This time of year is cat breeding season. The toms are on the prowl, fighting with other males and trying to mate with the females. Who knows what they make of desexed pet cats?  I imagine if they don't smell like a male they think they must be female - which may be why more neutered pets get into fights this time of year also.

Cats are very good carnivores, able to capture and kill much larger prey. Their jaws are powerful and short so they usually penetrate the skin when they bite.  Their sharp canines are usually covered in anaerobic bacteria which, along with normal skin flora, are introduced into an attractive culture medium (under the skin) during a bite.  If the cats’ immune defences don't destroy the bacteria before they are overwhelmed, a cat bite abscess will form.  Some cats wall off the abscess by fibrosis and a relatively healthy looking cat can produce an abscess as big as a tennis ball.  Others suffer septicaemia (blood poisoning by bacterial toxins) which also occurs after the abscess bursts.  Without treatment the infection can spread and eventually prove fatal.

We recently had an entire (not yet castrated) tabby cat come in looking very sorry for himself.  He was depressed, dehydrated and struggling to breathe.  I radiographed his chest and found fluid around his lungs.  We tapped his chest and the fluid proved to be pus (diagnosed by its putrid smell).  This is a condition called Pyothorax, probably the result of a cat bite right through the chest wall. The Tom was put on a drip, we started antibiotics and he was admitted for drainage and observation.

In theory it is recommended that an indwelling chest drain is placed for continuous drainage.  The problem with that is that cats don't tolerate drains and bandages and tend to chew them out. This would be a catastrophe with the poor patient collapsing its lung and most likely dying.  I prefer to repeatedly tap the chest under local until there is no more pus. Our patient seemed to be worse after 2 days and we removed a further 200 mls of pus.  He then started to improve and a few days later a check x-ray showed the lungs clearing and we could only remove a few mls of very clean fluid.  We sent him home on antibiotics and we will castrate him when he is fully recovered.

Entire male cats are much more aggressive and have a much greater home range (about 10 times larger than a fixed cat). They also tend to smell pungent due to their very strong urine which they use to mark their territory vigorously.  Desexing also solves the problem of surplus kittens around Christmas time.  It is also not fair on your neighbours’ cats to keep an entire male due to the increased likelihood of fighting.

It is common in entire male cats to see extensive wounds and scars.  The constant stream of bacteria in their bloodstream after a fight is linked with other health problems such as renal failure at an earlier age.  Castration has other health benefits in preventing testicular cancer and prostate problems (very common in dogs).  The only reason not to neuter your cat would be if you intend to breed from it otherwise desexing has an overwhelming number of advantages.

 

© Dr Brett Kirkland

Beach Road Vet Clinic

New Zealand


A Cats Prayer

Lead me down all the right paths,
Keep me from fleas, bees, and baths.
Let me in should it storm,
Keep me safe, fed, and warm.

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