Spaying a Cat: The Benefits and Cost

Originally Published Whether you're a seasoned cat owner or just jumping into pet ownership, you may not know whether to spay your cat or what it even means. Read on to find out the basics of this common procedure. What Is Spaying? Spaying a cat means surgically removing the reproductive organs (uterus and ovaries) from a queen cat -- an intact, unspayed female cat -- via an incision in the abdomen. The medical term for this procedure is a complete ovariohysterectomy. You may see it abbreviated as OVH when looking at your cat's medical records. The term "spaying" is applied to female animals only, but occasionally the term "neutering" is used to describe the sterilization of either a male or female cat. "Traditionally, the age to spay a cat has always been at six months, before the first heat cycle," says Dr. Brian Voynick, the owner and director of the American Animal Hospital in Randolph, New Jersey. A heat cycle is when an unspayed female cat is sexually receptive to male cats and can become pregnant. What Are the Benefits of Spaying? There are many benefits to spaying your cat. "Namely, it's the only way to prevent pregnancy and potentially unwanted kittens," says Dr. Taylor Truitt, a veterinarian at The Vet Set in New York, New York. Dr. Truitt and Dr. Voynick list further benefits of spaying your cat:
  1. Decreases Tumor Risk There's less risk for malignant mammary tumors (breast cancer) later in life if a cat is spayed before her first heat.
  2. Keeps Infections at Bay It decreases the chance for infections of the uterus and cancers of the reproductive organs.
  3. Eliminates Unwanted Behavior The procedure eliminates undesirable aspects of being in heat including loud howling, increased and intense affection, intense rubbing on objects and marking territory with urine.
  4. Removes Some Risk There's less desire for indoor cats to escape from the house, which is what they want to do to breed with male cats. There's less roaming of territories, meaning a reduced risk of being hit by cars or attacked by other animals.
  5. Improves Life Expectancy Spayed cats tend to live longer than their unspayed counterparts as birth can be a taxing process on the animal and, as discussed, they're at less risk for infections and cancers.
What Is the Cost of Spaying? Dr. Truitt shares that the cost of spaying a cat can vary widely due to the owner's personal circumstances and where the cat is spayed. "As a public outreach program to help stop the unwanted pet population, the ASPCA [American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals] will offer spays for as little as $5 if the owner is on public assistance. In the regular ASPCA hospital in New York, the cost is roughly $125," she says. In high-end "boutique" practices the cost can go up to $500 due to top-of-the-line equipment and testing. Cost can also depend on how much pre- and post-operative pain management is prescribed and what kind of monitoring of anesthetics, blood pressure, pulse oximetry (measurement of oxygen in blood) and heart-activity monitoring is done during surgery. Dr. Voynick says, "The cost varies greatly, and depends on if the cat has preoperative blood tests. This is a baseline level to see if the cat has normal electrolytes, liver and kidney function and tests negative for feline leukemia (FeLV) and feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV)." Dr. Voynick stresses the importance of these tests. "These blood tests will serve them well the rest of their lives," he says. He strongly advises that pets are prescreened before spay surgery so there are no surprises when it comes to the recovery process. Have more questions about spaying your cat? Check out Say Yes! Spay Your Pet.

Neutering a Cat: The Benefits and Costs

Originally Published on: You have a male cat who's a tomcat through and through. Neutering might seem like cruel and unusual punishment, but neutering a cat is actually a common and beneficial process. What Is Neutering? Neutering a cat, also known as castration, is a short surgical procedure performed by a licensed veterinarian in which a male cat is put under anesthesia and two small incisions are made over the scrotum and both testicles are removed. After neutering, the cat can't impregnate a female. Neutering refers to males, but the term is sometimes used to describe the sterilization of either a male or female animal. It's best to perform the procedure when the cat is young and healthy but before full sexual development. "The cat is given a physical exam to determine if he is healthy enough to go through surgery," says Dr. Brian Voynick, the owner and director of the American Animal Hospital in Randolph, New Jersey. "If he is too skinny or has a heart murmur, there is usually another problem making surgery too risky in some cases." Typically most cats are deemed fit. Some shelters and rescue groups will perform the procedure as early as eight weeks of age, but Dr. Voynick recommends that a cat be six months old. What Are the Benefits of Neutering? An owner would want to neuter their cat for a number of reasons. "The obvious reason is to prevent their male cat from being able to reproduce and get a female cat pregnant," says Dr. Eva Radke, a veterinarian and a co-founder of The Vet Set in New York. "Neutering a male cat will also prevent some unwanted male behaviors, and there are also a number of health benefits associated with neutering cats." Those benefits include:
  1. Keeps Cats Out of Shelters It reduces the number of cats ending up in shelters or being euthanized due to overcrowding in shelters.
  2. Suppresses Urine Smell Neutering will lessen the strong odor of a male cat's urine. Dr. Voynick says, "The odor of an intact cat's urine is so strong and obnoxious; that's reason enough to neuter."
  3. Removes Unwanted Behavior Typical male cat tendencies, such as urine spraying, roaming and fighting (territorial aggression), are greatly reduced and even avoided.
  4. Promotes a Better Connection Male cats will be more bonded to their human companions rather than seeking mates.
  5. Helps Prevent Cancer Neutering reduces the risk of testicular cancer.
  6. Eliminates Some Risks With less roaming and fighting, your cat's chances of obtaining a cat bite abscess and certain infectious diseases through bites, such as feline leukemia (FeLV) and feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV), are reduced, as are the chances of being hit by a car.
What Is The Cost of Neutering a Cat? Dr. Radke says the cost of neutering a cat typically ranges from $50 to $200 depending on where the procedure is performed. "Local shelters are able to perform neuters at a significant discount due to outside funding from the government and private donations. I've even seen the procedure done for as little as five dollars for those owners who can prove they are already receiving government assistance," she says. There are also a number of low-cost spay and neuter clinics that can offer this service at a lower fee. Many owners prefer to have an existing relationship with the person performing the procedure and will choose to have their cat neutered with their regular veterinarian. If you decide neutering is the best decision for your precious kitty, you will have options available to you.

