Your kitten is practically perfect in every way, so why should they need to go under the knife to “get fixed”?!
When you adopted your cat, you probably didn’t imagine that a few months later they would need surgery. But trust us, getting your kitten spayed or neutered is one of the best things you can do for your kitty, and for the domestic cat population as a whole.
Around 80 percent of cat parents in the United States choose to spay/neuter their cats, usually within the first six months of their cat’s life.
Having your kitten go through any medical procedure (especially surgery) can be stressful for a cat parent… not to mention put some serious stress on your wallet.
We’ll take you through the what, where and why of spaying or neutering your cat, so you can keep calm when you drop your sweet kitty off at the vet… and when you get that bill.
Here’s what we’ll be covering:
- What exactly is spaying and neutering?
- How much does it cost to spay or neuter your cat?
- How can you pay for spaying and neutering your cat?
- What are the benefits of spaying and neutering?
What is spaying and neutering?
Let’s get the basics out of the way.
Spaying and neutering refers to the surgical procedures that permanently sterilize your pet. These common operations will prevent your cat from getting pregnant or from impregnating other cats. You don’t want one ill-fated midnight rendezvous in your front yard to lead to an unexpected litter of kittens, now do you?
For female cats, spaying (also called ovariohysterectomy) involves the vet removing both ovaries and the uterus. For male cats, neutering (or castration) involves the removal of the testicles. That’s how you close the kitten factory down for business.
Now take a breath. We know this stuff is pretty intense.
Spaying and neutering are both routine and safe procedures, especially for younger cats. Lemonade’s favorite veterinarian, Dr. Stephanie Liff, spays and neuters dozens of cats a year at her New York veterinary practice.
“While we do this procedure regularly it is important to remember every surgery is serious to that family,” Dr. Liff says. “So while routine and ‘easy’ (it usually takes 10-30 minutes), we monitor closely and take extra precautions to keep everyone safe.”
Spaying or neutering can help reduce the risk of your cat developing destructive behaviors and potentially life-threatening medical conditions, such as: different types of cancer, bacterial infections, and viruses. More on that later.
How much does it cost to spay or neuter your cat?
The cost of having your cat spayed or neutered depends on your cat’s age, size, where you live, and on your individual vet, of course. According to Dr. Liff, the pricing for a routine spaying or neutering of a cat can range anywhere between $250 to $2,000.
“The gold standard includes IV catheter, IV fluids, pre-anesthesia blood work, licensed nurses monitoring your pet, pain medication and additional therapy for aftercare.”
Neutering requires just a small incision, while spaying is considered more major surgery, so it tends to come with a bigger price tag.
When it comes to sterilizing dogs and cats, neutering a cat will probably be at the lower end in terms of cost, while spaying a cat will likely be more expensive, and be on par price-wise with spaying a small dog. Sorry, ladies.
The cost of having your cat spayed or neutered might include, but is not limited to:
- Pre-op exam: Your vet will perform a routine check-up to make sure your kitten can go under anesthesia safely.
- Extras: If your cat has a pre-existing condition, they might require additional tests before surgery to make sure everything goes as smoothly as possible.
- Anesthesia: The amount of anesthesia is determined by the weight of your kitty. The bigger your cat, the more anesthesia it will take to put them fully under—and the more the surgery will end up costing. Spaying or neutering a 4-month old kitten weighing 5 pounds will cost less than sterilizing a full-grown, 10-pound cat.
- Catheter: In case your cat urinates during surgery, a catheter is inserted to make sure they don’t make a mess all over the operating table.
- Surgery: From beginning to end, spaying a cat takes 15-20 minutes, while neutering a cat can take as little as 2 minutes, with the average cat neutering taking between 5-20 minutes. Removing the uterus and ovaries or testicles is done using a scalpel or laser. Male cats don’t need stitches when neutered, but your lady cat might need to come in 10-14 days post-op to have sutures removed manually. If the veterinary surgeon used dissolving stitches, they will disappear on their own within a few weeks.
- Claw trim: It might sound odd, but it’s pretty common that cat parents request to have their cat’s claws trimmed while they’re under anesthesia. For anyone who has tried to trim their cat’s claws (and has the scars to prove it), we get it.
- Post-op recovery: Once your cat is out of surgery, a veterinary nurse might hang out with your kitty until they are fully awake. They will observe your cat to make sure everything looks normal and offer some support as they come out of anesthesia. It is not uncommon for cats to vomit post-op, so a nurse can come in and clean them up and keep them comfortable until they are back to normal(ish). Nurses rule.
