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Benefits of cat neutering

Published: 
Monday, February 28, 2011
Your Pet & You

I can no longer count on all my fingers and toes the number of people who have approached me with the problem of stray cats roaming their homes,  wreaking havoc at night. Not only are these citizens bothered by the caterwauling of (female) queens in heat, but they also have to put up with the pungent scent left behind by (male) tomcats advertising their vitality and vigour to the queens, and the disappearance of wildlife in their gardens, such as birds and iguanas, as these make a ready meal for a hungry cat.

Stray animal over-population is one of the most well-known problems for anyone who works with, or has an affiliation for, animals. Why this should be, I have no idea: not when there is a simple solution at hand. The upcoming series of articles will discuss the benefits of neutering your pets, and today we will start with castrating male cats. I always recommend that as a responsible pet owner, you should ensure that your animal is neutered if you don’t intend to breed him or her. This option becomes an even greater necessity in cats since they usually cannot be confined to your home or garden only, and they often patrol the neighbourhood in search of mates or to claim territory.

Quite simply, castration involves removal of the testicles. The benefits of this surgery can be either medical or behavioural, and rely on reducing the levels of testosterone—the hormone produced by the testicles. A vasectomy can also be performed, which is when only the vas deferens is severed and the testicles remain intact. This removes the breeding ability of the cat, but does not affect testosterone production or distribution throughout the body. Vasectomies are therefore not very popular since the most of the unwanted characteristics and behaviours of male cats remain.

The most important medical advantage to neutering cats is actually related to behaviour. Unneutered male cats fight to defend territory and fight over females; such fights can be extremely serious. Many tomcats end up missing parts of their ears and tails, or have faces with multiple scars. Castration removes this urge to fight and therefore neutered cats lead much healthier and longer lives. Another important health benefit is that if the castration is done early enough, the threat of testicular cancer is completely eliminated in most cases. It will also help to reduce the risk of prostate disease, including prostate cancer. 

There are three main behavioural advantages of castrating a cat:

Decreased aggression: 
The (male) androgen hormones are responsible for the development of many behavioural patterns, and testosterone is the most important of these, affecting aggression in cats. As an adult, a neutered cat tends to be less aggressive toward other cats. Any aggression towards you as an owner (and towards people in general) is also reduced.

Decreased spraying:
Spraying urine is a normal sexual behaviour of male tomcats and serves a dual purpose of marking territory and of publicising the males’ presence to a receptive female.
Unfortunately, most un-neutered male cats also spray inside of our homes and this bitter scent is overpowering and hard to remove. It should be noted that some females (both un-neutered and neutered), and some castrated males still spray, but this is usually related to an anxiety problem which should be dealt with by an animal behaviourist.

Decreased roaming:

 A cat who is supplied with everything that he needs in his home to fulfil his life rarely has cause to leave home. If your male cat is un-neutered, one of his needs will be sexual and he can become frustrated if prevented from mating. Male cats can sense females in heat through pheromones, which are airborne chemical attractants that are liberated from the female, and which can travel great distances. A male cat neutered at an early age will generally not sense or respond to pheromones and will therefore not be tempted to wander in search of females.

Male cats should be castrated between four and six months of age. Most clinics in Trinidad and Tobago offer this service and I strongly encourage you to discuss this option with your veterinarian. The surgery is performed under general anaesthesia and is accompanied by little risk. You should ensure that your vet provides you with antibiotics and analgesia (pain killers) for your pet afterwards. By castrating your cat you can reduce a lot of physical, mental and emotional suffering; and also help to control the numbers of cats without caring homes.

This article is copyright to Best Pets Animal Behaviour Service.
For further info, contact Kristel-Marie Ramnath at 689-8113.

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