Castration of the Cat


What Is Castration and When Should It Be Done?


Castration is the surgical removal of the testicles and is commonly referred to as "neutering", "altering" or "fixing" in the male cat.
Vets recommend castrating cats between 5 and 9 months of age, but it can be done at any age with satisfactory results.


Why Are Male Cats Castrated?


The majority of male pet cats are castrated in order to change the normal male cat's (tomcat's) behaviour, which is usually objectionable to the cat's owner. The behavioural characteristics of the sexually mature intact male cat that are eliminated or reduced by castration are as follows:


1. SEXUAL


Male cats seek out female cats in heat and the mating ritual is usually carried out noisily at night. This not only disturbs the cat's owner, but can also lead to unhappy relationships with neighbours.


2. ROAMING


Male cats roam, often quite far from home, seeking out females in heat. This roaming increases the dangers of accidents, leads to fighting encounters with other male cats whose territories the roaming cat is intruding upon, and upsets neighbours upon whose property the cat is trespassing. As a matter of fact, intact male cats usually come home only to eat and sleep.


3. FIGHTING


A male cat fights over females in heat and also to protect his territory. The blood-curdling screams of cats fighting and mating would lead one to believe that they must be killing each other. A lot of the time the cats, both male and female, just sit and scream at each other, but every so often a real fight breaks out between the males and serious wounds are inflicted.
These wounds frequently become infected, leading to abscesses, which can be life-threatening if not treated. Although cats sometimes survive these abscesses without treatment, blood poisoning leading to subsequent damage to the heart, kidneys and other vital organs is common.
Veterinary medical and surgical treatment of abscesses can become an expensive proposition for the owner of an aggressive male cat, not to mention the danger to the cat's health from frequent infections.


4. SPRAYING


A male cat marks out his territory by spraying urine. This scent marking is done by the cat backing up to an object and raising its tail which then starts to quiver as the cat squirts urine on the vertical surface of the object. The urine of a male cat has a very strong and objectionable odour. This spraying is often done in the house, particularly if there is more than one cat in the household. Not only does the urine stain carpets, furniture and the walls, but the odour and stain are impossible to remove.


5. APPEARANCE


Male cats tend to neglect their grooming and are frequently dirty and unattractive. Mature male cats often develop a condition called "stud tail." Excessive oil secretion by glands on the top of the tail leads to a greasy secretion in this area.


6. RELATIONSHIP TO OWNERS


Male cats can make good pets, but the owner is never the primary focus in their lives. A male cat likes to have a home to eat and sleep in and a kindly owner, but will desert all these comforts for a female in heat or if another male cat enters his territory.

What Are the Effects of Castration?


1. SEXUAL


The level of the male hormone testosterone, which produces masculine behaviour and sexual maturity, declines rapidly (within 8 hours) following castration, although live sperm may survive for a few days. Castrated cats are sterile and cannot fertilise a female cat. Most castrated cats are not interested in mating, although an occasional castrated male will continue to attempt to mate if given the opportunity.


2. ROAMING


Castrated cats do not seek out females in heat and roaming declines rapidly following the operation. Castrated cats stay close to home.


3. FIGHTING


A castrated cat does not fight over females in heat and fights less frequently to defend his territory. Other aggressive behaviour, such as hunting and fighting when attacked or frightened, remains unchanged following castration. If a male cat in a multi-cat household is fighting to establish a dominant position, castration is unlikely to change his behaviour because it is not sex-related. It must be remembered that cats are loners and do not seek out or want companionship from other cats. Their only natural contact is for mating and it is man who has forced pet cats to live together.


4. SPRAYING


Urine spraying is frequently eliminated and always reduced by castration. However, if you have more than one cat in a household and dominance and pecking orders are being established, castrated males, and even intact and spayed females, may spray. However, the objectionable odour of male cat urine is eliminated by castration.
There is no medical evidence to date that castration is related to a common medical problem of cats called urolithiasis, in which bladder stones block the cat's urethra. Many owners of pet cats believe that castrated cats get this problem more than intact male cats, but research studies have disproved this. The age at which castration is done does not have any relationship to this medical problem either. We do not conclusively know the cause of this disease yet but a great deal of research is being done to find the answer.


5. APPEARANCE


Castrated male cats undergo an amazing metamorphosis in their grooming and appearance. Over the first few weeks following castration you will see a scruffy, unkempt "tomcat" change into a beautifully sleek and well-groomed cat. Of course if your cat is castrated before becoming sexually mature (about 9 months of age), the change is less dramatic.
Many cat owners worry about a castrated cat becoming fat and lazy. Neither of these happen because of castration but a castrated cat needs less food than an intact male cat and also roams away from home less, which may look like laziness. The muscles of a castrated cat are less well developed and softer. This is why a looser belly is seen in castrated cats. Too much food and lack of exercise, most common in indoor cats, can lead to obesity, unless the owner controls the pets' food.
Castrated male cats do not develop the wide head, puffy cheeks and large body of a mature male cat. If a cat owner wants this appearance in a cat, castration can be delayed until these characteristics are fully developed, usually about 2 to 3 years of age. It is important that the cat owner understand the risks and disadvantages of waiting until this age to castrate.
"Stud tail" does not develop in cats castrated before maturity and is usually eliminated by castration when present prior to the operation.


6. RELATIONSHIP TO OWNERS


Cat owners are always pleasantly surprised at the change for the better in their cat's personality following castration. Castrated cats become more docile, affectionate and playful. The owner becomes the primary focus of the cat's life.


The Castration Operation


The cat is brought to the pet hospital for castration the day of the surgery. It is important not to allow the cat any food or liquids that morning. The testicles are removed surgically with the cat under full anaesthesia. In most instances the wounds are not stitched because it has been found that cats tend to pull at the stitches. There is a minimum of pain and discomfort post-surgically and the cat is sent home the same or the next day.
Complications from this surgery are very rare, although there is the occasional case of bleeding or later-developing wound infections caused by the cat licking the surgical area. Fatalities are even rarer, and when they do occur are usually related to complications from the anaesthesia.


Summing Up

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It can be seen that veterinarians recommend castrating male cats to make them more loving and satisfactory pets. They do not recommend the operation in order to make more money as some people think; on the contrary, intact male cats spend a lot more time in the veterinary hospital being patched up following their frequent fights than do their castrated brothers. Unless you want to use a male cat for breeding, there are few advantages and a lot of disadvantages to keeping a male cat as a pet.
Although a pet cat may have cost nothing to acquire, keeping a pet cat involves expenses for food and veterinary care. A castrated cat has fewer medical problems, eats less, lives longer on the average, does not add to the pet overpopulation problem and makes a more loving and rewarding pet.