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How to Tell if a Cat Is Spayed: 4 Vet-Reviewed Signs to Look

Written by: Shana Loven

Last Updated on February 26, 2024 by Catster Editorial Team

cat surgery_Simon kadula_Shutterstock

How to Tell if a Cat Is Spayed: 4 Vet-Reviewed Signs to Look


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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It’s sometimes hard for new cat owners to know whether their new female feline is spayed or not. For those uninitiated into the wonders of cat ownership, spaying refers to a surgery in which your female cat’s interior sex organs are removed, making them unable to reproduce.

One of the main reasons spaying is done is to prevent unwanted litters of kittens to help control the feline population. When bringing home a new female cat, there are several signs to look for to determine if they are already spayed.

We will explain the physical signs of spaying to look for, as well as the behavioral signs of an unspayed female cat.


The 4 Signs to Tell if a Cat Is Spayed

1. Check for Shaved Areas on Your Cat’s Belly or Side

If you just brought home your female cat from a shelter, a breeder, or a pet store, there is usually an obvious sign that she has been recently spayed: shaved fur.

Move your cat onto her back and look for patches where the fur has been shaved down to the skin, or for areas where the fur is growing back in. The shaved fur is an indication that a vet performed the surgery to remove your pet’s sex organs so they can’t reproduce.

This shaved patch can appear on the lower abdomen, about 2 to 4 inches from the base of the tail. Sometimes, though, vets perform the procedure from the flank (the side) of the animal, so you may find the shaved patch on their side, near their back legs.

cat healing spay incision
Image Credit: DreamHack, Shutterstock

2. Look for a Spaying Scar

If your cat doesn’t currently have any shaved areas on her body, that doesn’t necessarily mean that she isn’t spayed. Spaying surgery leaves a scar just like any surgery, but it may be hard to find the scar if you don’t know where to look.

Lay your cat on her back and separate the fur on her lower abdomen. Look for a straight, thin scar that runs lengthwise down the center of the abdomen. If you find a scar that meets that description, your cat is likely spayed. If you can’t find a scar on the abdomen, check the flanks of your cat for a thin scar, as the procedure may have been done through the side of the flank.

3.  Search for Tattoo Markings

Some veterinarians will also tattoo a small mark next to the abdominal scar after spaying a cat. The tattoo is usually made with green ink to help it stand out and is usually a thin line next to the incision scar.

If you’re having trouble finding the scar from the procedure but you see a small, green tattoo, your cat is likely spayed. Vets may also tattoo a small mark in the ear as a sign that the cat is spayed. If you only see a letter M (meaning the cat is microchipped) but you see no other indications of scars or other tattoos, your cat is likely not spayed.

stray cat with right ear tip clipped
Image Credit: Krishna777, Shutterstock

4. Notice “Clipped” Ears

Overpopulation is a problem among feral cat colonies, and it’s always possible that your cat was a lucky feral that became domesticated. Spaying is important in feral populations, and some animal agencies or veterinarians will “ear clip” or “ear tip” a spayed or neutered cat.

The process is done when a cat is under anesthesia from their surgery. A quarter of an inch is removed from an ear (typically the left), giving it a flat tip. Tipping the ear will let future animal rescuers or veterinarians know that the cat is spayed and unable to reproduce.


Other Ways to Determine if Your Female Cat Is Spayed

1. Ask the Breeder, Shelter, or Pet Store Before You Bring Her Home

hugging an adorable bright orange cat stress_RJ22_shutterstock
Image by: RJ22, Shutterstock

Asking the shelter, pet store, or breeder whether your new cat is spayed may seem like an obvious question to ask, but it can be easy to forget in the excitement of bringing home a new furry family member.

Many shelters spay as part of an intake process when a new stray cat comes in, but this often depends on the resources of the shelter, and it’s not always possible. Pet stores may spay, but it often depends on each store’s policies if a new cat they are selling is spayed. Breeders may spay as well, but if they’re selling purebred animals, it will likely be the new owner’s decision whether to spay their cat or not.

Before picking up your new pet, make a list of questions you want to ask. Common questions include whether the cat is spayed, what kind of food she eats, what shots she has, etc. Making a list beforehand will help you remember all your questions, so nothing gets lost in the excitement of getting a new feline friend.

2. Ask Your Vet

veterinarian examining a cat in the clinic
Image Credit: Lee Charlie, Shutterstock

If you just brought home your new cat, it’s best to make an appointment to have your pet checked out from whisker to tail to confirm they are in good health. If you’ve been having trouble determining whether your cat is spayed or not, a vet appointment is an ideal time to ask, as your vet should be able to confirm this fairly easily. If, however, they also can’t tell, there are medical tests they can perform to give you a definitive answer.

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Estrus (Heat) Signs

Some female cats display some behavioral signs that will let you know they are not spayed.

Estrus, commonly called “heat,” is a period of increased sexual activity during which your female cat will behave differently to attract a mate. Female cats have multiple estrous cycles during the breeding season, which typically lasts about 9 to 10 months, usually from January until the fall in the Northern Hemisphere.

The estrous cycles can vary, but they average anywhere from 7 to 21 days. She will then head into a short period of dormancy before the estrous cycle starts again.

Image by: Piqsels

Common Signs of Heat

  • Your cat will become overly affectionate, often rubbing up against you, other people, and objects, and will often roll around in a playful craze.
  • A female cat may “present,” which is showing sexual affection by crouching low with her rear elevated. Her tail will likely be either raised or off to one side, and her head will be near the ground. She may also paddle or treat or back feet as if she is walking in place to attract male cats.
  • Vaginal discharge from your female is also a possibility during heat. It may appear as a watery, clear substance or in, rare cases, it may be tinged with some blood. You will likely notice this during the “presenting” phase we mentioned earlier.
  • Urine marking is often done by a female cat to let male cats know that she is in heat. Spaying your cat should help prevent her from urinating all over the house.
  • Cats that are not spayed will often want to go outside to find a mate during the estrous period. They will paw or claw at windows and doors, or try to make an escape when you’re coming home or leaving the house. Be careful not to let your female cat outside during her heat, as she may come home pregnant if she gets out.
  • Yowling is also a common side of heat behavior. Your cat may also meow loudly, screech, or make unfamiliar noises, and the calls will become more frequent as the heat continues. They may sound as if they are in pain, but the vocalizations are normal behavior and she is not in pain.

divider-catclaw1 Conclusion

There are four common signs to look for when trying to determine if a cat is spayed: newly shaved fur, a thin scar on the abdomen or flank, a green tattoo on the abdomen or in the ear, or a “clipped” ear.

If you are unsure as to whether your cat is spayed, you can ask the breeder, shelter, or pet store to confirm. If you’re still uncertain, ask your veterinarian to check during your first wellness visit.

Featured Image Credit: Simon kadula, Shutterstock

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