Spaying and neutering cats

Many cat owners ask ‘what is the difference between spaying and neutering?’ The answer is simple – they both mean sterilizing your cat to avoid them becoming parents.

What is the difference between ‘spay’ and ‘neuter’?

‘Spaying’ is the term most often used for female cats, and ‘neutering’ is the term most often used for male cats. Both involve sterilizing your cat so they can’t reproduce.

Each procedure is fairly simple, as well as very common. In fact, it’s one of the most common procedures carried out on cats anywhere, and it very rarely leads to any kind of complication.

But what is spaying specifically, and how is it different to neutering?

Female cats

What does ‘spayed’ mean?

When your female cat is spayed, her ovaries, and sometimes her uterus as well, will be surgically removed. The operation is fairly simple and very common. Your cat will be given an anaesthetic so they won’t feel any pain during surgery. This operation is normally carried out through an incision on the left side of her body, but it can also be performed underneath on her middle. Her ovaries, and possibly her uterus, will be carefully removed – the absence of these will not negatively impact on her overall health, so don’t worry. The incision will then be stitched, and it can be left to heal.

Your cat may need to see the vet again to have her stitches removed (after around ten days), or she may have stitches which dissolve in their own time.

Could any changes occur if your cat has been spayed?

If spayed at an early age, female cats are less likely to develop feline breast cancer, and there is a reduced risk of developing uterine infections. A spayed cat is also less likely to wander far from home or contract feline-specific diseases such as feline AIDS. Most obviously, she won’t become pregnant.

Remember, spaying cannot be undone, so if you wish to have your cat spayed make sure it is the right decision for both of you.

Male cats

What is cat neutering?

The process of neutering a male cat is simpler than that of spaying, as it doesn’t require any stitches. Your cat will receive an anaesthetic, then their testicles will be removed.

Your cat may be given a cone to stop them worrying at the site of surgery, but this isn’t often necessary.

Could any changes occur if your cat has been neutered?

Male cats who have been neutered are likely to be more affectionate and will feel a reduced need to mark their territory by spraying urine. They’ll be at a reduced risk of diseases such as feline leukaemia. And of course, they won’t be able to impregnate a female cat.


As with female cats, neutering cannot be undone, so ensure it is the right decision for you and your cat.

After spaying or neutering cats

After your cat has been sterilized, whether they have been spayed or neutered, they are likely to feel a little strange. The anaesthetic will leave them feeling sleepy, so let them rest somewhere quiet. They’ll appreciate somewhere warm and safe, with water and food nearby.

It’s normal for them to lose their appetite for a few hours, but if they are still acting strangely after twelve hours or you don’t think they’re eating enough, contact your vet for more advice.

Keep an eye on your cat during the days immediately following their surgery. Outdoor cats should be kept inside until they have fully recovered, and even indoor cats should be prevented from doing anything too strenuous. Always follow your vet’s aftercare advice in the first instance.


There is little difference between spaying and neutering, apart from the way each procedure is carried out. Both require anaesthetic and a short operation, and both result in your male or female cat being sterilized.

To spay or neuter your cat is a decision every cat owner has to think about. Ultimately, every owner should make the decision for themselves based on their own circumstances. For more information and advice on neutering, contact the Purina Pet Care Team or your vet.