desexing age were discussed and include:

There are also several disadvantages to choosing to desex an animal earlier ratherthan later. Many of these disadvantages were outlined in the previous section (3a)when the reasons for establishing the 5-7 month desexing age were discussed and include:

  • Early age anaesthesia and desexing is never going to be as safe as performing the procedure on an older and more mature cat. Regardless of how safe modern anaestheticshave become, the liver and kidneys of younger animals are considered to be less mature than those of older animals and therefore less capable of toleratingthe effects of anaesthetic drugs and less effective at metabolizing them and breaking themdown and excreting them from the body. Even though it is very uncommon, there will always be the occasional early age animal that suffers from potentially life-threateningside effects, in particular liver and kidney damage, as a result of young age anaesthesia.
  • There is an increased risk of severe hypothermia (cold body temperatures) and hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) occurring when young animals are anesthetized. This hypothermia predisposition is caused by the young animal’s increased body surface area (higher area for heat to be lost), reduced ability to shiver and reduced body fat covering (fat insulates against heat loss). The predisposition towards hypoglycemia is the result of a reduced ability to produce glucose from stores of glycogen and body fat as well as the fact that these stores of fat and glycogen are smaller in the young animal.
  • Loss of testosterone production at a very early age, as a result of desexing, mayresult in extremely immature development of masculine characteristics and a significantly reduced body musculature. Note – no significant difference was found in the development of masculine features and body musculature between catsdesexed at 7 weeks and those desexed at 7 months, however.
  • Early neutering may result in retained juvenile behaviours inappropriate to the animal’s age later on.
  • Early age neutering prevents cat breeders from being able to accurately determine which kittens will be valuable stud animals (it is too early to tell when they are only kittens). Because desexing equates to a loss of breeding potential and valuable genetics, many breeders choose to only desex their cats after they have had some time to grow (after all, it is not possible to look at a tiny kitten and determine whether or not it will have the right color, conformation and temperament traits to be a breeding and showing cat). This allows the breeder time to determine whether or not the animal in question will be a valuable stud animal or not.
  • Kittens neutered very early will be completely unable to extrude their penises from their preputial sheaths throughout life. This can potentially result in urinary hygiene problems and an increased risk of preputial urine scalding and prepuce infections throughout life.
  • Early spaying and neutering will not 100% reduce pet overpopulation and dumping problems when a large proportion of dumped animals are not merely unwanted litters, but purpose-bought, older pets that owners have grown tired of, can’t manage, can’t train and so on. Those people, having divested themselves of a problem pet, then go and buy a new animal, thereby keeping the breeders of dogs and cats in good business and promoting the ongoing over-breeding of animals.


Author’s note:

at the time of this writing, I was working as a veterinarian in a highoutput animal shelter in Australia. Because shelter policy was not to add tothe numbers of litters being born irresponsibly by selling entire animals, all cats, including kittens, were required to be desexed prior to sale. Consequently, it was not unusual for us to desex male and female puppies and kittens at early ages (anywhere from 8 weeks of age upwards). Hundreds of puppies and kittens passed under the surgeon’s knife every year on their way to good homesand I must say that the incidence of post-operative complications that were a directresult of underage neutering was exceedingly low.

For a nice visual guide to early age kitten neutering surgery at our shelter,

at the time of this writing, I was working as a veterinarian in a highoutput animal shelter in Australia. Because shelter policy was not to add tothe numbers of litters being born irresponsibly by selling entire animals, all cats, including kittens, were required to be desexed prior to sale. Consequently, it was not unusual for us to desex male and female puppies and kittens at early ages (anywhere from 8 weeks of age upwards). Hundreds of puppies and kittens passed under the surgeon’s knife every year on their way to good homesand I must say that the incidence of post-operative complications that were a directresult of underage neutering was exceedingly low.For a nice visual guide to early age kitten neutering surgery at our shelter,
visit our pictorialearly age male kitten neutering surgery page.


