Neutering refers specifically to de-sexing a male cat. The equivalent operation for a female cat is called spaying. Spaying or neutering your cat is something any good owner should do as a matter of course. Whether the cat is male or female there are health benefits to your pet, as well as fewer unwanted litters. It’s also an important step in controlling unwanted behaviours in your pet. Aggression is one of the most prominent, especially in male cats.
Will neutering a cat stop the aggression? In general, yes, although there are no guarantees as to how much your male cat’s personality will change. Much depends on the age the cat is neutered and on the individual cat’s circumstances.
If you’ve landed on this page, you have some questions about neutering your cat.
- How does neutering or spaying your pet change the animal’s personality?
- Are there any health concerns around neutering?
- What other behaviours can neutering affect?
- Is it cruel to neuter your cat?
- Are there any other ways to reduce aggression in cats?
Read on to find out the answers to these questions and more.
Will neutering a cat stop the aggression?
It’s generally safe to say that if you spay or neuter your cat, you’ll see a reduction in aggression and antisocial conduct. A neutered tom has less testosterone and a greatly diminished sex drive (although some males retain a degree of interest in sexual behaviour). A spayed female cat no longer goes into heat, which reduces her aggressive streak too. Many owners report that a previously intractable cat settles down and becomes calm and affectionate following “the snip”.
In the case of tomcats, much will depend on when they get neutered. A young tom just out of kittenhood won’t go through a full kitty puberty and will tend to have a gentler nature than a cat who is neutered when fully grown. Neutering will still tend to reduce aggression in mature cats, as well as other problem behaviours.
For female cats, de-sexing is also important in preventing aggression. During heat, female cats can become highly erratic; your pet may bite and scratch when she’s normally tractable and can become very difficult to manage. It’s very common for female cats in heat to fight to get out of the house in search of a mate. Under no circumstances should a queen cat be allowed out while she’s in heat. Not only is she very likely to come home pregnant, she is more at risk than ever from fights with other cats and the various other threats facing a cat outdoors.
Overall, neutering is a medically important operation that has the happy side effect of curbing aggression in the majority of cats.
Other benefits of neutering and spaying
Besides reducing a cat’s tendency to bite, scratch and get into fights, de-sexing your cat has other benefits in terms of problem behaviour. It tends to make cats less restless; they become more tractable and sociable after the operation. Cats should generally be kept indoors and this is easier with spayed or neutered cats.
Although all cats are territorial, de-sexed cats tend to be less territorial than entire cats. This means that they’re less likely to aggressively defend what they see as their territory. One common problem related to this territorial instinct is spraying. Cats (both sexes, but male cats in particular) tend to mark their territory with strong-smelling urine and this behaviour can become a major problem. After de-sexing, it’s very common for cats to stop spraying altogether.
Destructive scratching is another behaviour that’s associated with territorial instincts. All cats scratch: this is a biological necessity, something they need to do in order to stay fit and healthy. If your cat destroys furniture, curtains, fixtures and other objects, however, scratching can become a serious issue. In this case, you need to find ways of curtailing the behaviour; spaying and neutering can help here, too.
When should I have my cat spayed or neutered?
If you’ve acquired your cats from a shelter or a breeder, they should already have been de-sexed. If you adopted the cat through other channels, however, this may not have been done. While very young kittens shouldn’t be neutered or spayed, many vets offices are happy to de-sex cats from twelve weeks. Some prefer to neuter at fourteen weeks.
De-sexing should be done as possible. Do not delay the operation — arrange to have your pet de-sexed as soon as your vet will perform the procedure. Some cat owners mistakenly believe that de-sexing a kitten will impair the cat’s future growth or health. In reality, the opposite is true. Cats who are neutered at an early age enjoy the same growth and development as entire cats, while potential health issues are reduced.
There’s a six-month window at the beginning of a young cat’s life in which it is critical to have them neutered or spayed. In the case of male cats, the removal of the testes is a simple operation but really needs to be done in kittenhood if you want to avoid spraying, fighting and another unwanted behaviour.
In the case of females, it is even more important from a health perspective to spay early. Waiting until your cat’s first heat has come and gone leaves her at risk of early pregnancy. It also complicates the procedure somewhat. During spaying, the female cat’s ovaries and uterus are removed. If this is done after her first heat, the blood supply to the uterus increases and the operation is trickier for the vet. This means that you’ll end up paying more to spay a queen who’s experienced heat than you will to spay a young female kitten.
After six months of age, not only are the procedures more complex but recovery is harder on the cat. Adult cats take longer to come out from under the anaesthetic than kittens do. They can also take longer to recover from the operation, risking infections and complications.
Even if you’ve missed the six-month window, you should still have your cat de-sexed as soon as possible. Female cats, in particular, can suffer more the longer you wait. Every heat increases the risk of pregnancy, as well as the risk of certain cancers and other medical conditions.
I had my cats de-sexed — but they’re still aggressive.
There are many reasons why a spayed or neutered cat can continue to be aggressive. It’s often the case that an aggressive cat feels stressed or unsafe for some reason. You need to make sure that the cat feels secure and is not fighting over territory with other animals in the house. Make sure each cat has its own litter-box and bed. If fights are occurring over food, make sure that the cats have separate food and water dishes.
Sometimes the territorial threat comes from outside. If your cat can see strange cats or other animals close to the house, try covering the windows and set up deterrents to keep other cats away from the house. Even if they can’t get in, their presence can be threatening to your cats and cause them to behave aggressively.
If the cat is scratching or biting a particular person, supervise their interactions and find out if something is happening to trigger the aggression. Someone who ignores a cat’s body language and picks them up or tries to pet them when the cat would rather be left alone can come away with a scratch or two. Encourage children, especially, to be gentle with cats and give them space.
If the target of your cat’s aggression is another animal that isn’t a cat, consider keeping them apart as much as possible and re-introducing them under controlled circumstances. Dogs are often over-friendly or aggressive towards cats and this provokes a hostile response. Train your dog to ignore the cat; if this proves impossible, separate the animals unless you’re there to supervise them. (Aggression towards smaller pets, like rabbits or guinea-pigs, is part of your cat’s nature and unfortunately isn’t amenable to change. All you can do is keep them away from the cat.)
Cats can become aggressive when they have too much energy. It’s important to make time to play with your cat. Set aside at least two periods of 15 minutes per day to play lively, active games with your cats. Have them chase a teaser toy and make sure they get to burn off plenty of energy.
Even if your entire cat seems calm and non-aggressive, you still need to arrange for de-sexing. As a caring and responsible pet owner, you are duty-bound to have your cat de-sexed as soon as you can reasonably do so. This isn’t just for your own convenience; it’s important for the health and well-being of your pet. The only reason to delay spaying or neutering is if you plan to breed from your cat, something that should only be done if you’re fully prepared to look after a pregnant mother and her kittens or are offering a stud tom to reputable breeders.