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Monday, August 3, 2009

sterilise at 6 months old

I have written before about sterilising your pet cats. To read answers to commonly asked questions about cat sterilisation, read our FAQs on sterilisation.

Cats should be sterilised while they are kittens at about 6 months old. This is the time they sexually mature. Some breeds such as Siamese cats take up to 18 months old. Some pedigree owners also choose to delay sterilisation of their cats because they want their cats to reach full physical maturity for showing. These cats are however usually caged up hence their antisocial behaviour is kept to a small space.

But otherwise, please sterilise your cats at 6 months old. For the cat's well-being as well as your own.

For female cats, after sterilisation, they recover in about 24 - 48 hours after the sedative wears off. They are given antibiotics at the vet's so there is no need to clean their stitches. All that is needed is to prevent your cat from licking her wound, and from jumping about too much, for about 10 days. The stitches used are dissolving sutures, which means that there is no need to remove the stitches when the incision has healed. You should receive a certificate for her sterilisation, also known as spaying, and you can also opt to tip her ear or get a tattoo on it. Do not bathe your cat until the stitches are healed, and if you need to treat her with flea-treatment such as Frontline, wait till about 3 weeks after the surgery.

For male cats, stitches may not even be required as the incision is very small. The male cat should return to normal within the day he comes home from the surgery.

Both procedures are outpatient, and your cat does not need to stay overnight at the clinic.

In terms of behavioural changes, your female cat should be the same as before. She will not call out during estrus i.e. when 'in heat' as she will no longer have the biological urge to mate and reproduce. This mating call is loud, continuous and often goes on throughout the night while she is awake. It is definitely audible by neighbours. It will take place every 3 weeks for an unsterilised female, until she is pregnant. But this mating call will cease after sterilisation. Apart from peace and quiet, male cats will not be found loitering about your house and spraying thick, smelly urine because of the attraction calls made by a queen on heat.

For male cats, they will no longer spray sticky urine around their territory, i.e. your house, and they will also be unlikely to want to run away by jumping through open windows of your flat or whenever the opportunity strikes when you open the door.

Likewise, you will know when is the right time to sterilise your cat whenever they display their 'in-heat' behaviour as listed above. For more FAQs on sterilisation, please go to SPCA's sterilise page.

The procedure for sterilisation costs about $80 for a male cat, and $100-$120 for a female cat, more if she is on heat as the uterus and other reproductive organs will be swollen and the cat is likely to bleed more. She also may already be pregnant if she was brought in for sterilisation too late, and additional costs incur for abortion.

There are schemes for neutering stray cats, which can go as low as $50 per male cat. Our immediate Ubi neighbourhood's strays have their sterilisation funded by kind cat patrons such as Auntie Can.

You can start a neighbourhood sterilisation programme for your own estate. There are a few ways to go about it. The first way is via Cat Welfare Society. In this case, because their volunteers need time to respond, you need to trap the cats early, and allow for a lag time for response after contacting them. You can also make an appointment for sterilising the cats at SPCA itself, on selected days. After arranging for an appointment, you can transport the trapped cats to the SPCA clinic.

If you would like to manage the sterilisation procedure just among your community, you will need to find a way to fund the process, and you can then contact a full-service provider - someone who helps to trap, transport the cats to the clinic, collect and return the cats to your neighbourhood. This process is more time-efficient, the only obstacle is that the costs need to be borne by your own community. As such, it would be good to band together amongst the cat-lovers in your neighbourhood to carry out such programmes in your own neighbourhood.

Neighbourhood sterilisation is important because of a few reasons. Firstly, sterilised cats when returned to their territories actually reduce the cat population. These sterilised cats fight away unsterilised cats that roam into their territory. They will also be unable to reproduce. Hence the stray cat population is reduced. Secondly, the noise that comes from cats, the kind that concerned neighbours are likely to complain about, comes from cats that are on heat. The female cat calls out, the males also meow loudly when they have to fight another male to mate with their selected female cat. This happens in the middle of the night. Thirdly, the male cats no longer have the urge to urinate on shop-fronts, outside neighbours' doors, and other public territories. As male tom cats' urine is extremely smelly and hard to wash off, this problem when solved restores the goodwill of your neighbouring shop owners. As unsterilised animals cause all these problems, complaints from neighbours and shop owners may result in the authorities resorting to pest-control measures, that is, to trap the cats to kill. Please do not let such matters escalate to such a stage as it is unnecessary for lives to be lost.

It is all not just about the cats' welfare; it is about your own - your family, your neighbours. Because of this, it is not unwise to plan sterilisation for your own cats, and for your neighbourhood's if you can. It is a one-time cost which is well worth it.

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