4. Neutering procedure (desexing surgery) – a step by step pictorial guide to feline neuter procedure.

As stated in the opening section, neutering is the surgical removal of a male cat’s testicles. During the procedure, each of the tomcat’s testes and testicular epididymi are removed along with sections of the cat’s testicular blood vessels and spermatic ducts (vas deferens or ductus deferens).And to be quite honest, from a general, non-veterinary pet owner’s perspective, this is probably all of the informationthat you really need to know about the surgical process of desexing a tom cat.

Desexing basically converts this …

This is an image of a feline scrotum prior to desexing surgery.


Image:

This is a preoperative picture of a feline scrotum containing two round testicles.

… into this …

This is a photo taken of a cat's scrotum (scrotal sac) immediately following desexing surgery (neutering). The scrotum has no testes and is flattened.


Image:

This is a photo of the same cat’s scrotal sac after the testicles have been removedat surgery. They are still a little swollen from surgery, which makes them appear fullerthan they actually are, however there are no testicles inside.

… by removing both of these.

This is a picture of two feline testicles that have been removed by neutering (desexing) surgery.


Image:

This is a picture of two feline testicles that have been removed by sterilisation surgery.You can clearly see the testis and epididymus of each testicle: these are the main sites of testosterone production and sperm production and sperm maturation in the male animal.

For those of you readers just dying to know how it is all done, the following section is a step by stepguide to the surgical process of desexing a cat. There are numerous surgical desexing techniques available for use by veterinarians, however, I have chosen to demonstrate the very commonly-used “scrotal incision procedure” of feline castration. Both diagrammatical and photographic images are provided to illustrate the process.

NEUTERING PROCEDURE STEP 1: Preparation of the animal prior to entering the veterinary clinic.


Some basic steps on preparing and fasting your pet for surgery.
Preparation of an animal for any surgical procedure begins in the home.

Your animal shouldbe

fasted

(not fed any food) the night before a surgery so that he has no food in his stomachon the day of surgery. This is important because cats that receive a general anaestheticmay vomit if they have a full stomach of food and this could lead to potentially fatal complications. The cat could choke on the vomited food particles or inhale them into its lungs resultingin severe bronchoconstriction (a reaction of the airways towards irritant food particles, common in cats,which results in them spasming and narrowing down in size such that the animal can not breathe)and even bacterial or chemical pneumonia (severe fluid and infection build-up within the air spaces of the lungs).

The cat should be fed a small meal the night before surgery (e.g. 6-8pm at night) and then not fed after this. Any food that the animal fails to consume by bedtime should be takenaway to prevent it from snacking throughout the night.


Young puppies and kittens (8-16 weeks) should not be fasted for more than 8 hours prior to surgery.


Water should

not

be withheld

– it is fine for your feline pet to drink water before admission into the vet clinic.

Please note that certain animal species should not be fasted prior to surgery or, if theyare fasted, not fasted for very long. For example, rabbits and guinea pigs are notgenerally fasted prior to surgery because they run the risk of potentially fatal intestinal paralysis (gut immotility) from the combined effects of not eating and receiving anaesthetic drugs. Ferrets have a rapid intestinal transit time (the time taken for food to go from the stomach to the colon)and are generally fasted for only 4 hours prior to surgery.

If you are going to want to bath your tomcat, do this before the surgery because you willnot be able to bath him for 2 weeks immediately after the surgery (we don’t want the healing neutering wounds to get wet).Your vet will also thank you for giving him a nice clean animal to operate on.

NEUTER PROCEDURE STEP 2: The animal is admitted into the vet clinic.



When an animal is admitted into a veterinary clinic for desexing surgery, a number of things will happen:


  • 1) You should arrive at the vet clinic with your fasted cat in the morning.

    Vet clinics usually tell owners what time they should bring their pet in for surgical admission and it is important that you abide by these admission times and not be late. If you are going to be late, do at least ring your vet to let him know. Vet clinics need to plan their day around which pets arrive and do not arrive for surgery in the morning. A pet turning up late throws all of the day’s planning out the window. Do remember that your vet has the right to refuse to admit your pet for surgery if you arrive late.

  • 2) The animal will be examined by a veterinarian to ensure that he is healthy for surgery.

