How normal is it for my neutered male cat to act very un-neutered?
June 13, 2012 5:57 AM   Subscribe

How normal is it for my neutered male cat to act very un-neutered?

Lumi (big white guy) was rescued from living in the woods at about 6 months old and neutered shortly after. He lives an indoor/outdoor lifestyle now. He often doesn't act neutered:

- Mounted my female cat when she was in heat (before she was neutered)
- Roams pretty far (1/2 to 3/4 mile from home) and sometimes stays away for up to 4 days (usually happens around now--summer solstice--or full moon, or very warm).
- Has had 1 or 2 fights with other cats where he's the aggressor. (Which is odd, since when my female cat plays with him aggressively at home, he just runs away and hides.)

So, can a cat be only "partially" neutered? Or, is the interaction between hormones and behavior just not that understood (clearly, some environmental things excite something in him).


posted by Jon44 to Pets & Animals (19 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
My own cat was doing some mounting behavior for a few months after he was neutered still; how recently was your cat neutered?

As for the roaming and aggression - that doesn't necessarily have anything to do with neutering, or at least neutering isn't the only factor.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:08 AM on June 13, 2012

I have known dogs nuetered as pups that later mounted things as an adult.
posted by Flood at 6:11 AM on June 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

The changes that occur in the cat's neuroanatomy that come with maturation are not undone by neutering.

The hormone levels drop, but some of the hardwired behavior stays.

I think the best time to neuter a male car is usually said to be 6 months. The older the cat is the greater the possibility that the adult behaviors will start to manifest themselves.

Given that this is a found cat, it may have been older than 6 months at the time it was neutered.
posted by mygoditsbob at 6:13 AM on June 13, 2012 [2 favorites]

My 13 year-old boy was neutered at age 3, a few weeks before I got him. He regularly mounts my 13 year-old girl. He's a horndog.
posted by jgirl at 6:23 AM on June 13, 2012

Anecdotal, for what it's worth: my cat was neutered as an adult. He doesn't mount things or animals, and he doesn't roam far from home, but he is aggressive to other cats.
posted by altolinguistic at 6:44 AM on June 13, 2012

If he isn't spraying, I'd say you don't have anything to worry about. Of course, it's possible for the neuter not to have been complete, but the behaviors you listed don't necessarily point to that as being the issue.
posted by Eicats at 6:48 AM on June 13, 2012

If he isn't spraying, I'd say you don't have anything to worry about

Just to add a bit, it's the aggression and the staying away from home that worries me. I originally tried to always bring him in at night (live in area with lots of predators), but that gets to be impossible during times of "high activation." Hopefully his size and "street smarts" work in his favor...
posted by Jon44 at 6:59 AM on June 13, 2012

I should think that being born/brought up outside makes him more likely to want to roam, particularly if he already had an established territory before he was rescued. He's just used to hunting and fending for himself. It could also explain his aggressiveness towards other cats -- he's grown up having to actively defend his territory and the habit is hard to break.
posted by fight or flight at 7:06 AM on June 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

I don't know if it's the same for male cats, but we had my cat spayed when I was little and they botched it. We had to do it again. It might be worth it to have him checked out.
posted by Weeping_angel at 7:48 AM on June 13, 2012

My big boy cat displays some marks of non-neutered behavior, but is very much fixed. He sprays vertical surfaces, humps things, and acts aggressively toward other male cats.

Honestly, we couldn't deal with the constant trips to the emergency vet anymore, or the stress from his disappearing acts, so we just started keeping him in with a harness for walking. He was a pain in the ass for about two weeks, until he understood the new "normal." Now he's fine with it--he happily comes running when we get his leash out and seems as contented as can be on our walks.

I kinda don't doubt he'd be dead by now if we continued to let him out, particularly at night. We had one scary run-in when he was obviously attacked by some larger animal, and he liked to get himself stuck in the neighbor's garage for days on end. I do think it's worth a look into to make sure the neutering was done right, but I also suspect you should be considering keeping him in more. I know it feels cruel, but there are ways to give him outdoor access (like a cat run, or a leash) which will also protect his safety.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 7:58 AM on June 13, 2012

@PhoBWanKenobi I was kind of dreading someone stridently telling me I was "evil" to let him out, but you said it in such a nice, thoughtful way, it makes me reconsider the notion.

I too had to do the late night emergency vet visits, and deal with the stress of him being away for days on end. I guess I sort of looked at this stuff as part of the bargain, as is the risk to him of getting killed by a predator or human-caused event. And the fact that he started as an outdoor cat makes me worry switching him at this point would be traumatic (he seems semi-traumatized from just being kept in for weekends I'm away, even though he's got his friend to play with and it's a big house.)

