Many pet owners opt to have their male cats neutered to prevent unwanted breeding and all of the problems that can bring about. However, in many cases, the decision to have a male cat neutered is also motivated by a desire to calm the cat down. Certainly, prior to being neutered, male cats’ behaviour is dominated by their hormones, which can make them a real handful to look after. In my experience, unfixed male cats are usually significantly less affectionate around humans too, although this is not a universal truth and exceptions to this do exist.
Will a male cat calm down after neutering? The simple answer is that, in the vast majority of cases, they do calm significantly. They are no longer ruled by their desire to find female mating partners, and other unwanted hormonal behaviours – such as territorial urine spraying and fighting with other male cats – also cease.
With that being said, it is important to understand that the potential benefits of neutering do not amount solely to mellowing out male cats and preventing unwanted breeding. Moreover, there are some rare instances where problematic behaviour may continue even after a neutering operation, which I will expand upon later.
Neutering to Calm Tomcats Down
Male domestic cats, or tomcats, are known to exhibit a number of potentially troublesome behaviours if they are not neutered, and this can be difficult for pet owners to manage. These behaviours include, but are not limited to:
- Territorial urine spraying;
- Persistent meowing to attract female cats;
- Restless or erratic behaviour;
- General aloofness or a lack of affection for owners;
- A desire to explore or roam far from home.
Another major issue with unfixed male cats is fighting. Indeed, two male cats fighting over a potential mate is the single most common reason for feline conflict. Fights over mating rights are also much more likely to be severe and lead to real damage. Generally, fights are won by the larger of the two cats, but this is unlikely to prevent a smaller cat from getting involved in the fight in the first place. Fights over mating rights can cause major difficulties for the owners of both cats – after all, nobody wants their pet to hurt another cat, or to be hurt by another cat.
If your male cat is currently displaying these kinds of behaviours, neutering is likely to be a good solution.
Indeed, research shows that neutering significantly reduces instances of these behaviours, serving as evidence that the behaviours themselves are linked to sex hormones like testosterone. For most pet owners, neutering will result in the decline or even total eradication of such behaviours, which can come as a huge relief.
It is, therefore, fair to say that male cats do calm down after being neutered. In my experience, a neutered cat has more time for its owner(s) and will display much more affection in the home, which can be a major advantage if you have children, or if you bought the cat for company. In fact, some owners find that their cat becomes a lot more clingy, following them around and wanting to spend a lot more time with them after the operation.
Moreover, neutered cats are less likely to fight with other cats and are more likely to exercise caution in other situations too. This might mean that they stay closer to home, shying away from longer treks and avoiding other risky behaviours that could potentially put them in danger. If your cat is prone to travelling far from home, getting into scrapes and coming back with scratches or other injuries, the peace of mind this can provide is invaluable.
How Long Before Male Cats Calm Down?
The next question you are likely to have surrounding tomcats calming down after neutering is how long it actually takes for a behaviour to change. It is difficult to provide an exact answer to this question, as it depends on the cat and a number of additional factors. For example, there are physical differences between a cat neutered at two months and a cat neutered at six months, because the latter has reached adolescence.
Traditionally, neutering was performed at around the six-month mark, yet this is past the point of sexual maturity. Most experts now agree that the ideal time to perform the operation is around the four-month mark.
Recovery from the operation is typically fairly straightforward and many cats do not experience anything worse than grogginess caused by the anaesthetic. Some owners notice behavioural changes almost immediately and the troublesome behaviours that do remain initially will fade over time.
It is important to stress that not all behavioural change is immediate. It can actually take around six to eight weeks for the remainder of your cat’s testosterone hormone to be used up. This means that it is not uncommon for some of the behaviours to continue for as much as two months after the surgery. Over the course of those two months, the behaviours may subside gradually or may stop suddenly.
After the two month mark, a small number of cats may continue to display some of the behaviours associated with unfixed cats. This is extremely rare and is not usually the result of hormones remaining in their bodies. Instead, this small percentage of neutered cats continue their behaviours because they have become learned habits. Even then, most of the behaviours will calm down, and those that remain will often subside over time.
Additional Benefits of Neutering
Aside from the significant benefits associated with calming tomcats down, neutering is also recommended for a variety of other reasons too and chief among these is population control. Put simply, a neutered male cat is unable to successfully breed with a female cat and will lose the desire to do so, preventing unwanted litters of kittens. While this benefit is most significant with outdoor cats, it is recommended even if your cat stays indoors.
There are a number of problems caused by overpopulation, including an increase in the total number of unwanted cats. This can result in issues where more cats end up homeless, or in cat shelters. Unless your cat is a pure breed, there is no real need for them to mate, as there are already too many cats and not enough homes for them. Some people are reluctant to neuter their cat, feeling it is unnatural or unnecessarily cruel. In reality, it can be argued that neutering your cat is actually good for society as a whole and good for other cats.
Another major argument in favour of neutering a male cat is the health benefits linked to the operation. Indeed, neutering a cat can significantly reduce its chances of getting a number of serious illnesses, diseases and conditions, with testicular cancer being one of the most notable examples of this.
Finally, there are some other less obvious benefits associated with neutering. Neutered cats tend to pay more attention to themselves, meaning they are more likely to groom and keep their fur in good condition. Meanwhile, the smell of their urine will not be nearly as strong, which can help to improve the overall smell of a household.
Operation and Post-Op Care Information
Prior to having your male cat neutered, it is beneficial to learn some basic information about the operation, as well as the preparation and the post-operative care that is necessary. The operation itself is fairly routine and is not categorised as risky. Your cat will receive anaesthesia and his testes will be removed via a small incision made in the scrotum. The wound will not usually require stitches, although they may be used in some instances.
The most common advice is to avoid feeding your cat on the night before the operation, although this may not be applicable if your cat is especially young, or if your cat has certain health issues. Follow the advice the vet gives you on this and ask if you are unsure. Otherwise, there are no other notable steps to take in preparation.
Cats can respond in different ways in the hours and days following the operation. For many, other than drowsiness caused by the anaesthetic, there will be no major hurdles to overcome and they will recover quickly. However, it is not uncommon for your cat to be out of sorts for a few days after the operation and during this time, they may not be receptive to much human contact and may even show minor displays of aggression.
It is important to provide your cat with food and water as normal, although they may show little interest in food during the first 24 hours or so. Otherwise, the only other major piece of after-care advice necessary is to keep a close eye on the wound. The wound will be swollen after the operation, but this should go down after around 48 hours. Speak to your vet if swelling does not subside, if it starts to smell, or if it display signs of infection.
Article by Barbara Read
Barbara Read is the heart and soul behind CatBeep.com. From her early love for cats to her current trio of feline companions, Barbara's experiences shape her site's tales and tips. While not a vet, her work with shelters offers a unique perspective on cat care and adoption.