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Neuter (Castration) in Cats

Castration is the medical term for neutering a male cat. Castration can be performed at any age, but is best performed on kittens and young cats. The surgery can be performed at an early age without any noticeable side effects. At Cat Hospital of Chicago, we normally recommend that the surgery be performed between 3-6 months of age.

Why is it important to neuter your cat? Pet overpopulation is a serious problem. A male cat can impregnate numerous female cats; and female cats can subsequently give birth to multiple litters in one season. In addition to pet overpopulation issues, there are also medical and behavioral reasons why your male cat should be neutered. Intact male cats run an increased risk of testicular tumors and infections. Additionally, intact male cats are more likely to mark their territory by spraying urine in places that include the inside of your house. Most of us find the strong odor of tomcat urine almost unbearable, and it is nearly impossible to eliminate it completely out of carpets and furniture. Male cats that are neutered are likely to roam less, and therefore have a reduced risk of being hit by a car, getting into cat fights that can transmit viral infections, and being a nuisance to the neighborhood. A neutered cat is likely to live a longer and healthier life, especially if he is kept indoors.

Castration Technique

  1. The cat is received by the hospital staff and is examined by the veterinarian. Pre-operative lab work, if not already done, is performed at this time.
  2. A pre-anesthetic tranquilizer/analgesic (pain) injection is administered and the cat is placed into a hospital cage with a "kitty condo."
  3. After the tranquilizer/pain injection takes effect, general anesthesia with gas anesthetic is induced. (Some veterinarians prefer using injectable anesthetics when performing cat neuters. Both gas and injectable anesthetics are acceptable. However, gas anesthetics, although more expensive, provide a deeper and more even plane of anesthesia vs. the injectable anesthetics commonly used in veterinary medicine. Additionally, the immediate post-operative recovery period is much shorter and much smoother for the cat with gas anesthesia versus the cat who has had injectable anesthesia).
  4. An endotracheal tube (or breathing tube) is placed into the cat's windpipe and gas anesthesia is administered.
  5. Anesthetic monitoring devices are attached to the cat in order to ensure his safety during the surgery. These include continual measurement/monitoring of EKG, heart rate, body temperature, oxygen saturation of red blood cells, efficacy of ventilation, and blood pressure. Monitoring these parameters is all done non-invasively, and is a major factor in helping the doctors to assess cardiac and respiratory function under anesthesia. Obviously, we are also very aware of the patient's breathing, gum color, heart sounds, depth of anesthesia, etc., independent of all the equipment to which the cat is attached. Additionally, because low body temperature can adversely affect these parameters, and thus the overall safety of anesthesia, we also make use of a pediatric Baer Hugger warming blanket (just as is used in human hospitals for children) for all anesthetized patients. We also apply infant "booties" to our patient's paws in order to further aid in heat retention. We have found that the majority of our patients remain normothermic (normal body temperature) with these preventive measures being taken.
  6. The hair is gently "plucked" from the scrotum.
  7. The cat is moved from the "surgical prep" area to the surgical suite.
  8. The scrotal sacs are scrubbed several times with an antiseptic solution.
  9. Sterile surgical instruments are placed on the instrument tray in the surgery suite.
  10. The veterinarian then performs the surgery while a technician maintains the anesthesia and monitors the patient throughout the procedure.
  11. Using our surgical laser, an incision is made in each scrotal sac, so that the testicles are exposed. Once the testicles are exposed, their blood vessels are ligated (tied off); again using the surgical laser, the testicular tissue is severed from its vascular supply and removed. The scrotal sacs are cleaned (to remove laser "debris"). No sutures are applied, meaning no suture removal is necessary.
  12. The cat's anesthetic monitoring equipment is removed and he is awakened. He is monitored carefully as he recovers from the anesthesia.
  13. Cats are able to eat, and are offered food, within 15-30 minutes after being taken off the surgery table.

Cats castrated (neutered) at Cat Hospital of Chicago are discharged the same day of surgery.

It should also be noted that occasionally we see a cryptorchid male cat. "Cryptorchid" means that either one or both of the cat's testicles have not descended into the scrotal sac. In this case, the castration/neuter is a bit more complicated. Because the non-descended testicle is at increased risk for cancer, it is important that it be removed, as well as any normally descended testicle. The non-descended testicle may be located just under the skin in the groin area (necessitating only a small groin incision); alternatively, it may still be located in the abdomen, necessitating opening the abdomen in order to effectively remove the testicle. Obviously, the latter is a much more invasive and more major surgery. Fortunately, this is not a very common occurrence. Cats that have had cryptorchid surgery are discharged the same day of surgery also.

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