Is a vet any better than SPCA when it comes to spaying?
April 18, 2010 8:20 PM   Subscribe

Is there a drastic difference between getting a female cat spayed at a vet versus SPCA?

My vet (that I'm very happy with) quoted $300 for spaying my cat. The local SPCA charges under $100. Are there any reasons to go to the vet?

The SPCA has a program where you drop your kitty off before 8AM and pick up after 5PM, and they take care of the rest. The vet has something similar, though there may be an overnight stay involved.

I'm in Northern NJ, close to NYC.
posted by Nameless to Pets & Animals (15 answers total)
No difference as far as I'm aware. I got my cat spayed at my local shelter, as did some of my friends with their cats, for exactly the reason you state above--cost.
posted by greta simone at 8:23 PM on April 18, 2010

They may use fewer post-surgery painkillers. I had a neighbor who went to a free clinic for her cat's spaying, and was complaining about spending $5 for a shot of painkiller after surgery. (grr....) To compare, my vet doesn't even make that optional.
posted by WowLookStars at 8:26 PM on April 18, 2010

Ask your vet how they do the procedure, then ask the SPCA. That should get you a more definitive answer than we can provide-- it probably heavily depends on what vet the SPCA is using and how your vet was trained to perform the procedure.
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 8:32 PM on April 18, 2010


We considered the SPCA for our kitties a year and a half ago due to money concerns, but eventually found a vet that we completely trust and who was willing to cut us a break on the price. ($400 for the boy and girl, I believe.)

This was my first time going through that experience and for a spay I would probably err towards a vet, as the surgery for females is invasive and much more complex, as is the aftercare. Neuters are quick and straightforward in comparison. I'm not saying the SPCA couldn't handle it, as every center and vet is different, but I would personally feel safer with a vet in this regard.

On preview, I would also do what fairytale suggests.
posted by greenland at 8:39 PM on April 18, 2010

Vets do the work at SOFA too so the difference is about $100 and you will have to pay for meds separately.
posted by fshgrl at 9:03 PM on April 18, 2010

SOFA should read SPCA. Stupid auto correct!
posted by fshgrl at 9:04 PM on April 18, 2010 [1 favorite]

Shelters generally have a vested interest in reducing the number of unwanted animals, so they heavily subsidise spaying/castrating; they also aren't in business to make a profit, unlike the vet. Apart from anaesthetic and stitches the cost of the operation is mostly overhead (surgery rent, cleaning, maintenance) and time to either a vet or a shelter. The shelter gets a lot of that at a lower rate, so is still probably making a small profit even at $100.

If the cost makes a serious difference to you go with the shelter. The chances of your pet being harmed are very small either way. That said if she does have any trouble, take her to the vet.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 9:40 PM on April 18, 2010 [1 favorite]

The SPCA is often subsidizing the cost of spay/neuters through donations to help keep the population of animals spayed and neutered. We also have a local group that will spay or neuter feral cats for free if you agree to let the cat be released back onto your land - and that it isn't a cat you will be making a pet. They strongly prefer that you trap the cat yourself. There's a 3-4 month waiting list, not including things like snowstorms and floods.

When we were adopted by a now (mostly) formerly feral kitty, we took her to the vet, both to essentially free up that SPCA money for someone else, but also because our vet wrapped up a full checkup into the operation and wanted a followup visit to make sure the kitty's incision was healing and the earmite/worming medication was working. We got painkillers for several days for the cat but no advice on how to prevent the kitty from running and leaping per the page of instructions.
posted by julen at 9:57 PM on April 18, 2010

Definitely go SPCA. Think of it this way: your vet does a variety of things for a variety of animals. At SPCA clinics, spay and neuter surgeries are the majority of what they do, every single day. You are paying significantly less for a specialist.
posted by almostmanda at 11:28 PM on April 18, 2010

Our SPCA does a great job spaying and neutering our cats. The incision it tiny, the cats are fine in a day or less (which is amazing to me) and seem to have very little discomfort. They also check the cats over and recommend veterinary treatment for other aliments if necessary. The vet charges $180+, the SPCA charge is free to $40 depending on your ability to pay and if the cat is feral (feral cats are done free and tattooed). Additionally, the vets that do the surgery are "normal" vets who volunteer.
posted by fifilaru at 11:31 PM on April 18, 2010

The SPCA will be totally fine. However, you should ask if that $100 is a subsidized rate -- are donations helping to keep that cost down? If so, do you need that subsidy, or are you able to pay the full amount?

I work with a rescue that subsidizes these programs; we don't ask for proof of income or proof of need, but it does irk me when I know folks can afford to take their pets to the vet (and do so, often, and can afford lots of luxuries in life) will use this heavily-subsidized program just because it's cheaper. But hey - if you need it, awesome, that's why its there!
posted by barnone at 12:48 AM on April 19, 2010 [2 favorites]

Best answer: It depends on your vet. If your vet is good and uses a modern pain management and anesthetic protocol with proper surgical monitoring (including blood pressure), then the difference is huge. SPCAs are concerned with volume sterilization of animals and not individual animals per se, and they tend to take an assembly-line type of approach. A spay is abdominal surgery. I would not have a pet spayed by the SPCA, personally, since the SPCA where I am does not use anything even approaching adequate intra and post op pain meds, and no pre op pain meds, nor do they have adequate surgical monitoring (blood pressure monitoring especially during surgery is essential, since extended periods of hyper or hypotension can cause major kidney problems which you won't see for years, but which will reduce your pet's lifespan). Cheaper is not better. A cat neuter is different, since that is external surgery and takes five minutes.
posted by biscotti at 4:07 AM on April 19, 2010 [3 favorites]

We always get our cats spayed at the SPCA before we bring them home. Another advantage, besides the cost and the fact that their volume makes them really really good at it, is the fact that they will spay small kittens. Kittens heal very quickly and do not appear to have the least need for painkiller afterwards, and then we don't have to worry about getting it done in time. There were no ill effects. When I took my cat Isis to our vet for her first checkup, the vet was incredulous to find she was already spayed. "How did they do that—with a microscope?!" He would have waited until the cat reached reproductive age.

Our young tabby twins, Phobos and Deimos, were spayed absolutely free last August by our SPCA. Everything was free that weekend at the SPCA, shots and spaying included, thanks to a generous donor. (We did leave a donation, but that wasn't required.)
posted by Ery at 5:17 AM on April 19, 2010

biscotti has a really good point about volume vs. individual care. She knows these things - listen to her!
posted by barnone at 7:42 AM on April 19, 2010

Response by poster: Just to follow up, my cat is about a year old. The vet in question works at a 24-hour animal hospital (Oradell, in Paramus) that has been great so far.

From the sounds of it, especially biscotti's advice, SPCA is better for male cats or young kittens who heal faster, while a good vet is worth the money for older female cats. Did I miss anything?

Thank you all.
posted by Nameless at 1:27 PM on April 19, 2010

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