A fully mature, unneutered male cat will spend a good deal of his time trying to pass on his genes. To do this well, he needs to defend a sizeable territory, compete with rivals and court females. Since all of these require large amounts of energy, tomcats often look thin and ragged, with numerous scars and abscesses from countless fights. Straying, too, can become a real problem with both male and female cats as they seek a mate.

As well as the risk of unwanted kittens, there is also the real risk of cats, particularly feral cats, passing on diseases against which there is no vaccination and for which there is no cure, such as the feline immunodeficiency virus the feline equivalent to humans AIDS although there is no danger of humans contracting this. *Editors note – my rather wild Tomcat contracted this and eventually died from it after a fight with a wild cat. The wild cat was so big it looked like it had swallowed a Koala. Whole.*

Spaying
Before spaying: the female reproductive tract comprises the ovaries, fallopian tubes and uterus womb.
After spaying: the ovaries, fallopian tubes and uterus have been removed.

Castration
Before castration: the male reproductive tract comprises two testicles testes within a skin sac scrotum, connected to the penis via the vas deferens spermatic cord.

When to neuter
Neutering known as spaying in females and castration in males should be carried out when the cat reaches sexual maturity at around six months the equivalent of adolescence in humans, and at any time afterwards. Individual vets have their own policy on spaying in-season females. This is due to the reproductive organs being enlarged with an increased supply of blood, so there can be greater risks involved in the surgery. The neutering of pedigree or show cats is often delayed to allow their full physical development.

What is involved?
Because the operation is more involved with female cats, the spaying procedure is more expensive than castration for males. Some animal charities have low-cost neutering schemes to help those owners on low income or receiving state benefits. Ask about this at your local animal veterinary clinic, or contact animal charities in your area.

Spaying females
The vet removes the ovaries, fallopian tubes and uterus under a general anaesthetic. They shave and clean the operation site to help prevent infection, then make a small incision on the mid-line from the navel towards the hind legs, or in the flank, in order to remove the relevant organs. They close the wound with two or three stitches, which they will remove about a week later unless they are using soluble suture material which gradually dissolves on its own.

Castrating males
The vet anaesthetizes the cat and removes his testes and part of the spermatic cord through an incision in the scrotum; this incision is so small that it does not even require stitches.

Neuter behaviour
If neutered as kittens, the behaviour of male and female will be almost the same as it was before – at least from a practical point of view of an owner. Minor change you might encounter are:
-their territories are much smaller than those of unneutered cats
-territorial fights may still occur but will be much less of a problem
-both sexes tend to be more affectionate and amenable
-they tend to spend more time at home although neuters may spray urine if they are emotionally disturbed by something, their spray smells nothing like the strong urine of a male cat, which is also sticky and difficult to clean from household furnishings

Pre- and post-operative care
The cat must go without food and water for 12 hours before the operation, but most cats are up and about, eating, drinking and playing, within a few hours of their operation. Females who have had a mid-line incision may take slightly longer to recover – around 48 hours. When you bring the cat home from the vet’s, he or she will probably still be drowsy from the anaesthetic, so put them in a warm, quiet place to rest undisturbed – with water, a litter tray and a light meal of cooked white fish or chicken – until they feel ready to join in the family activities. There is some truth in the observation that neutered cats become more inactive than unneutered ones as they age, although their life expectancy is greater. You may have to adjust a neutered cat’s diet, as well as play with him every day and encourage him to exercise.