Am I the only person who is concerned about the effect that neutering has on a male domestic cat’s appearance? There is almost nothing, perhaps there is absolutely nothing, on the Internet or in the books that I have on whether people are concerned about the effect of neutering on the appearance of male domestic cats. Therefore, I am addressing it in this article. I don’t like it. I want a male cat to look like a male cat and as far as I’m concerned when you castrate a male cat you feminise their appearance. But nobody minds. Nobody discusses it or sees an issue with this. It is just not significant enough to concern people because the benefits of neutering outweigh everything, and the operation, which is the removal of a male cat’s testes, is so deeply ingrained in society that it just happens without question.
The age of male cat neutering
They say that the optimal age to neuter a male cat is before they reach the age of five months. Sometimes it’s quite early in their lives, when they are young kittens. In other words, it is before male cat puberty which is around 5 to 6 months. This means that you end up with a feminised male cat because they lose that wonderful chunky or chonky, to use modern parlance, facial appearance. They become relatively sweet, little delicate creatures, passive and malleable!
The word ‘neutering’
We don’t even question the word “neutering”. It means in a strict sense that a cat has no sex because they are neither masculine or feminine in gender. That is my interpretation of the word ‘neuter’. I wonder if the history of the word has a same origin as the word “neutral”. It seems that if you neuter a male cat, they become gender neutral; a modern concept incidentally.
The benefits of male neutering are numerous and well-known and, therefore I’m not going to recite them here but essentially it not only stops procreation but it also drastically reduces male cat behaviour such as spraying and that territorial passion although neutered male cats can still be quite thoroughly territorial as my cat is. Perhaps it is because he was neutered at seven months. I insisted upon this because I read in a very good reference book that a male cat’s penis is reduced in size if you neuter them early. I mentioned that to the veterinarian and she looked at me in astonishment! She complied with my request nonetheless because I was in charge. I didn’t want to take at least that small thing from him.
Although neutering and spaying of domestic cats is now commonplace, at one-time it wasn’t. It is estimated that 90% of all tomcats are now neutered. The practice of neutering can be traced back to the end of the nineteenth century. This is when the cat fancy was in its infancy. In 1903, Frances Simpson, the doyen of the cat fancy at that time encouraged her readers to neuter their cats but she also remarked that neutered cats at cat shows “looked like pigs fatted for market”. Clearly at that time breeders hadn’t quite grasped the concept that you have to modify diet slightly after a cat has been neutered in order to stop them putting on weight because their metabolism has been slowed down and therefore, they burn less calories.
And so, the neutering and spaying of cats became very popular because there was no more smelly urine being sprayed around the place and howling and yelling in backstreet alleys. Dr. Desmond Morris states that “Neutering converted the full-blooded feline into a furry, living toy”. He says that the popularity of the cat as a pet is largely due to neutering them.
A vasectomy does the same job in terms of stopping procreation because it cuts the sperm ducts but the male cat still has his testes and therefore can produce testosterone. It is testosterone which turns them into full-blooded males. But you can’t find a veterinarian to do this operation. It is not on the radar perhaps partly because cat owners have hardly ever heard of it in cats and partly because veterinary surgeons are routinely trained in full neutering. Cat owners have settled for the docility of the neutered cat and therefore they will not consider anything other than removing their balls even if veterinarians discussed it which they don’t. A vasectomy would allow a male cat to keep his genuine masculine appearance.
But I wonder whether any cat owners actually give a passing thought to the appearance of male domestic cat and how it might have been affected by the loss of their balls and the inability to produce testosterone which would have made them genuine tomcats? It bugs me, I’ll tell you that.
P.S. There is one slight confusion about the word “neutering”. Sometimes it is used to mean spaying and neutering and sometimes it is used to mean the castration of male cats. In this instance I am referring to it in the latter sense.