Do Neutered Cats Still Have the Urge to Mate?
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Spaying and castrating your cat provides many benefits to the individual cat, their adoptive family and the larger cat population as a whole. There are many factors we need to consider about these procedures, with the stage at which they take place being of particular importance. One of the main benefits to the cat is that it is designed to stop sexual behavior in the animals. For this reason, it can be quite disconcerting if we see the cat still carries out sexual behaviors after they have been spayed or neutered.
At AnimalWised, we ask do neutered cats still have the urge to mate? We look at both female and male cats which are most commonly sterilized by spaying and castration, respectively.
- Do spayed female cats still have the urge to mate?
- Do neutered male cats still have the urge to mate?
- Improper procedure
- Hormone products in the home
- Time of spaying or neutering
- Misinterpreted behaviors
- Can a sterilized cat get pregnant?
- Can a spayed cat go into heat?
- Can a sterilized cat produce milk?
- Can a spayed cat have a psychological pregnancy?
Do spayed female cats still have the urge to mate?
Female cats have an estrus cycle, commonly known as their heat cycle. This is a multi-stage process whereby the cat becomes fertile and is responsive to mating with a male. The purpose of this is for procreation and successful mating results in the cat becoming pregnant.
Unfortunately, cats remaining sexually active in the domestic environment is problematic for various reasons. They include:
- Sexual behavior: sexually intact female cats will feel a strong hormonal desire to mate. They will want to seek out a male and will perform various acts to try to make this happen, including yowling loudly, presenting their rear, being overly affectionate and trying to escape from the home. This is particularly difficult for indoor cats as they do not have access to the outside which causes great frustration.
- Health: remaining sexually intact carries certain health risks, making them much more prone to breast cancer, uterine cancer and hormone-related illnesses, among others. By spaying the cat, these health risks are greatly reduced in some cases and completely negated in others.
- Unwanted pregnancies: there are many cats in shelter systems which are unable to find happy homes. Many of them end up there because domestic cats become pregnant and their guardians cannot look after them nor find a suitable home for them. Spaying helps ease the great pressure exerted on these systems and means there are more opportunities to care for the cats we already have.
Also known as an ovariohysterectomy, spaying is the process of removing the ovaries and uterus of the cat. In rarer cases, one of the ovaries may be left, but this is not recommended as it can lead to significant health issues. After this is carried out, the cat will not have any sexual organs remaining. These organs will not produce the level of hormones which drive sexual urges in cats, meaning spayed female cats will not have the urge to mate.
In some rare cases, we may observe certain sexual behaviors in female cats that have been spayed. These are irregularities which we will explain in the following sections.
Learn more about the background of a cat's sexual urges with our guide to neutering cats.
Do neutered male cats still have the urge to mate?
Male cats do not have an estrus cycle, therefore they cannot go into heat. However, once they reach sexual maturity, they will have the same urge to copulate as females do. They do so in a response to the pheromones which females emit when they are in heat. Male cats also have problematic issues when they remain sexually active in adult life:
- Sexual behaviors: when a sexually intact male perceives a female in heat, their behavior will change dramatically. They will want to copulate strongly, leading them to chase females, fight with males and even travel long distances to do so. Some can become aggressive, but all are likely to feel very frustrated which is problematic for both them and their human guardians. It also increases the risk of them becoming lost.
- Health: similar to female cats, neutering can reduce the risk of various health issues. This includes cancers and hormonal issues, as well as increased risk of feline AIDS and other problems.
- Unwanted pregnancies: although it is the responsibility of the female cat's guardians to care for her, it requires both male and female for fertilization. Can be particularly problematic in multi-cat households with male and female cats.
Castration is the most common form of neutering male cats. Also known as gelding, it requires the removal of the testicles. As with female cats, removal of the sexual organs should stop their sexual drive. This means neutered male cats will not have the urge to mate.
The same as females, we may see a male cat carry out some sexual behaviors after being neutered. We explain these reasons in the following sections.
For female cats, the ovariohysterectomy procedure should remove all of their ovaries and uterus. Unfortunately, there are rare instances when not all of the sexual organs are removed. This can lead to some of the tissue still producing hormones which can instigate sexual behaviors. While the cat is unlikely to become pregnant, they may still try to engage in sexual behaviors with mates.
It is more difficult for a male cat to have this problem. Since castration requires the removal of the testicles, the procedure is even more straightforward. Descended testicles in cats are mostly external organs, making their removal relatively easy.
