Charlie - neutered cat - he's a sweet boy but not very masculine
The majority of us probably agree that neutering cats is a necessity. It is done almost automatically by responsible cat caretakers. We don't think about the consequences beyond the obvious, that the cat can't reproduce. Most of us recognise that it helps stop cats spraying (territorial marking) and reduces aggression in male cats. This short article adds a bit of detail to the subject of neutering domestic cats and asks a question about secondary sex characteristics.
Neutering is called "gonadectomy" in medical language. It means the procedure to remove an ovary or testis.
1. Early neutering has been a bit controversial it seems. In a study as long ago as 1996 (1) it was found that cats displayed no differences in respect of physical and behavioural development if they were neutered at 7 weeks or 7 months of age. As a result early neutering is recommended.
2. Intact cats (not neutered) weigh "significantly less" than cats that had been neutered at 7 months of age (note the comparison with cats neutered at 7 months not 7 weeks). They had less "falciform fat" and "earlier distal radial physeal closure" that cats neutered at either 7 weeks or 7 months of age. The word "physeal" means "pertaining to growth or to that part of a bone that is responsible for lengthening".
3. Intact cats demonstrated: more "interspecies aggression". They were less affectionate and showed more development of secondary sexual characteristics. Secondary sexual characteristics are "features that distinguish the two sexes of a species". So I guess it refers to features that make a male cat look male and a female cat look female.
This is an area that interests me because I think cat caretakers relate to the maleness or femaleness of their domestic cat companion. It is an area of concern for me. If we neuter a boy cat (essential it seems) we take away some of what makes him male. There seems to be a greater impact on male cats than female cats but that is me guessing.
How important to you is the sex of your cat? And if you like a male cat how important is it that he behaves and looks like a male cat?. I like my girl cats to be girly and my male cats to be real boys. I love sweet female cats and also like the tough look of an intact male cat. But I accept the need to neuter. And don't think I don't love Charlie because he has been neutered. I love him to bits. I love all cats actually.
I used to feed male stray cat. He was thin and very active. He was jowly in appearance (big cheeks). He didn't come around for ages. When I saw him after a year he had put on lots of weight and I think he had been cared for by someone else who had had him fixed.
Note: (1) Effects of prepubertal gonadectomy on physical and behavioral development in cats (link)