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Can You Spay a Cat in Heat? Risks & Precautions

Written by: Luxifa Le

Last Updated on January 5, 2024 by Catster Editorial Team

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Can You Spay a Cat in Heat? Risks & Precautions


Dr. Paola Cuevas Photo


Dr. Paola Cuevas

MVZ (Veterinarian)

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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Most veterinarians generally recommend that a kitten be spayed before her first heat. But that can get tricky since kittens don’t go into heat on anyone’s schedules except their own. For this reason, most shelters will do what’s called a “pediatric spay,” when they spay the kitten as young as they can to avoid the messiness of her going into heat before they can spay her.

However, most pet parents don’t always think of that when getting a kitten. So, it might slip your mind, and before you know it, she’s in heat! Of course, you can spay a cat who is in heat, but when you do, the surgery becomes more complicated. Read on to learn more.

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What Happens When Your Cat Is in Heat?

When your cat is in heat, her body produces hormones that tell her it’s time to mate. This flood of hormones will make your cat feel different. For example, she may become more affectionate vocal, offer herself in the mating pose to you, spray urine to indicate to nearby males that she’s ready and willing, and may even try to escape her home to find a mate.

Once a cat has had her first heat, she will continue to have heats every few weeks until she becomes pregnant or the cat mating season ends. That means that if you leave her intact, she will display risky behaviors to attract a mate frequently for almost through spring, summer, and autumn.

norwegian forest cat peeing in the garden
Image Credit by: Elisa Putti, Shutterstock

A cat who is in heat can put herself in great danger because of her heat, and it’s best for her safety that she is spayed before she can have her first heat. Spaying also becomes infinitely more convoluted when a cat is in heat. The hormones that cause your cat to go into heat also cause blood to rush to her uterus. When the reproductive tissues are engorged with blood, it is much more difficult to remove them. Not only are they more prominent, but the tissues are also more prone to tearing or rupturing, which can be dangerous for the cat.

Though most veterinarians are skilled in spaying procedures both in and out of the heat, the procedure will likely cost more if your cat is in heat since the veterinarian will need more supplies and time to do the procedure correctly.

What Happens When Your Cat Is Spayed?

Cats who undergo a spaying procedure have their uterus and ovaries removed.  This removes the production source of the hormones that induce heat and renders her sterile. She will have to be placed under general anesthesia. She’ll have to fast the night before to prepare for the anesthesia. A small incision will be made on her abdomen, usually just below the umbilicus where her umbilical cord once connected. Both ovaries and her uterus will then be removed from her abdominal cavity, and the incision will be closed with sutures.

cat spaying procedure
Image Credit by: De Visu, Shutterstock

Is It Dangerous to Spay a Cat in Heat?

The risk factor of spaying a cat does increase when she is in heat. However, the risk remains negligible with the intervention of modern medicine. Still, the increased risk, supplies, and time must be taken into account when determining the price of the operation. So, for your wallet’s sake, it’s best not to let your cat go into heat.

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Reasons Why You Should Spay Your Cat

Most veterinarians recommend that all non-breeding cats be sterilized, male or female. The most obvious benefit of spaying your cat is protection against unplanned pregnancy; there is no substantial scientific evidence that indicates there is a behavior or health-related reason to have your cat have one litter of kittens before she is spayed. That’s an old wives’ tale.

For female cats, in particular, spaying is recommended because it eliminates the risk of ovarian and uterine cancers. It also lowers the risk of mammary cancer, which is the second most common cancer diagnosed in cats. However, once a cat has reached 2 1/2 years of age or so, the procedure no longer protects a cat against breast cancer.

Additionally, unspayed female cats can develop pyometra, a fatal uterine condition that will require surgery to resolve.

Further, allowing your cat to go into heat means that you’ll have to deal with all the behaviors associated with heat. For example, spraying and incessant vocalizing are usually the most common complaints pet parents have regarding cats in heat. But many pet parents find it difficult or impossible to keep their cats inside when they go into heat.

angry cat meowing outdoor
Image Credit by: Piqsels

Your cat will want to get outside to find a mate; everything in her body tells her that she has to do that. So, her mind will be less on your opinion of it and more on what nature has called on her to do.

This behavior will continue every few weeks until she becomes pregnant. Additionally, her demeanor and scent will attract tom cats to your property, who may destroy things or otherwise be nuisances as they try to reach your female cat.

Finally, spaying your cat helps reduce the overpopulation of stray and feral animals. Cats are considered one of the most devastating invasive species in the world. Their presence outside of loving, indoor homes can wreak havoc on the local ecosystems. Local flora and fauna aren’t always equipped to introduce cats to their environment, and overbreeding and dumping put a lot more cats into the ecosystem than the system is equipped to deal with anyway.

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Final Thoughts

Spaying your cat is never fun. Even though it’s considered a relatively routine procedure for veterinarians, it can be nerve-wracking to leave your kitty in someone else’s hands. Still, a night of missing her is nothing compared to what you’ll have to deal with if she gets pregnant.

Spaying your cat isn’t just good for your cat, though. It’s good for your property, your family, and the environment.

Featured Image Credit: Andrii Medvednikov, Shutterstock

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