Behind the scenes of a cat spay

img_2452 The most common phonecall I get at the moment is about cat spays. “How much much is a cat spay” the clients ask. Very few know what’s actually involved. No two vets are the same and a cat spay procedure can be quite different from one clinic to the next. Vets use a wide variety of different kinds of drugs and techniques depending on personal preference, and the facilities and equipment can vary from clinic to clinic. When choosing a vet to perform surgery, it’s always a good idea to check whether a qualified veterinary nurse will be monitoring your cat’s anaesthetic, for example.

A cat spay is an invasive, abdominal surgery which is performed under full anaesthesia. It is a major ordeal for your cat, and is not without risk. I taught neutering at the Royal Veterinary College, London where we taught a very refined keyhole technique which minimises surgical risk and reduces operating time.

Firstly, the timing of cat spays in our clinic is from 5 months. We are starting to see cats who are pregnant even from this young age. If they are young, we will perform a pre-spay check up and often decide whether or not to operate based on weight rather than age.

With all surgeries, a pre operative check on the day of surgery is vital to check general health, temperature, weight and heart health. We categorise each patient for risk. Most cats for spaying are low risk.

A well equipped veterinary theatre should be sterile, with surgical instruments sterilised in a vacuum autoclave. There should be good illumination and an anaesthetic machine with appropriately sized endotracheal tubes to help cats breathe pure oxygen under anaesthetic. Surgeries should be monitored by a qualified veterinary nurse. Ideally there should be some monitoring equipment for the anaesthetic also, like that found in our clinic.


Firstly, we remind all clients to fast their cats for surgery. This minimises the risk of food being regurgitated under anaesthetic and ending up in the lungs. On arriving at the clinic, owners sign a consent form detailing the procedure, and outlining possible risks such as infection. This is routine procedure.

We admit our patient to the ward where they are weighed and their sedative and painkillers are drawn up. At Park Pets, we believe that cats feel pain at similar levels to humans, and so we are very particular about pain relief. Our patients get three types of painkillers which ensures they remain comfortable during and after their procedure.

When they are anaesthetised they have an endotracheal tube carefully placed in their airway. This is a delicate procedure and best done with the assistance of a qualified veterinary nurse. Once under a surgical plane of anaesthesia, we clip their flank and aseptically prepare the site for surgery. These stages are all performed in the prep room in our clinic to avoid contamination of the surgical theatre. The cat is then moved to theatre and placed on a warming surface. It’s important to keep anaesthetised animals warm.

In theatre the surgery is performed in a sterile manner. The site is draped and at Park Pets we wear sterile surgical gloves. Our veterinary surgeon starts with a skin incision; then carefully separates the abdominal muscle wall to gain access to the abdominal cavity. If the incision is made in precisely the right place, the womb can be elevated through a smaller incision. If the surgeon is having difficulty, the incision may be enlarged. Using clamps and careful technique the womb is ligated and carefully removed. There is a risk of haemhorrhage at this point and good surgical technique is vital. It’s important that the vet checks that the ovaries have been fully removed, as even a tiny sliver of ovary remaining in the abdomen can gain a new blood supply and result in unwanted signs of heat post operatively. Although the cat wouldn’t be able to have a litter, she might remain hormonal and neurotic for life!

All of these measures should ensure an excellent outcome with minimal risk of wound infection. The surgery involves a full hysterectomy. We perform this through the flank with usually one stitch on closure.

All cats go home with a buster collar to prevent wound problems. The stitches are removed 10 days post operatively.

The cost for a flank spay at Park Pets is currently 60 euro. Please call us on 044 9391603 if you would like further information.

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