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Restraint options

Key information:

Don’t turn up unannounced with a car full of trapped cats at the vet practice; this will undermine your credibility and cause unnecessary suffering for cats that may be left caged until the veterinarian has capacity to neuter them.

  • Each cat should have a trapping sheet (Example of a cage label, provided by Ian MacFarlaine) indicating:
    • Location where trapped
    • Identifying features – colour, markings etc
    • Whether male or female – if known
    • Any known health issues/injuries
    • Whether there are any tests/treatment requests
    • Any specific information – eg comes from a group with high FIV rates, or may be nursing kittens
    • Whether the cat is potentially owned and should be scanned for a microchip
  • In holding before or after surgery, dry food is easier to feed and a small amount of water with ice (to gradually melt) can reduce mess and spillage. Bowls attached to the side of traps and cages/carriers also help prevent spills
  • Kittens should be fed sooner after surgery than adult cats and may require feeding prior to surgery – this should be discussed with your veterinarian
  • Having recovery accommodation is essential (this may be provided by the veterinarian). This should be quiet, secure and protected from the elements and someone should monitor the cats, along with providing food/water.  If there are any cats that you have concerns about discuss with your veterinarian and, if necessary, arrange for an overnight stay.  The aim is to ensure the cats are fit to be released whilst minimising confinement which compromises welfare by increasing disease, stress and infection risk
  • Hospitalisation cages may be useful for overnight holding – these can be divided into two compartments making it easier to clean without disturbing the recovering cat
  • The recovery area floor should be covered with plastic sheeting that can be disposed of after the cats have gone to minimise infection. This should then be covered with a layer of newspaper, puppy pads or towels that can be disposed of or washed.  If the floor is particularly cold then using tables or surfaces to raise the traps/carriers is advisable.  Again, all surfaces should be covered
  • Related cats should be kept in groups – eg mother & kittens or siblings and released together whenever possible
  • One possible option, if you have access, is to use a mobile unit for neutering cats close to the site of trapping
Key information:

Here are some health problems that may reasonably be treated at the time of neutering after taking into account the current health status of the cat, the cost of treatment and the amount of after-care that will be needed and, finally, the effect of the condition/treatment on the cat and its ability to survive without ongoing care.

  • Pyometra (infected uterus) as long as the cat has not become septicaemic
  • Umbilical hernias in females as part of a midline spay or large ones in males
  • Abscesses
  • Minor lacerations and wounds
  • Removal of loose teeth
  • Minor skin, ear or eye infections
  • Simple lumps or tumours, if interfering with normal function but that appear benign
  • Eye removal – it is worth enucleating recent injuries or those where pain is likely but not in cases where the cat is not bothered by it or the injury is old. Hospitalise the cat for 48 hours post-surgery before release. The majority of cats do very well
  • Pinna (external part of the ear) amputation is done routinely in white cats with sunburn or neoplasia without problems
Identification of neutered cats

Identification of neutered cats is essential to be able to easily see which cats are neutered and thus avoid unnecessary trapping and surgery. It is impossible to tell that a cat is neutered by looking at them, so we need a universally accepted way of being sure they can be seen from a distance and in less than ideal circumstances (eg poor lighting). Microchips are only helpful if you can get close to a cat, and this is often impossible with feral or street cats. Similarly, tattoos can be very difficult to see. Ear tipping is the standard and easiest way to identify neutered cats.  If done correctly under anaesthetic when the cat is neutered it is not painful.

Special veterinary considerations for TNR

The veterinarian removes 3 to 8 (occasionally 10) mm depending on the size of the cat from the left ear in a straight line (no small V-shapes, as they can look like injuries).  If the site bleeds when it is done then too much has been removed.

Ear tipping

Further information:

Access the anaesthetic protocol for neutering kittens weighing 0.5kg and above from the Cats Protection in the UK here

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