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VET SPEAK: Highland vet on why neutering your cat is the best thing to do in the long-term

By Alasdair Fraser

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Alison Laurie.
Alison Laurie.

Lil was a rescued one-year-old, long-haired tabby cat who had already had a couple of litters.

As a result, she was tiny and needed a lot of support to get her back into reasonable health again.

Before her rehoming she had been neutered, vaccinated, de-fleaed and wormed and was gaining weight.

Sadly, there are still thousands of unwanted cats and kittens in the UK, with rescue centres full of cases like Lil.

It only takes one male cat in an area to create a lot of unwanted pregnancies.

A female cat can become sexually mature and fall pregnant as early as six months old.

The gestation period is just nine weeks and a female can fall pregnant again while feeding a current litter.

She can, therefore, have up to three litters per year, with up to six kittens per litter – 18 kittens a year!

It is advised that a female cat is neutered ideally before sexual maturity, to reduce the risk of unwanted, repeated pregnancies, which can put her general health at risk and produce weak, unwell kittens.

Gray fluffy cat licking herself and cleaning her skin
Gray fluffy cat licking herself and cleaning her skin

The benefits of spaying include a marked reduction in the risk of mammary cancer later in life; complete prevention of the risks of infection of the womb and prevention of ovarian cancer.

In the male cat there is a prevention of the risk of testicular cancer, and in all cats there is a reduction in territorial fighting, the bites from which can become infected, and a reduction in the spread of viral infections.

With neutering, there is also a reduction in the risk of cats wandering, which in turn reduces the risk of them being involved in road traffic accidents or receiving other injury, or of fatigue and malnutrition.

Also, kittens born because of interbreeding can often have serious congenital birth defects, and pregnancy and giving birth itself is not always straightforward and can carry health risks.

Cats can also be a nuisance and cause a fair degree of excessive noise during the whole mating procedure.

Males can wander some distance from home and will continually mark their territory with a very pungent spray.

If a female does not mate and become pregnant within her season cycle, she will become extremely vocal and call continually for a mate, and this will be repeated every three weeks until the mating season is over.

These mating seasons are in the spring and autumn, with the female calling behaviour in turn leading to further male territorial spraying and fighting.

Although neutering may initially seem costly, the costs of dealing with complications are much more so, not to mention the cost of healthcare and the feeding for an entire litter.

Spaying and castration are standard procedures and generally your cat will come home the same day. There are some excellent local charities that can sometimes assist with the costs. Also, with in-house vet practice “health clubs” there are generally some discounts too.

Any advice on neutering procedures and costs can been given by your vet practice. The benefits far outweigh any drawback.

Please do be a responsible pet owner and do not add to the ever-growing number of unwanted cats and kittens.

Alison Laurie-Chalmers is a senior consultant at Crown Vets in Inverness.

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