Neutering Your Male Cat – Castration

What is castration?

The operation involves surgical removal of both testicles via two small incisions in your cat’s scrotal sacs. It is a straightforward operation performed under general anaesthesia. Your cat will be admitted as a ‘day patient’ and following a pre-operative check by your veterinary surgeon, he will be given a pre-medication and analgesic (pain killing) injection prior to his general anaesthetic. After surgery and following his recovery from the anaesthetic he will be ready to go home later the same day. You will be given full discharge instructions on how best to care for your cat after surgery. We usually don’t need to recheck your cat after castration unless you have any concerns. There aren’t any sutures to worry about and the wounds heal over very quickly as long as there is no interference with the area!

What are the advantages of castration?

Castration has a number of advantages especially if performed between 4-6 months of age.

Unwanted kittens– Most obviously castration prevents unwanted litters. There are thousands of unwanted kittens and cats that need homes due to irresponsible owners who do not neuter their cats.   

Behavioural problems– Unneutered male cats or ‘tom cats’ can also develop a number of unwanted characteristics. For example they may become territorial and start spraying urine to mark areas, often in the house.  By puberty their urine has often developed a very strong smell and is extremely difficult to remove.  If they are allowed to venture outside they will start to stray further from home and come into contact with other cats. This is likely to lead to cat fights which result in wounds which can become infected and abscessed. Unneutered males also tend to be prone to being involved in road traffic accidents especially at night as they are out and about marking their territory and looking for females.

Prevent spread of diseases– Mating and fighting can also spread diseases like FIV (Feline Immunodeficiency Virus) and FeLV (Feline Leukaemia Virus) which can be fatal.                                                                                                      

Medical-Normally cats have two testicles present in their scrotal sac by the time they are neutered but it is not uncommon to have retained testicles (cryptorchidism). This is a condition where by one or both of the testicles have failed to move into the scrotum and are still in your cat’s groin or abdomen. When the testicles are retained they are at a higher temperature than in the scrotum. This leads to infertility and an increased likelihood of the testicle becoming cancerous. Removal of the testicle(s) is therefore still recommended but the operation may be a bit more complicated as the abdomen may need to be entered.

Are there any disadvantages?

The operation carries a small risk associated with general anaesthesia. Your cat will be assessed prior to surgery to ensure he is fit and well for the procedure, and full instructions will be given when he goes home to minimise the chances of a problem occurring with the wound.

It is a common fallacy that a neutered cat will become fat and lazy. They may have a decreased activity level following neutering, which in turn causes weight gain IF your cat continues to be fed the same amount of food as before they were neutered. Neutered pets can require up to a 30% reduction in their feeding requirements. This is due to no longer utilising energy in to reproduction.This extra energy may then be stored as excess body fat instead.

After your cat is neutered, we recommend moving him onto a neutered cat food. Royal Canin have developed a competitively priced, veterinary exclusive pet food which is high in protein and low in fat to help combat against any weight gain. Your veterinary nurse will be able to advise you on the best feeding regime for your cat.

Royal Canin also have an S/O Index with their food which is an abbreviation for struvite and calcium oxalate crystals. The S/O Index indicates that the food helps provide a urinary environment unfavourable to the development of struvite and calcium oxalate crystals.

These are crystals which can form in your cat’s urine creating urinary problems. The crystals can eventually cause a ‘plug’ or blockage in your male cat’s urethra. It only takes a few crystals to block as the urethra is very narrow and only has a small opening. This is a potentially fatal condition and will result in death if your cat is not treated due to the urinary toxins building up in the system. This will cause kidney failure in a matter of days or their bladder will eventually burst.

Click on the video below to find out more about why you should neuter your cat.

Useful website:
www.royalcanin.co.uk

Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease (FLUTD)

FLUTD is the name used for a collection of common conditions affecting the cat’s bladder and/or urethra. The urethra is the narrow tube which carries urine from the bladder to the outside. Included in this description is cystitis (inflammation of the bladder).

The signs shown by cats with FLUTD are often similar regardless of the cause.

Clinical signs

  • Difficulty, pain or crying when passing urine
  • Passing urine more frequently
  • Passing only small amounts of urine
  • Passing urine in inappropriate places
  • Straining before, during and after urination
  • Passing bloody urine
  • Behavioural changes and/or aggression
  • Inability to pass urine
  • Increased grooming of the hind end, possibly due to pain in that area

Most commonly FLUTD is seen in middle aged and overweight cats although it can occur in cats of any age. Both male and female cats are prone, however neutered cats are more susceptible, with males having a greater risk of complete urinary tract blockage.

Causes of FLUTD

There are many causes including:

  • Urinary stones or crystals forming in the urine which then irritate the bladder lining
  • Urethral plugs that form in the male cat’s urethra causing a blockage
  • Muscle spasm in the wall of the urethra
  • Abnormalities in the structure of the urinary tract
  • Stress and behavioural issues
  • Cancer of the bladder or urethra
  • Disease affecting the nerves controlling the bladder
  • Bacterial or viral infections
  • Certain cheaper varieties of pet foods may increase the chance of developing FLUTD in susceptible cats

Diagnosis

We need to investigate all potential causes of FLUTD. This is important to ensure that the most appropriate treatment is provided. In 60-70% of cases seen it is not possible to find an underlying cause and this is called Feline Idiopathic Cystitis (FIC). Your veterinary surgeon will require a thorough history to establish which signs your cat is displaying and when they are occurring. A full examination is then performed, where your cat’s bladder and other organs are checked. Bloods are usually taken to check for diseases such as kidney disease and diabetes. A urine sample is then collected to examine its concentration, acidity and the presence of crystals, protein, red and white bloods cells and bacteria (infection). Once the veterinary surgeon has these results, treatment can usually be started but if the clinical signs reoccur or there is no improvement, further investigations will be required.

