My female kitten recently underwent her spay surgery. Beforehand I was very nervous and it helped me to remember that thousands of spay surgeries are done each year. It also helped to understand the surgery and what I could expect post-operation.
Spay surgeries are performed on female kittens and cats to remove both ovaries and the uterus. The medical term for spay is ovariohysterectomy. Spay surgeries are typically performed at 6 months of age, but can be performed later in life.
There are multiple benefits.
- Preventing unwanted pregnancy. Your cat cannot become pregnant after the spay surgery.
- Prevention of heat cycles (estrus). Heat cycles in female cats occur every 2-3 weeks during the typical breeding season, which is January-August. Symptoms of heat can include increased vocalization, restlessness, increased urination, rolling or rubbing on surfaces. Heat cycles can also attract male cats, even if your female cat is indoors.
- Eliminates the risk of ovarian and uterine cancer.
- If the spay is performed early in life, it reduces the risk of breast cancer.
Overview of a Feline Spay Surgery
Pre-surgical blood tests may be run on your cat to determine if she is healthy enough to undergo anesthesia and surgery.
The day/night before surgery, your vet will ask that you restrict all food and water. This helps prevent your cat from vomiting during the surgery. You should receive specific instructions about what time to restrict food and water.
Your cat will receive anesthesia, which will keep her unmoving, asleep, and pain free during surgery.
Your cat’s stomach will be shaved and cleaned. If iodine is used to sterilize the stomach, then your cat’s skin may appear orange in color. This is fine and she will clean it off.
The traditional spay procedure is done by making a small incision near the cat’s belly button, through which the two ovaries and the uterus are removed. The veterinarian closes the blood vessels and makes sure there is no bleeding before closing the incision with stitches.
Some veterinarians now do laparoscopic spay surgeries. This procedure involves 1-3 tiny incisions and the use of a camera to guide the surgery.
You should speak with your vet and ask if they will do the surgery traditionally or using the laparoscopic technique.
After the operation, your cat may stay overnight at the vet’s office, although often your cat will be allowed to come home the same day. She will have a few stitches in her stomach and will be groggy from the anesthesia. You should provide her with a quiet place to rest and recover, where other pets cannot access her. Provide food, water, and a litter box in the quiet area. Providing my kitten with a quiet and uninterrupted area was very important during the first 24 hours after her surgery – she definitely needed the time to rest and recover.
In 10-14 days your cat’s stitches will need to be removed by your veterinarian.
You will likely receive specific instructions from your veterinarian about how to care for your cat during her recovery. I suggest asking your vet any questions you have before and after the surgery.
Jennifer Kean is a writer and pet-lover who owns two rescue kittens (lifetime cat owner too!) and has a 40 gallon fish tank!