The Pet Owner's Guide to Cat Pregnancy

Not sure what to expect now that your cat is going to be a mom? Here's everything you need to know about cat pregnancy, including how you should care for your furry friend and prepare for the birth.
Is your cat going to be a mom? Congratulations! Now it's time to prepare your cat (and yourself!) for the cute bundles of fur that are coming your way. Here's everything you need to know about cat pregnancy. What Does a Typical Cat Pregnancy Look Like? - Did you know that your pet could literally be a "queen?" This is the term used for an intact female cat who has not been spayed. "As a precaution, a queen should be fully vaccinated prior to becoming pregnant, since most vaccines shouldn't be administered during a pregnancy," says Dr. Taylor Truitt, a veterinarian and co-founder of The Vet Set, which serves the Manhattan area. "The immune status of the mother will be passed along to her kittens, giving them some immunity to disease." According to Dr. Truitt, the typical pregnancy of a queen lasts from 63 to 65 days. "If you believe your queen has been pregnant longer than 65 days, contact your veterinarian," she says. During the initial few weeks of a cat pregnancy, you may notice that your furry friend is a bit more quiet or fatigued. "Most cats act fairly normal, but some can act irritable or have signs of nausea, vomiting or change in appetite during the first few weeks of pregnancy," says Dr. Truitt. "Some queens can become more irritable of other pets in the house regardless of prior relationships, while some queens require more attention from their owners." When Should You Visit Your Vet? - If you're planning on breeding your cat, Dr. Truitt recommends that you have her examined by your vet beforehand. Your vet will assess your pet's health status, booster any vaccines she may need and talk to you about other medical concerns, such as internal parasites and fleas. It's also a good idea for you to have your cat examined around the fifth week of pregnancy to make sure that things are progressing well. According to Dr. Truitt, you should contact your vet immediately if your cat has any vulvar discharge, is excessively or continuously lethargic, has a decreased appetite or experiences excessive vomiting, diarrhea, urination or water consumption. She also notes that while it's not common, cats can deliver their litters prematurely due to a bacterial or viral infection, toxin exposure or other unknown causes. What Type of Diet Should Your Cat Have During Pregnancy? - Your cat isn't just eating for two! She is actually eating for up to eight kittens, so she's going to require at least one and a half times her regular amount of food. Dr. Truitt recommends that you provide your pregnant cat with kitten food, which has a higher calorie count than regular cat food, in an effort to help her meet her caloric needs. You should offer your furry friend many small meals throughout the day. Because of the pressure that her growing uterus puts on her stomach, large meals will be more challenging for her to consume. How Should You Prepare for the Birth? - Dr. Truitt recommends that you put together a nesting box for your cat. The box should be warm, dry and located in a quiet place away from normal household chaos. You should line the box with absorbent and disposable material that can be removed once the kittens are born. According to Dr. Truitt, your cat may display nesting behavior as the day of the birth draws closer. During this time, your cat may "start looking for a quiet and clean place to give birth," she explains. "But, a cat is a cat. If she wants to give birth in your laundry basket or a closet, she's going to do just that. As long as she's not showing any signs of distress, the best advice is to just let her be." At this point, it's important to keep your cat inside so that she can find her ideal birth place in the safety of your home. How Can You Prevent an Unwanted Cat Pregnancy? - "The best advice I can give is to get your cat spayed or neutered before four months of age to prevent unwanted pregnancies and complications potentially associated with it," says Dr. Truitt. Many cats are euthanized every year -- including kittens -- because there are just not enough homes for them. If you're excited for this batch of fur babies but want to prevent your cat from becoming pregnant again in the future, you can have her spayed as soon as she has weaned her kittens. Want to learn more about newborn kittens? Check out Kitten Care Stages: Newborn to 72 Weeks. Laura Richards is a Boston-based freelance writer and the mother of four boys, including a set of identical twins. She is also mom to three rescue pets: Scarlett, a 7-year-old beagle, and Edith and Ollie, 15-year-old identical twin black cats. She has written for numerous parenting publications and is the president of On Point Communications. * This article is for general informational purposes only. It is not intended nor implied to be providing medical advice and is not a substitute for such advice. The reader should always consult a health care provider concerning any medical condition or treatment plan. nor the author assumes any responsibility or liability with respect to use of any information contained herein.

