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Female Cat Behavior After Spaying: What to Expect

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By Nicole Cosgrove

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If you’re new to owning cats, you might not be familiar with what people mean when they suggest spaying your female cat. Or you might be concerned about the effects of the procedure on your beloved feline. Either way, it’s always reassuring to know what to expect from the surgery.

Here are the answers to commonly asked questions to help new cat owners understand the spay surgery so they have a better idea of what to expect.

What Is Spaying?

Spaying is a surgical procedure that removes the ovaries and uterus to sterilize female cats and dogs. It’s done to help control pet overpopulation and reduce unwanted behavior. For cats, this behavior usually includes spraying, noisiness, and aggression.

cat sprayed
Image Credit: Simon Kadula, Shutterstock

Why Spay Your Cat?

Surgical sterilization might seem like an easy choice, especially if you’re not intending to breed your female cat. However, many people consider the procedure unfair on animals. It’s important to consider all the pros and cons before deciding to go through with the surgery.

Health

By removing your female cat’s uterus and ovaries, you reduce the risk of them developing ovarian or mammary cancers and uterus infections. You can also help avoid any injuries from fights with stray cats while your cat is out exploring. They’ll be more likely to stay at home or close by, rather than searching the streets for a mate.

Spaying and neutering is an important part of pet care, but it's not the only health expense your pet is likely to incur. A personalized pet insurance plan from a company like Lemonade can help you manage costs and care for your pet at the same time.

british shorthair cat lying on sofa
Image Credit: Pickless, Shutterstock

Behavior

Intact females are just as lovable as their spayed counterparts, but they have various personality traits and behaviors that many people don’t want to deal with.

For female cats, their hormone-driven behavior often comes down to their heat. Not only will they be vocal in their search for a mate, annoying you and your neighbors with their endless caterwauling, they’ll also be more likely to spray their scent everywhere. Unfortunately for cat owners, this does include inside your house if you have an indoor cat.

Surgically sterilizing your cat might seem drastic, but if you want to stop hormone-driven behavior, it’s the most reliable way.

Pregnancy

More than anything else, the biggest reason for spaying your cat is to prevent pregnancy. Not only will your cat have several heats a year, but they can also have multiple litters. If your cat wanders outside, there’s no telling what she might run into, and 2 months down the line, you’ll have to worry about caring and finding homes for a batch of new kittens.

Spaying enables your cat to continue their outdoor exploring without the risk of bringing home a litter that you may not be able to take care of.

a cat after neutering with elizabeth collar
Image Credit: Koiee, Shutterstock

What to Expect After Spaying Your Cat

Now you know the basic reasons for spaying your cat, we shall move on to what to expect after the surgery. Some of these behaviors and reactions only last while your cat is recovering, while others only appear later, when your cat is more settled.

Soreness

Spaying is an invasive procedure, and it’s only to be expected that your cat will be in pain while they recover. You may find that your cat is a little more defensive following the surgery too. Some felines respond to pain — and the stress of their latest trip to the veterinarian — with aggression.

This should only be a temporary reaction as they recover. As your cat heals, their old loving personality will return, and they’ll be cuddling with you in no time at all. You can help her feel safe by making sure her favorite napping spot is at ground level, warm and secure, with easy access to water, food, and a litter tray.

Your cat might want to be left alone while she recovers, so don’t push her to accept cuddles. Make sure she’s comfortable, but don’t expect her usual rambunctious behavior until she’s healed. Don’t be tempted to use human pain medication on your cat; your veterinarian should supply pain medication suitable for your pet.

a domestic long hair cat lying on rug at home
Image Credit: MabelAmber, Pixabay

Litter Tray Use

If you’ve ever had surgery, you’ll know that it can interrupt a few bodily functions. Your cat is no different. For the first 24 hours after the surgery, you should monitor your cat’s use of the litter tray. One of the most common issues caused by the surgery is urinary tract infections, and watching your cat’s toilet habits will help you catch the warning signs. She should pee within the first 24 hours without straining.

Constipation or diarrhea can also be an issue immediately following the surgery due to the anesthesia. Both should pass within a few days, but don’t be afraid to double-check with your veterinarian if you’re concerned.

british cat inside litter box
Image Credit: Natasha Zakharova, Shutterstock

Loss of Appetite

The stress of the vet visit, surgery, and the anesthesia can put your cat off her food for a while. This lack of hunger shouldn’t last for more than 12–24 hours. Some pain medications can also lower your cat’s appetite, but if she’s not eating at all after 24 hours, check back in with your veterinarian.

Behavior

The most obvious difference is your cat’s behavior. When you first get your cat home after the surgery, she’ll likely curl up and sleep for the rest of the day due to the lingering anesthesia. She may also be more careful as she moves around and less playful as she recovers due to pain from the incision site.

After the initial recovery, you may find it takes a while for your cat’s hormones to settle down as her body adjusts. You might not see a change in her hormone-driven behavior until this happens. When she’s fully recovered, she’ll no longer have heats or caterwaul at all hours in search of a mate.

Instead, she’ll be more settled and happier spending time curled up on the couch. This laziness can make spayed and neutered cats more prone to obesity. You can help prevent this by modifying their diet and the amount of food that they eat, depending on their activity levels.

The surgery won’t change everything about her personality, though. She’ll still be just as playful and huggable as she was when she was intact; she just won’t be driven by hormones anymore.

longhair cat golden blue chinchilla with green eyes
Image Credit: Scink, Shutterstock

What Are the Risks of the Surgery?

Although spaying is one of the most common surgical procedures done in veterinary clinics, it’s a good idea to be aware of the complications that can arise during your cat’s recovery. Monitor your cat closely after the surgery, and return to your veterinarian if you notice these symptoms:

  • Excessive diarrhea or vomiting
  • Lethargy
  • No urination within 12–24 hours
  • Rapid or shallow breathing
  • Refusal to eat after 12 hours
  • Straining to urinate
  • Swollen belly
  • White gums
Spay stitches
Image credit: Cattlaya Art, Shutterstock

Also, monitor the incision site for signs of infection:

  • Bruising
  • Discharge
  • Redness
  • Swelling
  • Torn stitches
  • Unpleasant odor

Final Thoughts

Spaying your female cat helps prevent unwanted pregnancies and hormone-driven behavior. For the new cat owner, the aftermath of the surgery can cause a few concerns. Lethargy, pain, loss of appetite, diarrhea, and constipation as your cat recovers are all expected. They’re lingering effects of the anesthesia and should pass within the first 24 hours.

Your cat can also show aggression while they’re in pain after being spayed. It’s a defensive measure and should also fade as they heal. The biggest behavior changes that you can expect are hormone-related.

Once spayed, your cat will no longer have the ability to go into heat and will lose interest in seeking a mate. Generally, sterilized cats are lazier and happier to spend time at home with you.


Featured Image Credit: Pixabay

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