male animals that are kept for
companionship, work, or food
production (horses, dogs, cats,
bulls, boars) are neutered (castrated)
unless they are intended to
be used as breeding stock. This
is a common practice to prevent
unacceptable sexual behavior,
reduce aggressiveness, and prevent
accidental or indiscriminate
breeding. The intact male (tomcat)
is likely to roam, fight with
other males, and spray and is
of course, strongly attracted
to seek out and mate with intact
females. Tomcat urine is particularly
odorous. Overall the intact
male cat can make a most unpleasant
does castration affect behavior?
only behaviors affected by castration
are those under the influence
of male hormones (sexually dimorphic
behaviors). A cat's temperament,
training, and personality are
the result of genetics and upbringing,
and are generally unaffected
by the presence or absence of
male hormones. Castration is
unlikely to calm an overactive
cat or decrease aggression toward
people. Since the male brain
is masculinized by the time
of birth, castration will reduce
some, but not all of the sexually
dimorphic male behaviors. If
performed prior to sexual maturity
castration will help to prevent
the development of secondary
sexual characteristics such
as penile barbs, large jowls
and glands at the dorsal part
of the cat's tail.
operation of neutering or castration
of male cats is called an orchidectomy.
The procedure involves general
anesthesia, and an incision
is made over each side of the
scrotal sac so that each testicle
can be excised. External sutures
are not generally required.
In males both testicles descend
prior to birth from inside the
abdominal cavity through the
inguinal canal into the scrotal
sac. In some cats one or both
testicles do not descend fully
into the sac and may either
remain in the abdomen or anywhere
along the inguinal canal path
to the scrotal sac. These cats
are called cryptorchid and a
more extensive surgery will
be required to locate the testicles
and remove them. If these testicles
are not removed they will continue
to produce hormones and the
behavior problems associated
with intact male cats. Vasectomies
are not performed in cats. It
is both sterilization and removal
of the male hormones that provide
the behavioral benefits.
are the benefits of neutering?
of cats are destroyed across
North America each year because
there are far more cats born
than homes available. A single
male cat can father many litters
so that neutering of intact
males is essential for population
control. Although sexual desire
will be greatly reduced by castration,
some experienced males may continue
to show sexual interest in females.
most common behavior problem
in cats of all ages is indoor
elimination at locations other
than the litter box. A large
number of these cases are cats
that spray or mark walls and
other vertical household objects.
Adult male cats have an extremely
strong urge to mark territory,
both indoors and out. Neutering
reduces or eliminates spraying
in approximately 85% of male
whether neutered or intact,
can get into fights but most
inter-cat aggression is seen
between intact males. This is
a direct result of competition
between male cats, and because
intact male cats roam and protect
a much larger territory. If
these fights lead to punctures
that penetrate the skin abscesses
are a common sequel. Neutering
reduces fighting and abscess
development in male cats.
and Sexual Attraction
males have much larger territories
and wander over greater distances
than females and neutered males.
The urge to roam may be particularly
strong during mating season.
Castration reduces roaming in
approximately 90% of cases.
Neutering greatly reduces sexual
interest, but some experienced
males may continue to be attracted
to, and mate with females.
urine odor is particularly strong
and pungent. Castration leads
to a change to a more normal
urine odor. Many owners claim
that their intact males become
much cleaner, less odorous,
and better self-groomers after
neutering. Abscess formation
as a result of fighting is far
less frequent and some of the
secondary sexual characteristics
such as the over-productive
tail glands in the condition
known as "stud tail"
can be dramatically improved.
neutering lead to any adverse
effects on health or behavior?
are many misconceptions about
the effects of neutering on
health and behavior. Neutered
males are no more likely to
become fat or lazy provided
they receive a proper diet and
adequate exercise. With less
roaming, fighting, mating, calorie
intake may have to be reduced
and alternative forms of play
and activity provided. Behaviors
that have developed independent
of hormonal influences such
as hunting are not affected.
Regardless of age at which it
is performed, neutering does
not have any effect on physical
development, (overall height
and weight, urethral size).
Although neutering prior to
puberty appears to have similar
effects to neutering post-puberty,
every attempt should be made
to neuter prior to puberty before
the cat develops new problems,
experiences and habits.
information sheet is based on
material written by Debra Horwitz,
DVM, DACVB and
Gary Landsberg, DVM, DACVB.
© Copyright 2002 Lifelearn
Inc. Used with permission under
license. March 11, 2004.