In Belgium you no longer have a choice to make, because cat sterilisation is now compulsory.
Sterilisation, or neutering, involves removing the ovaries in females (spaying) and the testicles in males (castration). This surgical operation is usually carried out at the time of sexual maturity, i.e. around six months, but can be performed at any age.
- The main benefit is to limit the number of litters and avoid feline overpopulation, as this leads to some cats being abandoned and unfortunately put down ;
- It avoids unwanted mating, the noise and hectic behaviour of a cat in heat and some genital diseases such as metritis and pyometra (uterine infections), which require emergency surgery and are potentially life-threatening ;
- Spaying at a young age means there is no need for the contraceptive pill, which in cats can be extremely toxic and is responsible for almost 100% of very aggressive mammary tumours.
- Spayed cats no longer have sex hormones, so they tend to gain weight. For this reason, you must adapt their diet and give them the right quantity of food specially formulated for sterilised cats. You need to keep a close eye on their weight and consult a vet if necessary.
- Cats are territorial animals that permanently patrol their living environment to defend it and for activities such as mating. This often leads to conflicts, fights and inevitably injuries. Once neutered, male cats are no longer sexually active, so they don’t need to fight to mate females. They tend to defend their territory less aggressively. Both of these factors significantly reduce the risk of brawls and injury ;
- Some intact (unneutered) cats roam far and wide in search of a mate. They may get lost and not find their way back home and, more importantly, they may get hit by a car. Sterilisation makes them less adventurous ;
- A lack of sexual contact and fewer fights significantly reduce the risk of catching certain contagious diseases such as FIV (feline AIDS) ;
- For house cats, the main benefit is it reduces the smell of urine ;
- Castration can also help with the problem of spraying even if there are many other reasons cats do this.
- As with females, weight gain will need to be kept in check with the right diet ;
- Castration seems to reduce the diameter of the urinary tract, which can lead to additional complications if the cat develops cystitis due to urinary crystals.
- It is THE best way to avoid diseases of the female reproductive organs. No more oestrus (heat) with the accompanying blood-tinged discharge all over the house, male dogs whining at the gate, unwanted mating and puppies you don’t know what to do with. It also protects against metritis, pyometra and mammary tumours, which are very common in bitches. And don’t forget that an unspayed female dog will continue to go into heat her whole life ;
- When several unspayed dogs live together they often fight when in heat. Neutering reduces tension because all the bitches have the same hormone levels.
- The risk of weight gain is high and should not be ignored. Some breeds such as Labradors, Rottweilers and Dachshunds, for example, are genetically more susceptible and must be monitored regularly by the vet ;
- In rare cases, urinary incontinence can occur several years after sterilisation ;
- For some breeds of dog, such as the Cocker Spaniel, spaying seems to make their coat less silky.
- Other than preventing them from reproducing, there are very few advantages in neutering a male dog. However, in cases of prostate diseases or perianal gland disorders, castration is the preferred treatment ;
- Contrary to what many people think, castration does not solve issues of aggression in male dogs. At best, it can help reduce aggressive behaviour between them ;
- Some dogs have the bad habit of masturbating on (“humping”) any surface such as a person’s leg, another animal, a cuddly toy or a cushion, preferably in public. Castration can significantly reduce this antisocial behaviour.
- The main disadvantage is the need to control weight gain.
Dr Eric Witvrouw
DMV | Animal Behaviourist
Veterinary Center ÉducaVet’s