When it comes to preventing the reproduction of unwanted cats, it is universally accepted that the two operations to choose are the spaying (ovariohysterectomy) and neutering (orchidectomy) operations. For the female cat the spaying operation is pretty invasive. It is the removal of her entire reproductive system and it looks quite brutal to be honest. An alternative would be to prevent the eggs from the ovaries going down the fallopian tubes with an operation called a tubal ligation; far less invasive but hardly ever considered.
|Female cat in Syria about to undergo the spaying operation. Picture in the public domain.|
For male cats, the standard operation is to remove the testes which can be done very quickly with little problems. However some cat owners don't like the thought of this! An alternative would be to allow a domestic cat to keep their balls and to prevent the sperm going down the tube and joining with semen to fertilise the female's egg (vasectomy).
Some male cats might be well-behaved and don't need their behaviour altered by the removal of their testes. Some female cats might be healthy and don't need the added benefits of a full spraying operation which brings health benefits such as the removal of certain cancers and pyometra - an infection of the uterus. It also stops the female cat going into heat. This is a behavioural benefit to many.
The issue that I'd like to discuss is whether in some instances a cat owner wants his or her cat to retain their normal and natural behaviours and simply wants to prevent them reproducing and creating babies. This option is not on the table. Veterinarians don't want to do the lesser operations. One reason possibly is because they are not trained to do tubal ligations and vasectomies according to one report that I read. Secondly, a tubal ligation is a more delicate operation which may put some veterinarians off doing it.
The bottom line is that veterinarians, probably most veterinarians, believe that the added benefits in terms of behaviour and health from the spraying operation pretty well precludes any alternatives and therefore they have shut them out as an option. With respect to the male cats, once again they probably consider the behavioural benefits of removing the cat's balls as being overwhelming and therefore there is no point offering an alternative which is the vasectomy. To do something else would be unethical is what some vets believe. I am not sure they are correct.
And what about the complications and chance of the operation going wrong? These are factors in deciding which option to take. Perhaps a tubal ligation carries less complications. In which case it may be a better operation for certain patients.
I think veterinarians should provide options and allow the customer to help decide. After all the cat belongs to the customer. The customer should be thinking overwhelmingly about their cat's welfare. If they are prepared to deal with the natural behaviours of a male cat who has retained his testes then they have the right to make a decision which achieves that objective. Veterinarians are shortchanging the public it seems to me. The alternatives to spaying and neutering achieve the basic goal: no unwanted cats. The finer issues should be down to choice but at the present that choice is not on the table.