Part of what I love about Lumi though is his semi-freedom, somewhat natural lifestyle, and the amount of stimulation he gets from free roaming / climbing trees / stalking, etc. I'm still hoping to manage the compromise of bringing him in at night...
posted by Jon44 at 8:19 AM on June 13, 2012

Yeah, it was hard for us, too. Well, hard for me. My tom was barn-raised and, when my husband moved in, I was waking up every morning at 3 a.m. to let him out. And my husband was having none of that. But I just wanted to chime in that it is possible to make the transition and have a happy cat. The leash & harness training really helped because he still gets to do ridiculous kitty things even though walking cats is both terribly boring and vaguely embarrassing. We just do a loop around our yard every day (we have this harness).

I think keeping him in at night would be a good start. That's when the craziest and most dangerous cat stuff always seemed to happen for Sam Katz.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 8:28 AM on June 13, 2012

Our neutered cat still roams/fights etc... Also he still sprays, which is charming.
posted by Artw at 8:43 AM on June 13, 2012

Perfectly normal, to the point that "Why is my neutered cat humping things?" appears about once a year on AskMe.
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 9:02 AM on June 13, 2012

I guess I shouldn't have said "nothing to worry about"—obviously him getting into fights and being away for days at a time cause great worry. I should have said that those things do not mean you have to worry the neuter didn't work. Those behaviors I would attribute to his being wild for the first part of his life, and also just his personality. As far as stopping those behaviors, well, of course you know without me having to say it, but you would have to keep him inside.

I also wanted to add that his aggression toward other cats outside is not unusual even though he acts differently toward your other house cat: he sees the outside cats as invaders on his territory and knows the other house cat belongs there. Cats definitely diferentiate about that.
posted by Eicats at 9:08 AM on June 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

My tenant tells me that when he had two cats, the neutered male would often jump the unspayed female when she went into heat, but then he'd look puzzled, as though he couldn't remember what he was supposed to do next. And my neutered tom has shown aggression towards strange animals, even though he's normally a gentle little guy who's afraid of strangers, babies, and the vacuum cleaner. One time he tried to pick a fight with a raccoon through a closed kitchen window.

So yes, pretty normal. And it could be worse — he could still be spraying, as they sometimes do when neutered after they've developed the habit.
posted by orange swan at 9:57 AM on June 13, 2012

If there ever could be a situation where an animal might evolve the ability to remain relatively unaffected by surgical castration, we would seem to be producing it by neutering many thousands of male cats and then leaving them to their own devices.

Hard to think of a possible mechanism, though; maybe a mosaic with two sets of testicles, only one of which descends to be removed, the other retained inside and continuing to function?

But your cat has almost certainly kept the masculine behaviors he developed, or set in motion to develop, before he was castrated, as others have said.

And he might be getting enough androgens to keep things going by ramping up the activity of his adrenals, which can produce quite a bit.

I see cat paradise beyond that deck, however, and I think it would be the greatest of pities to deprive him of access to it merely to prolong such a relatively impoverished life.
posted by jamjam at 10:27 AM on June 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

Thanks everyone for helpful answers--it feels reassuring to get perspective and see he's not the only one.

@PhoBWanKenobi Just curious about "Cat Walking"--my other cat (smaller tuxedo girl) will go on walks with me (without a leash--she just likes to follow), but I've discouraged it because I fear her focussing on following me will short-circuit her innate predator-detectors. Do you carry any sort of stick or weapon when you walk your cat? (Although I guess with a leash, if you saw a coyote coming, you could just reel your kitty in..)
posted by Jon44 at 2:28 PM on June 13, 2012

My cat used to scamper after me when i would walk my mom's dog and he was an outside animal. However, walking the cat on a leash is so different. It's completely sedate, totally unlike the spirited romp you might have with a dog. Sometimes the cat will sprint across the yard, but generally all he wants to do is sniff things, walk through (and spray) bushes, claw at trees. It's more like "checking in on the periphery of your territory" than the sort of following you get with a dog. We haven't had any coyote run-ins, but my cat has very much noticed other animals in the yard. He'll try to growl and pull me after them, at which point I usually just scoop him up and take him inside.

But when you walk a cat, it's very much you being walked by a cat, not the other way around. They have a tremendous ability to make their bodies very heavy if you try to take them somewhere they don't want to go.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 2:45 PM on June 13, 2012

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