Neutering male cats shouldn't make the strong men cringe

Posted: Friday, March 03, 2006

Linda Daniel


It's time to bring up a topic that makes strong men cringe: Neutering male cats. "Everybody knows" about the side effects of neutering a male cat. Do you? And is the common "knowledge" true? Here's a quiz:

True or False?

1. Male cats who are neutered get fat and lazy.

2. All male cats spray, whether they have been neutered or not.

3. It's best not to have a cat neutered until he is full grown.

4. Neutering is hazardous to a cat's health.

5. Neutering spoils a cat's personality. He stops acting like a cat and turns into a dull blob.

The answers:

1. False. Neutering does not affect a cat's weight or energy. Healthy cats get fat and lazy for the same reason that healthy people do: Too much food and too little exercise.

2. False. Most cats who are neutered before they start to spray will never start. Spraying is a way of marking territory. The urge to mark is triggered by hormones that a neutered cat no longer will produce.

A cat who is neutered after he has started to spray may continue to do so for a short time as the hormones work their way out of his system. After that, he may or may not spray occasionally. It depends on the cat and how strong a spraying habit he developed before surgery.

I know one tomcat who was neutered after living on the streets - an environment in which spraying is what the guys do. He now lives in a flower shop where he has never assisted in misting the plants in any way.

A neutered males' urine loses the strong smell that makes a tomcat's spraying so offensive. This in itself is reason to neuter if you are the one who changes Tom's litter box.

3. False. A kitten is big enough to be neutered when he is eight weeks old and weighs two pounds. The younger he is, the easier it will be on him. Boy kittens are pouncing and chasing each other as if nothing has happened within 24 hours following surgery.

It's not only easier on the kitten; it's easier for the vet. Consequently, most veterinarians charge less for neutering younger, smaller cats. Ask your veterinarian what he or she thinks is the best time for your pet. To prevent spraying, make an appointment before young Tom is six months old. If he's older than that, call now! Female cats will start going into heat around the end of March, and that will trigger spraying in young toms who haven't started yet.

4. False, Neutering is safer for a cat than leaving the job undone. Tomcats bite and tear into one another in competing for the girls. Infections and abcesses are a common consequence, as are tattered ears and torn eyes. Young toms throw themselves mindlessly into pursuit of the object of their hormonal desire - and into the path of oncoming cars. All of this is hard on the cat and on his owners' wallet. Neutering also prevents several painful health problems that can be fatal. Neutered males live longer than their un-neutered brothers.

5. False. Neutering doesn't change a cat's personality. It does, however make him more inclined to stay close to home and more interested in people. Male hormones make a tomcat restless and urge him to go roaming in search of the ladies. After he's neutered, he is no longer inclined to roam. The hormones that kept him in a constant state of girl-craziness dissipate, and he turns his attention to the folks at home.

And if you wish your neutered male cat to retain a well-rounded appearance when viewed from the rear, there is an implant (actually, a pair of them) that can be inserted when the working parts come out. The implants are called Neuticles. Honest. Ask your vet.

• Linda Daniel has spent her life in the company of cats, most of whom simply showed up at her door. She's a believer in spaying and neutering to reduce the number of homeless cats.

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