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Neutering a Cat: The Benefits and Costs

Not sure if you should get your cat neutered? And what is neutering a cat anyway? Here's what you -- and your wallet -- can expect.

Neutering a Cat: The Benefits and Costs

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. Either way, you may want to arrange for kitten care for post-surgery pets.

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.

Have a female cat? Check out Spaying a Cat: The Benefits and Cost.

Laura Richards is a Boston-based freelance writer and the mother of four boys including a set of identical twins and 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. Neither nor the author assumes any responsibility or liability with respect to use of any information contained herein.