The clock is ticking for poor little Specter and she doesn’t even know it. I just got off the phone with my vet’s office, and they’ve put Specter down for a spay surgery next month. When I look at my little baby (my food-stealing, wallpaper-shredding baby) I am of course not looking forward to seeing her in pain, but I also know I’ve waited long enough.

I’ve used her small size to put it off for a while, but many kittens are fixed at much younger ages, when they’re way smaller than Specter. The kitten who once fit in the palm of my hand is now about half the size of grown-up Ghost Cat.

Ghosty herself was pretty skinny when she had her own spay surgery in October of last year. Back then Ghosty was just a few months older than Specter is now, and she had sadly already given birth to a litter of kittens. I know I’ve got to save Specter from the same fate — even if Ghost Cat’s spay experience isn’t one I would wish to repeat.

When we brought Ghost Cat home from the shelter at the end of August 2013 she wasn’t spayed, and had been given medicine to dry up her milk supply. Although the shelter sent us home with an unaltered cat, the $150 adoption fee did include a subsidized spay surgery — we just had to get on the waitlist with the shelter’s vet. We called to put Ghost Cat’s name down and waited for our turn to come. Weeks went by. The nighttime whining got louder.

In addition to listening to Ghosty’s heat cries all night long, I also lived in desperate fear that she would somehow sneak out into the corridor of our apartment building and get impregnated by one of our neighbors’ cats, who were always chilling in the common areas. By the time October rolled around we knew we couldn’t stay on the waitlist any longer — it was time for action. We’d already found our own vet for Ghost Cat, to follow up on her shots and deal with a strange little sneeze she had. We explained the situation to our vet, who agreed to do Ghost Cat’s surgery at the same subsidized cost as the shelter’s vet.

After the surgery everything seemed fine at first. We kept Ghost Cat’s cone on and tried our best to stop her from using the apartment as her own personal jungle gym. As the days went on, Ghost Cat became more and more obsessed with her wound. She was always trying to get her cone off to get to it, but we knew better than to let her go coneless.

My husband and I started to grow concerned when, several days after Ghosty’s surgery, her wound was looking worse than ever. It was definitely not healing, and was in fact getting worse. I called the vet’s office and tried to explain. They told me not to worry — a little redness was to be expected. The next day the wound was looking even grosser, and it was beginning to open up. I knew this couldn’t be normal, so I took photos of the grossness (I’ll spare you the visual — just trust me, it was seriously gross) and emailed them to the vet’s office. This time they told me to bring her in right away.

Ghosty and I hopped in a cab to the vet’s office. An hour later her wound was cleaned up and we left armed with antibiotics (provided at no charge). Ghost Cat’s surgery scar finally began to heal properly. It was such a relief to see the wound finally getting better instead of worse, and it was also a relief to know that even if she managed to ninja-sneak out into the hallway, she would never be having kittens again.

Many months later, long after I had forgotten about the waitlist, we got a phone call saying Ghost Cat’s turn on the subsidized spay list had finally come. I happily informed the caller that Ghosty had received her surgery elsewhere. When I hung up the phone I wondered how many former shelter cats get pregnant while waiting their turn.

After all the drama we went through to get Ghost Cat fixed, I’m still so very glad we did it. The benefits of each individual spaying to the whole of cat-kind are just too great. As someone who grew up around cats, I know how quickly one can turn into many. Specter herself is the product of an unspayed cat being let outdoors. My little baby was a “free to a good home” kitten, and I know that part of being a good home means making sure that Specter doesn’t end up like her mother, who was likely a free kitten herself.

When we took Specter to the vet in July my husband and I asked when our little kitten should get the surgery. The vet explained that because Speck was so young and tiny we could wait a few more weeks, so we didn’t rush to book an appointment. Specter’s risk is pretty low — she spends 100 percent of her time indoors, and we obviously have no male cats around. Booking a spay appointment for Speck ended up being pushed further down my to-do list, until I got a call from the vet’s office.

The reason they were phoning was totally unrelated (our dog had been to the animal ER the night before after he ate some cat litter), but while I had the office on the phone I asked about booking Specter’s spay surgery. The vet’s helper and I came to the conclusion that since Speck has not come into heat yet, we could wait until October. Today I called the office back and finalized the appointment. Specter will be at least six-and-a-half months old by then. Since that’s seems way too young to be a mother, I guess it’s the perfect time to have the surgery. I just hope her wound is not as gross as Ghost Cat’s.

How old were your cats when they got fixed? How did you take care of them after the surgery? Let us know in the comments!

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About the author: Heather Marcoux is a freelance writer in Alberta, Canada. Her beloved Ghost Cat was once her only animal, but Specter the kitten and GhostBuster the dog make her fur family complete. Heather is also a wife, a bad cook and a former TV journalist. Some of her friends have hidden her feed because of an excess of cat pictures. If you don’t mind cat pictures, you can follow her on Twitter; she also posts pet GIFs on Google +