As a responsible owner, ensuring that your cat is spayed is crucial. Spaying, or an ovariohysterectomy, involves removing the ovaries and uterus to prevent a female cat from reproducing. Aside from preventing unplanned litters, spaying also reduces the risk of ovarian, uterine, and breast cancers. Additionally, it curbs unsociable behaviors associated with the heat cycle. But how can you tell if your cat has already been spayed? Let’s explore some signs and methods to help you determine if your feline friend has undergone the procedure.
What to Look For in a Spayed Cat
1. A Clipped Patch of Fur
If your cat has recently been spayed, you may notice a clipped patch of fur on her abdomen or on the side of her body between the ribs and hip area. The positioning depends on the surgical technique employed. Spaying can be performed through a midline approach, where an incision is made below the belly button along the midline of the abdomen, or a flank approach, where the incision is made between the ribs and hip on either the right or left side. Clipping the fur prior to surgery allows for proper disinfection of the skin. However, it’s important to note that having clipped fur alone does not guarantee that your cat has been spayed, as other procedures may also require fur shaving.
2. A Scar
Sometimes, spaying leaves a scar at the incision site. You can check for a thin line of fibrous tissue by parting or clipping the hair along the midline of your cat’s belly and both sides of her body between the ribs and hips. It’s worth mentioning that spay scars are often light in color and thin, making them difficult to spot, especially if the cat was spayed as a kitten. Keep in mind that the presence of a scar alone does not guarantee that your cat has been spayed, as other procedures can cause scarring in the same area.
3. A Tattoo
In some cases, veterinarians tattoo a thin line, the letter “S,” or another mark next to the spay wound or on the inside of the ear to indicate that a cat has been sterilized. These tattoos are permanent and serve as definitive proof of spaying. However, not all veterinarians practice this, so the absence of a tattoo does not necessarily mean that your cat hasn’t been spayed.
4. An Ear Notch or Missing Ear Tip
During feral cat sterilization, it is common to make an ear notch or remove the tip of the left ear under general anesthesia. This marking is often performed as part of a Trap-Neuter-Return program, which helps control the feral cat population and prevent disturbing mating behaviors. If your cat has an ear notch or a missing ear tip, it is possible that she was once trapped and spayed. However, other factors, such as ear surgery or fights with other cats, may also cause a missing ear tip.
Look Out for Signs That Your Cat Is in Heat
An unspayed cat will go into heat when she reaches sexual maturity, usually around 6 months of age. However, some cats can come into heat as early as 4 or 5 months. During heat, a cat is sexually receptive and can become pregnant if she mates with an unneutered male cat. Heat cycles typically last around six days and often repeat every three weeks in warmer seasons.
Behavioral changes are the most noticeable signs of a cat in heat. Cats exhibit unusual behavior due to hormonal changes, including increased affection, constant attention-seeking through rubbing against people and objects, restlessness, loss of appetite, attempts to escape, loud vocalization, assuming the mating position, and spraying urine on vertical surfaces. If your cat displays these behaviors, it is a clear indication that she is not spayed.
Get Your Cat Checked By a Veterinarian
If you are still uncertain whether your cat has been spayed, it is best to consult a veterinarian. A physical examination will be conducted to look for the aforementioned signs. If the vet cannot determine with certainty whether your cat is spayed, they may suggest running blood tests.
The Anti-Müllerian Hormone (AMH) Test is a simple and effective way to determine if a cat is spayed or intact. This test checks for the presence of Anti-Müllerian Hormone, which is secreted by the ovaries. A negative result indicates a spayed cat, while a positive result suggests that the cat has not been spayed and still possesses ovarian tissue. The advantage of the AMH Test is its flexibility, as it can be performed at any time, even when the cat is not in heat, without the need for hormone treatments.
If the AMH Test is not available in your area, the veterinarian will recommend alternative blood tests.
In situations where blood tests are inconclusive, the veterinarian may advise an exploratory laparotomy. This surgical procedure involves making an abdominal incision under general anesthesia to directly examine the presence of ovaries and a uterus. If the reproductive organs are found, the cat will be spayed during the same procedure. However, an exploratory laparotomy is considered invasive, painful, and carries risks associated with anesthesia and surgery. It is typically reserved for cases where no other diagnostic methods are feasible.
By observing the signs mentioned above and seeking professional guidance from a veterinarian, you can determine whether your cat has been spayed. Remember, spaying your cat not only prevents unwanted litters but also promotes her long-term health and well-being.