- Pain medication, antibiotics, and sedatives: When you pick up your cat from the vet, you’ll be sent home with a goodie bag of medications to keep your kitten comfortable, calm, and infection-free post-op. If your cat turns their noses up at pills, give pill pockets a whirl.
- E-collar: Aka an Elizabethan collar, aka “the cone of shame”. Not only are they fashionably adorable, they also keep your cat from licking and agitating their incisions. If your cat does accidentally open up their stitches, be sure to take them to the vet right away.
How can you pay for spaying or neutering your cat?
Having your cat spayed or neutered can feel like an overwhelming expense, but the right pet insurance coverage could help take the bite out of hefty vet bills.
In addition to our base policy, which covers your cat for accidents and illnesses, Lemonade pet insurance also offers a Kitten Preventative care package, designed especially for young cats. This coverage can help pay for things like: spaying and neutering, microchipping, and their first rounds of vaccinations. Although they can’t express it in words, your kitten will be grateful for setting them up for a long and healthy life. Your wallet will thank you too.
What are the benefits of spaying or neutering your cat?
Sterilizing your cat is good for your individual cat’s general wellness and behavior, and it’s also a positive step for all of cat-kind!
The first and most obvious reason to get your cat spayed or neutered is to reduce pet overpopulation. According to the ASPCA, every year in the United States, around 3.2 million cats are surrendered to animal shelters, with an estimated 58 million others living on the streets.
An unspayed cat can have up to 180 kittens in her lifetime. An unneutered cat can father hundreds upon hundreds of kittens in his lifetime. It’s pretty easy to see how the cat population can multiply exponentially.
If you’re interested in reducing the number of homeless cats in your community, consider starting or joining a trap, neuter, release (TNR) program. Learn more about the impact of these programs from The Humane Society.
In addition to controlling the cat population, sterilizing your cat will also put the kibosh on some pretty annoying behaviors.
Male cats have increased risk of behavioral issues, including: urine spraying and fighting, which can put them at risk for diseases like feline leukemia or FIV if they get in a fight with an infected feral cat.
Female cats go into their first heat (also called estrus) at around 6 months old. When a cat is in heat, she will howl, wail, be restless, crave excessive amounts of attention, over groom, and try her hardest to get outside to find a mate. Her heat cycle (and the behaviors that go along with it) will last around six days. If you’ve never heard or seen a cat in heat, it’s not pretty (and will probably keep you up all night).
Spaying and neutering your cat will also help them live a longer and healthier life, with fewer health complications.
A study conducted on 460,000 cats by Banfield Pet Hospitals found that spayed female cats lived an average of 39% longer than their unaltered counterparts, with neutered males living 62% (!) longer than unneutered males.
In female cats, the main benefits are prevention of breast cancer and pyometra, which is infection of the uterus. Breast cancer in cats is about 90% malignant and can be fatal and aggressive. But thankfully, if spayed before the first heat cycle, they have an almost zero chance of developing breast cancer. Pyometra is a bacterial infection of the uterus that can only occur in cycling cats, and so spaying cats prevents this completely.
Neutered males are at basically zero risk for developing testicular cancer and are at lower risk for developing prostatitis and prostatic cysts.
Treatments for these illnesses and injuries are complicated, painful, and expensive.
We think Dr. Liff says it best:
“In general, the cost of a spay or neuter is far less than the cost of having to treat complications from not spaying and neutering, including pyometra or cancer.”
You heard it here first, folks. When it comes to keeping your cat healthy for years to come, prevention is the name of the game.
Before we go…
We get it, kittens are really frickin’ cute. Their big round bellies, their sleepy eyes, their soft baby fur. As much as you might want to fill your home with an endless supply of baby cats to snuggle with and love, being a full-time kitten wrangler is actually a lot of work.
Besides, there are literally millions of cats waiting for loving homes at shelters around the country. In fact, if you adopt a cat from a shelter, there’s a good chance they will arrive in your arms already sterilized. Kittens are cute, but doing your part to keep cats off the street is even cuter.
Your kitten might not sound too pleased as the moan and groan in their carrier on the way to their spaying or neutering appointment, but understand, deep down, the amount of gratitude your sweet kitten has to be in your loving care. And hey, if you’re hoping to save money on your vet bills, including spaying and neutering costs, go ahead and apply for Lemonade pet insurance.