    His gum color will be assessed, his heart and chest listened to and his temperature taken to ensure that he is fine to operate on. Some clinics will even take your pet’s blood pressure. This pre-surgical examination is especially important if your pet is old (greater than 7-8 years).

  • 3) You will be given the option of having a pre-anaesthetic blood panel done.

    This is a simple blood test that is often performed in-house by your vet to assess your cat’s basic liver and kidney function. It may help your vet to detect underlying liver or kidney disease that might make it unsafe for your cat to have an anaesthetic procedure. Better to know that there is a problem before the pet has an anaesthetic than during one! Old cats in particular should have a pre-anaesthetic blood panel performed (many clinics insist upon it), but cautious owners can elect to have young pets tested too.

  • 4) The dangers and risks of having a general anaesthetic procedure will be explained to you.

    Please remember that even though neutering is a “routine” surgery for most vet clinics, animals can still die from surgical and/or anaesthetic complications. Animals can have sudden, fatal allergic reactions to the drugs used by the vet; they can have an underlying disease that no-one is aware of, which makes them unsafe to operate on; they can vomit whilst under anaesthesia and choke and so on. Things happen (very rarely, but they do) and you need to be aware of this before signing an anaesthetic consent form.

  • 5) You will be given a quote for the surgery.


  • 6) You will be asked to sign an anaesthetic consent form.

    As with human medicine, it is becoming more and more common these days for pet owners to sue vets for alleged malpractice. Vets today require clients to sign a consent form before any anaesthetic procedure is performed so that owners can not come back to them and say that they were not informed of the risks of anaesthesia, should there be an adverse event.

  • 7) Make sure that you provide accurate contact details and leave your mobile phone on so that your vet can get in contact with you during the day!

    Vets may need to call owners if a complication occurs, if an extra procedure needs to be performed on the pet or if the pet has to stay in overnight.

  • 8) Your cat will be admitted into surgery and you will be given a time to return and pick it up.

    It is often best if you ring the veterinary clinic before picking your pet up just in case it can not go home at the time expected (e.g. if surgery ran late).

NEUTER PROCEDURE STEP 3: The animal will receive a sedative premedication drug (premed) and, once sedated, it will be given a general anaesthetic and clipped and scrubbed for surgery.



A tom cat's testicles being scrubbed and cleaned before a neuter procedure.
The cat is normally given a premedication drug beforesurgery, which is designed to fulfill many purposes. The sedative calms the feline makingit slip into anaesthesia more peacefully; the sedative often contains a pain reliefdrug (analgesic), which reduces pain during and after surgery and the sedative action resultsin lower amounts of anaesthetic drug being needed to keep the animal asleep. Dependingupon the drug cocktail given, other specific effects may also be achieved including:reduction of saliva production and airway secretions (this reduces drooling and therisk that saliva and respiratory secretions may be inhaled into the lungs during surgery);improved blood pressure; airway dilation (making it easier to breathe) and so on.

General anaesthesia is normally achieved by giving the cat an intravenous injection ofan anaesthetic drug, which is then followed up with and maintained using the same injectabledrug or even an anaesthetic inhalational gas. The animal has a tube inserted down its throat during the surgery to help it breathe better; to stop it inhaling any saliva or vomitus and to facilitate the administration of any anaesthetic gases.

The skin over the animal’s groin and scrotum is shaved andscrubbed with antiseptic solution prior to surgery.

The surgery:



In order for you to properly understand the process of tom cat neutering surgery, I have to take a second to explain the anatomy of the male cat’s reproductive structures (testicles, penis and so on).

A diagram of the reproductive anatomy of an entire male cat (tomcat). You need to know this in order to neuter a male feline.


Image:

This image is a diagram of the reproductive anatomy of an entire male tomcat. The animalis drawn laying on its back as it would be positioned during a sterilization surgery. On the diagram, I have indicated the following structures: testicles (pink) contained within the animal’s scrotalsac; bladder and urethral outflow tract (yellow); kidneys (brown); ureters (mauve);abdominal wall muscles (marked in dark red); vas deferens or ductus deferens (white); testicular blood vessels (red) and other male reproductive structures, such as the prostate gland, marked in orange. Notice how the ureter of the kidney

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