There are some sterilization procedures which are not as effective and do not require the . These include ligation of the spermatic cords or even chemical sterilization through medication. Since the testicles are still present, the cat may produce hormones and want to engage in sexual activity. They are also still at risk of the problems mentioned above.
Hormone products in the home
Although it is unlikely, it is possible your cat will ingest products which contain certain hormones in the home. We may use topical creams or take oral hormone medication which contains estrogen or testosterone. In these cases, the cat may ingest them and their hormone levels are affected. It should be temporary, but we need to be concerned about possible intoxication. For this reason, it is vital we prohibit our cat's access to any medications.
Time of spaying or neutering
We can adopt cats at different stages of their lives. If we adopt a kitten into the home or we have a cat which gives birth to kittens, we need to take them to the veterinarian. They will asses their health, give advice on their specific needs and establish suitable deworming and vaccination schedules. They will also set a date for the kitten's spaying or castration procedure.
Adopting an adult cat also requires the same responsibility. We need to take them to a veterinarian for a health assessment, during which they will determine if they have been spayed or neutered.
Although the majority of cats should be spayed or castrated (and is usually required by law), the stage at which the neutering is carried out is important. Ideally, you should neuter male and female cats before they reach sexual maturity. This means when they are still kittens, usually around 4-6 months for either sex.
However, when a cat is neutered after this time, they will likely have already started sexual behaviors. Neutering after this time will remove the sexual drive and the urge to mate, but we may still see the cats engage in behavior which appears sexual. This is particularly the case with male cats. Male cats are more likely to carry out mounting behavior after castration if they have been neutered after sexual maturity.
These behaviors should not be problematic and are usually tolerated by guardians. However, we should take them to a veterinarian if we observe any issues.
Find out related information with our article on how to help a cat in heat.
Finally, the last reason a cat may appear to be carrying out sexual behaviors could be due to a misunderstanding. There are behaviors cats may carry out such as mounting or rolling over which may be interpret as sexual. Some cats may particularly enjoy rubbing against their guardians or even engaging in ‘humping’ behavior. These may simply be an expression of the cat's affection which are not actually sexual.
To understand whether a cat's behavior is sexual, it is important we get to know their personality. We should understand their motivations and interpret how the cat communicates properly. If we still see sexual behavior after this point, we should contact a veterinarian.
Can a sterilized cat get pregnant?
As we have seen, a spayed cat will not go into heat. This means they it will not be fertile and she will not attract males. Even if neutered cats where to engaged in sexual behavior, the male will not be able to produce sperm as they have no testicles. Without ovaries and without a uterus, the sexual cycle does not take place. For this reason, pregnancy is impossible in properly spayed cats.
Can a spayed cat go into heat?
As explained in the above sections, ovariohysterectomies remove the sexual organs from female cats. This means she will not be able to enter her estrus cycle and should not exhibit the related behaviors. This is only likely to happen for the reasons previously stated. To be clear, a spayed cat will not be able to go into heat.
Can a sterilized cat produce milk?
When a cat mates, fertilization normally occurs. After about two months of gestation, the cat will give birth to a litter. She will then nurse them for approximately two months, providing milk from her breasts. She will then wean them onto solid food. It is only during this time that cats lactate, stimulated by their hormones post pregnancy. In the majority of cases, this means a spayed cat will not be able to produce milk.
There are two situations in which a spayed cat can lactate and nurse. The first is that a cat may have a problem during pregnancy or labor, requiring the cat to have a cesarian section. In these cases, the kittens are surgically removed and the cat is normally also spayed. The cat will still be able to lactate for some time after this happens. The second reason is that some cats may be able to produce milk if they discover abandoned kittens as they are often capable of raising them.
Can a spayed cat have a psychological pregnancy?
Although a sterilized cat cannot have intercourse, an ovarian remnant can result in what is known as a false or pseudopregnancy in cats. The remnant of sexual organs can cause the cat to produce hormones which makes her feel like she is pregnant and will carry out certain behaviors. She may even gain weight and start to produce milk. Although the cat is not actually pregnant, she will feel as if she is.
Although this is a process that subsides on its own, we must go to the veterinarian. This is because the cat may be at greater risk of various problems, including feline mastitis. It must be emphasized that these cases of pseudopregnancy in cats are very rare.
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