NO LITTERING! Kitten Season Doesn’t Have To Be Tragic: Spay and Neuter Now
By Dr. Marty Becker
We’re on the verge of kitten season now, which means we’ll soon be getting questions about feline pregnancy from people who often had no idea they’d be midwife to pets who are often not much more than kittens themselves.
Typical questions include: How long does a cat’s pregnancy last? (On average, 66 days.) Do I need to help my pregnant cat with delivery? (Yes, usually by leaving her alone.) How do I know if she’s close to delivering? (Watch for enlarged nipples and the secretion of a tiny amount of milk.)
The question we’re asked least often is the most important of all: How soon after my cat gives birth can she be spayed? (As soon as the babies are weaned — the sooner the better!)
Studies show that 80 percent of the cats and dogs in the United States and Canada are spayed or neutered. If your cat is not among them, here are a few facts to consider:
• A neutered tomcat is less likely to roam, less likely to fight (and less likely to cost you money to patch him up), and less likely to spray urine to mark his territory. He’s more likely to live longer, because the cat who’s looking for a mate is really looking for trouble. If a car doesn’t get him, infectious disease (spread by fighting or mating) or cancer may.
•A spayed female is a more attentive and loving pet, because her energy isn’t constantly directed toward finding a mate. (Cats are in heat nearly all the time until they become pregnant.) If you spay your cat, you protect her from some cancers, infections and from sexually transmitted infectious diseases.
“Spaying” and “neutering” are the everyday terms for the surgical sterilization of a pet. Neutering — or altering — is also used to describe both procedures. The technical terms for the two operations are “ovariohysterectomy,” for the female, and “castration,” for the male — which pretty much explains why “spaying” and “neutering” are the preferred terms.
Although these procedures are common, many people don’t understand what’s involved. Spaying is the removal of the female’s entire reproductive system: The uterus, fallopian tubes and ovaries are taken out through an incision in the abdomen. Some veterinarians use stitches that have to be removed in about 10 days’ time, while others use those that are absorbed into the body. Recovery is fast, taking just a few days, during which you should limit your cat’s activities — no jumping or boisterous play.
In neutering, the cat’s testicles are removed through incisions in the scrotum, the pouch holding the testicles. These
incisions are generally left unstitched in this
relatively minor procedure. Post-operative care normally involves keeping the incisions clean and dry. Some veterinarians recommend keeping the cat inside (if he is not already an indoor pet) and using shredded
newspaper in place of
litter until the incisions close, which usually happens within three to five days.
Most of the people who write us about pregnant cats are dealing with “oops” litters, the result of not getting their cat to the veterinarian in time. We sure hope they’ll be calling to schedule an appointment for neutering as soon as those babies are weaned.
If you’re allowing your cat to have “just one litter” because you want a kitten, please adopt a kitten instead. You’ll find plenty to choose from at any shelter or rescue group. Many of them won’t find homes, so please help in any way you can.