Spaying and neutering vs sterilization: facts and myths

Spaying and neutering vs sterilization: facts and myths

Should every cat get neutered? And what’s the difference between spaying/neutering and sterilization? Should a female cat have kittens at least once in her lifetime to experience happy motherhood? Those are all excellent questions, fabCats! The topic of spaying and neutering cats has many facts and myths, and sometimes it’s hard to differentiate them from one another. We, however, are not ones to back out of a challenge and since February at myKotty is all about Cat Day, today we’ll be talking about the all-important topic of neutering. What, how, and when? Let’s find out.  

Sterilization or spaying/neutering? 

From a medical point of view, sterilization and spaying/neutering are two different medical procedures. While spaying is a procedure done for female cats and neutering for male cats, sterilization can be done for both sexes and it has a different outcome than spaying/neutering despite generally serving a similar purpose. 

Spaying/neutering involves removing reproductive organs of female/male cats – ovaries and the uterus for a female cat and testicles + associated structures for a male cat.  Because of the fact that all reproductive organs are removed here, spaying/neutering not only prevents breeding, but also many health issues (e.g. endometritis–pyometra-complex, tumors, and cancer). 

Sterilization does not remove reproductive organs. In the case of female cats, it involves tying (or cutting) their tubes, and for male cats, their sperm ducts. This leads to infertility but does not prevent the health conditions that were mentioned in the case of spaying/neutering. 

Although sterilization used to be a common procedure for cats, now vets and cat Carers mostly opt for spaying/neutering their pets. The term sterilization might be still used by some as a general name for the procedure, but we should be aware that it’s not medically accurate to say that sterilization and spaying/neutering has the same effect. 

Does a house cat have to be spayed/neutered? 

It’s one of the most common questions for both male and female cats. In our opinion, every cat Carer has the right to their own conclusions on the topic but we should never ignore the facts – spaying and neutering do not only prevent unwanted pregnancies of cats (both homeless and domestic), it also helps to prolong their lives and better their health. Among different health issues that could be the result of a cat not being spayed/neutered are endometritis–pyometra-complex, milk duct tumors, and ovarian and fallopian tube tumors. Spaying a female cat completely prevents or significantly lowers the risk of all of them. As for male cats, neutering is a preventative measure for testicle cancer as well as benign prostatic hyperplasia. 

Are there any risks of spaying/neutering then?  Of course, there are – it’s a surgical procedure and the animal should be properly prepared for it by their vet. However, let’s remember that spaying/neutering is a procedure that a vet does on a daily basis – if they’re very experienced and there are no medical contradictions to doing the procedure, the risk is low. Our point of view on this is that if a cat is not being used in a breeding program, spaying/neutering is worth being done – cats get back to being themselves very quickly and the benefits stay with them for the rest of their lives. 

Facts and myths about spaying and neutering cats 

It’s time to get to the nitty-gritty and all the facts and myths that are often told about spaying and neutering cats. Some of them stem from a bad interpretation of the information we already have or old beliefs that today’s vets don’t use anymore, but some of them are really worth explaining and straightening out once and for all – for the health and happiness of our feline friends 🙂 

MYTH 1: Spaying/neutering and sterilization are the same

If you jump a few paragraphs up, you’ll find all the answers you need but in short: spaying/neutering and sterilization both lead to infertility and the inability to breed. However, spaying and neutering is the recommended procedure right now as standard sterilization does not prevent health issues with reproductive organs. 

FACT 1: Spaying/neutering can prevent cancer

As far as reproductive organs go, yes – spaying and neutering involve removing those from the cat’s body and therefore prevent or largely minimize the risk of cancer and tumors. The reason is simple – no organ, no cancer 🙂  

MYTH 2: Cats get fat after being spayed/neutered

The issue here is, let’s say … meaty, as the problem of weight gain after spaying/neutering could be understood in a few different ways. It is true that cats can gain weight after the procedure but the fault for it isn’t in the procedure itself! Spaying/neutering cats directly impact the number of hormones in a cat’s body, therefore changing their metabolism or appetite but it’s on us, cat Carers, to adjust the cat’s diet appropriately to their needs. Spaying/neutering alone doesn’t make the meals high-calorie. If you have any doubts, it’s always wise to consult with a cat dietitian who will help you pick the optimal diet for your feline friend. 

FACT 2: Cat’s behavior changes after spaying/neutering

Of course, it changes! Contrary to popular belief, however, spaying or neutering your cat won’t make them lazier and interested only in naps and a full bowl. Behavioral changes after spaying/neutering the cat are most noticeable in regards to a cat’s reproductive instincts – loud vocalization when a female cat’s in heat, marking the territory by male cats (plus their urine will be less smelly which, from the cat Carer’s point of view, is a huge win). Male cats are also less likely to be aggressive towards other cats and to run away from home (since their instinct won’t lead them to visit every lady cat in the neighborhood). 

MYTH 3: A female cat craves motherhood and should give birth at least once in her lifetime 

Associating human traits to cats is an issue that happens not only around the topic of spaying/neutering but here it definitely as far from the actual truth as it possibly can. For cats, breeding is an instinct and not a “calling” or a deep emotional need. There are no medical or behavioral reasons for a female cat to give birth at least once in her lifetime. What’s more, a female cat doesn’t take any pleasure from intercourse or the birth itself – if she’s spayed, she doesn’t feel a loss from not having any offspring. She simply grabs her life with all her paws and leaves her maternity instincts far behind her. 

FACT 3: Spaying/neutering reduces the population of homeless cats 

Yes, yes, yes! Intact cats, both homeless and indoor/outdoor are the main reason for the neverending issue of cat overpopulation. If we’re not talking about the context of catteries, the cat population really doesn’t need more and more kittens. Do you know that cats can breed multiple times a year and in their entire lifetime, a female cat can give birth to as many as 100 kittens? For foster homes, shelters, and rescue organizations, those numbers are terrifying. 

And now, dear fabCats, it’s time to give voice to you. What myths about spaying/neutering do you come across most often while talking to other cat Carers? Did you find out anything new today? As always, let’s talk in the comments. 

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