The next step usually involves X-rays or an ultrasound scan to assess the bladder, urethra and kidneys to try and locate the exact site of the problem.

Treatment of FLUTD

Depending on the underlying cause, treatment can vary considerably.

Feline Idiopathic Cystitis (FIC)
Once all other potential causes have been excluded a diagnosis of FIC is made. Cats make frequent attempts to urinate, often with blood in their urine due to bladder discomfort unfortunately with no medical cause. It can be a painful condition and once treated, measures should be undertaken to prevent a recurrence once the problem has resolved. Stress is an extremely important flare factor in FIC and can be anything from an environmental change to a new cat moving in to the street. See below for reducing stress and also Feline House Soiling. Veterinary recommended supplements are also available to help repair the lining of the irritated bladder wall and relax your cat.

Bacterial infection
This will be treated with a course of antibiotics. Usually repeat urine samples will be requested to check that the infection has cleared before stopping the antibiotics.

Urinary crystals or stones
If these are found to be present in your cat’s urine, a change in your cat’s diet will be required usually to a prescription diet which will be able to dissolve them. If bladder stones have formed from the crystals joining together, then surgery may be required to remove them as they may be too large to dissolve. The diet can be fed long term if required to help prevent the problem from recurring again.

Muppet presented to us with blood in his urine and a history of straining to urinate. After an investigation which included a urine sample, an X-Ray and an exploratory laparotomy, Muppet was found to have 11 substantial bladder stones. An incision was made into his bladder and the stones removed. He made a full recovery and is maintained on a prescription urinary diet to prevent the problem from recurring again.

Urethral obstruction
This is a life threatening medical emergency. A blockage of the urethra means the cat is unable to pass urine causing it to back up to the kidneys severely affecting their function. This very quickly leads to collapse and eventually death if left untreated. Once diagnosed, the blockage will be treated immediately usually under anaesthesia and your cat will remain in hospital for several days depending on the severity.

Reducing stress
Stress is a very important ‘flare factor’ which owners often overlook in treating a cat with FLUTD or FIC. Changes in diet, environment and weather, for example snow making your cat unwilling to urinate outside with no provision of a tray indoors, overcrowding, bullying, owner stress and new additions to the household are all triggers which can cause a flare up of FLUTD to a cat prone to the disease.
Stress associated with urination, for example cat owners who do not allow their cat to have a litter tray in the house, an unsuitable position for the litter tray (ie, in a noisy or busy part of the house) or even unsuitable litter in the tray are all factors that should be considered when caring for your cat. Also competition for the tray itself in a multi cat household should also be considered and more than one litter tray provided.

Pheromone treatment can often be helpful. Feliway is a synthetic copy of the facial pheromone used by cats to mark their territory as safe and secure. Feliway creates a state of familiarity and security in the cat’s local environment. This pheromone has been proved to provide comfort to adult cats in stressful times.

Zylkene is derived from a milk protein which has a similar post prandial calming effect that you would see in a kitten after it has received a milk feed from its mother.

Royal Canin manufacture a ‘Calm’ diet which can be used as a support for behavioural therapy. The diet contains active ingredients alpha-easozepine and l-tryptophan (a serotonin precursor that helps to support a relaxed mood) which are proved to be beneficial in anxiety disorders. Prebiotics are also included to help encourage friendly bacteria in the gut to reduce stress diarrhoea. Other supplements containing similar nutrients may also be recommended.

Your local branch of Cinque Ports Vets can offer advice on how best to reduce your cat’s stress so please feel free to ask for any information.

Other recommendations
Increasing your cat’s water consumption to help dilute the urine can help. This can be done by adding in some wet food to the diet and making sure your cat has free access to water. Water fountains can be useful for encouraging your cat to drink as they constantly move and recycle the water making it more appealing to your cat.

Some varieties of cheaper pet foods, may increase the chance of developing FLUTD in susceptible cats.

Ideally a high quality pet food should be fed which actively promotes urinary tract health by keeping the pH of the urine less acidic. We would recommend the Royal Canin Feline Vetcare range as this food has been developed to have an S/O Index which indicates that the food helps provide an environment unfavourable to the development of struvite and calcium oxalate crystals.

Controlled weight loss is also important as well as increasing exercise to help with long term control.
Most cats with FLUTD lead a relatively normal life as long as appropriate lifestyle changes and sometimes treatment are implemented. Depending on the individual case your cat may be prone to occasional recurrences.

Useful links:
www.icatcare.org/advice-centre/cat-health/feline-lower-urinary-tract-disease-flutd-signs-causes-and-investigation
www.icatcare.org/advice-centre/cat-health/feline-lower-urinary-tract-disease-flutd-treatment
www.icatcare.org/advice-centre/cat-health/feline-idiopathic-cystitis-fic
www.feliway.com
www.royalcanin.co.uk
www.royalcanin.co.uk/dietary management