Wednesday, October 28, 2009

"Fixing" Your Girl Kitty

We have had a minor flurry of young female cat surgeries of late. You see, it's "that time of year" - when last spring's crop of girl kittens has become old enough to neuter ("spay" is the slang term). We recommend spaying females at 6 months of age, after the kitten vaccinations have been finished, but before most females come into estrus ("heat"). By the age of 6 months, we no longer consider it to be pediatric anesthesia, so it is much safer than in a younger cat.

Back in the old days, the thinking was that going through a heat cycle or even getting pregnant and having a litter made a cat a much better pet. We now know that is simply not true. And we DO know that the more times a female cat goes through heat, the greater the chance of her developing mammary cancer down the road. So we like to beat Mother Nature to the punch, and the target date of 6 months works best when we consider all the factors involved.

Prior to making an appointment for your cat's spay, we will need to have seen her at least once for a physical exam, and also to ensure that vaccinations are complete per our hospital's protocol. We cannot schedule this surgery if we have never seen your cat - the exam is a mandatory prerequisite. Please do not ask our reception staff to waive this rule - we do this to ensure your cat gets the safest surgery experience we can deliver.

Once you have our official go-ahead on the surgery, you can make your appointment. We only do spays on weekdays. You will be instructed to withhold food (not water) at a certain time, and then be told what time to drop her off the morning of surgery (usually 8:30-9:30 AM but this can vary). Surgery will be performed that morning, and kitty will need to stay one night in the hospital for the equivalent of enforced bed rest in humans. Again, this is a safety policy and not subject to negotiation. No one is here at night, but your cat doesn't spend that night post-op because she is in critical condition - she stays so that she will be confined to a small space and forced through sheer boredom to get a good night's sleep. We never leave a patient unattended if we are not satisfied that it is completely stable and recovering normally.

The procedure itself is considered major abdominal surgery, though it is one of the less technically demanding surgeries we do. Ovaries and uterus are completely removed - this is not simply a tubal ligation. The sutures that we place in the abdominal wall and skin are absorbable, so no post-op recheck for suture removal is needed. You may, however, see a lump or knot about an inch wide at the surgery site - this is perfectly normal but varies in magnitude from cat to cat - it's just the body recognizing the wound, starting healing, and starting to absorb the suture material. Please note that drainage or worsening redness at the surgery site are NOT normal and always necessitate a recheck, as does failure to return to normal activity levels after a couple of days.

Most kitties have only a day or so of slightly subdued behavior post-op, and then get right back to bouncing off the walls. So we discourage throwing frisbees for them for at least a week. And yes, the fur WILL grow back!