Spaying cats and their behavior
July 28, 2020 5:02 PM   Subscribe

We need to get two sister cats that get along very well spayed. But we heard that cats who used to be close can end up not caring for each other post-surgery - is that true?

One of our pandemic projects has been to foster cats - fun! We have two little cutie sisters who are adorable that have an adopter in the works. However, that adopter wants us (well the foster agency) to spay them first, and see if they end up not liking each other after the surgery.

Is this something that actually happens? Right now these two are peas in a pod - they play together, wrestle, clean each other, nap near each other, knock over plants together.

Would spaying them possibly result in them losing interest, or even becoming enemies? If they don't like each other anymore should we adopt them separately? Is there any way to mitigate this "spaying effect", and what would that look like? Or is this just an urban myth? (Thanks for all your thoughts - mostly just curious, they will get spayed and adopted.)
posted by RajahKing to Pets & Animals (9 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Cats are weird, it is entirely possible for this to happen, but in my experience unlikely. It is still more important to get them spayed, as you know.

As a bonded pair, the odds are extremely good they will remain close.
posted by bilabial at 5:20 PM on July 28, 2020 [2 favorites]

Cats are weird and decide to do weird things, but this falls very much into "happens occasionally for reasons not really understood" and not "this will almost certainly happen". If you get them spayed at the same time you may avoid a more common situation where one of them coming home smelling freaky means they freak out at each other like strangers for a day or sometimes days or sometimes, very rarely, long-term.

How old are they? This would be slightly bigger worry for me with much older cats who'd had litters. In all my fostering experience, and those of friends who foster currently, getting a batch of kittens or adolescents spayed barely slows them down a minute and they are generally same as ever afterwards.
posted by Lyn Never at 5:30 PM on July 28, 2020 [2 favorites]

Feline non-recognition aggression is a real thing, so not just a myth, but it seems like it's associated with any vet visit, not just spaying. And when it happens, it usually goes away within hours - the rare cases where that wasn't true, the aggressor cat was typically already aggressive in general. For your situation, where both cats are presumably going to the vet at the same time, it sounds like it shouldn't be an issue.
posted by showbiz_liz at 5:34 PM on July 28, 2020 [2 favorites]

Before you collect them from the vet, spray the inside of their carrier/s with Feliway; and perhaps get a Feliway diffuser for when they come home. Feliway smells like "everything's okay" to a cat.
posted by Pallas Athena at 5:35 PM on July 28, 2020

From a friend: “This happened to my bebs. After getting fixed, they didn't get along for a couple years. It's called nonrecognition syndrome. I was told, in the future, make sure the same vet handles both of your cats if you leave them overnight.

It was so sad. They went from cuddling all the time to fighting and avoiding. Finally they're on good terms (and my lap) with each other.”
posted by brook horse at 7:16 PM on July 28, 2020

I would guess this is a lot like the vaccines cause autism thing - spaying May happen at about the same time that cats are maturing and asserting their independence. It's as likely to be coincidence as cause and effect.
posted by wotsac at 9:33 PM on July 28, 2020 [1 favorite]

It's quite normal for cats to have a falling out when one of them has been to the vet. I assume it's because the one who was at the vet smells different.

International Cat Care has some guidance here under the heading 'Re-introduction to other cats at home'.
posted by aussie_powerlifter at 10:46 PM on July 28, 2020

One of my cats was at the emergency vet last week (he's fine now) but when he came home my other cat started hissing at him and being aggressive. I rubbed a towel on the cat that went to the vet, then rubbed the towel on the cat that stayed home. I did this twice. No more hissing or aggression and they are back to cuddling just like always.
posted by poppunkcat at 10:36 AM on July 29, 2020

honestly, that doesn't even matter. the girls NEED to be spayed.
posted by megan_magnolia at 7:12 PM on July 30, 2020

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