FVRCP Vaccine

The FVRCP vaccine is a combination vaccine, meaning it contains vaccines for multiple diseases in one injection. These are Feline Viral Rhinotracheitis, Calicivirus and Panleukopenia (FVRCP). It is given in a series of 3-4 injections to kittens starting at 6-8 weeks of age, and then a booster is given 1 year after the final kitten shot. After that this combo shot is given every 3 years to most cats. FVRCP is considered a core vaccine, meaning that it should be given to all cats no matter what their lifestyle is. These viruses are all potentially airborne and can be transmitted via indirect contact, so even an indoor only cat can become exposed. The following should serve to better describe the diseases covered by this vaccine and explain why your NYC cat could be at risk. Rhinotracheitis - Rhinotracheitis is an upper respiratory disease of cats caused by herpesvirus-1. Most people and veterinarians commonly refer to this virus simply as feline herpes. Similar to other herpes viruses, once exposed a cat never gets rid of this virus and can either carry the virus without symptoms or “break” with symptoms during times of stress. Symptoms include sneezing, runny nose, ocular discharge and inflammation of the tissue around the eye. In fact, this virus is the most common cause of conjunctivitis in cats. Some cats can become lethargic and weak with loss of appetite. Cats with mild symptoms may recover from their symptoms without any specific treatment. Many cats with this disease will be treated with topical or oral anti-virals or antibiotics. Young or immunosuppressed cats can develop pneumonia, which can require hospitalization and even result in death. Feline herpes is spread via saliva or discharge from the eyes and nose. Cats become infected through direct contact with an infected cat or via indirect contact (i.e. contaminated objects such as food bowls, bedding and clothing). Cats from shelters, multicat households or those that board frequently are at greatest risk of exposure. Feline herpes can be transmitted to any domestic or wild cat, but cannot be transmitted to humans or dogs. Calicivirus - Calicivirus is another common respiratory disease in cats. Symptoms include sneezing, nasal discharge and congestion, ocular discharge and conjunctivitis. This virus can also cause oral ulcers, stomatitis, lameness, pneumonia and fever. Calicivirus is spread via direct or indirect contact with contaminated bodily fluids (saliva, nasal and ocular discharge). Sick cats are generally treated with supportive care and antibiotics for secondary infections. Severe cases can require hospitalization. Calicivirus is seen more commonly in cats from multicat facilities, shelters and catteries. Young kittens are at highest risk of infection. The virus can be transmitted to any domestic or wild cat, but humans and dogs are not at risk of infection. Panleukopenia - Panleukopenia is a virus that can cause severe gastrointestinal disease in cats, most often young unvaccinated kittens. It is commonly referred to as feline distemper, although the disease more closely resembles parvovirus in dogs and is actually caused by a similar virus. Symptoms of panleukopenia include fever, vomiting, loss of appetite, and diarrhea. The onset of this disease can be quick and even cause sudden death in young kittens or senior cats. Treatment consists of intense supportive care due to the potential severity of the disease. Panleukopenia is spread via direct or indirect contact with secretions from an infected animal. The virus itself is very resistant and can persist for up to one year in the environment. Cats from shelters, rural areas or those who go outside are at greatest risk of infection. Minks, ferrets, raccoons and wild cats can all carry the virus and can act as a potential wildlife reservoir for this disease. Panleukopenia cannot be transmitted to humans or dogs.

FeLV Vaccine

FeLV stands for feline leukemia virus. This vaccine is recommended for cats that go outside. Indoor only cats are not at risk of infection with this virus unless they live with a FeLV positive cat. The virus itself is a retrovirus that causes immune deficiency and blood disorders. Infected cats are prone to infections and certain types of cancer (namely lymphoma and leukemia). Some cats can be asymptomatic carriers of this virus (FeLV). Others can live with the virus for quite some time before becoming sick. However, once they do become sick it is difficult to treat them due to their already weakened immune systems. Common symptoms include fever, decreased appetite, lethargy, enlarged lymph nodes and weight loss. Treatment depends on the type and severity of illness. Cats become infected with FeLV through prolonged close contact with an infected cat or through a bite wound. Therefore outdoor cats or those that live with a FeLV positive cat are at greatest risk. The virus is not transmissible to humans or dogs. The veterinarians at The Vet Set can help you decide the right treatment for your cat.

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