Spayed? Or Not?

Missy writes with an interesting question:  I adopted an older cat who the previous owner told me is fixed, but she doesn’t have the tattoo. Is there anyway to ensure she is fixed and get the tattoo for her?

Beautiful Holly has been spayed, thanks to her responsible owner, Mary Ann.
Beautiful Holly has been spayed, thanks to her responsible owner, Mary Ann.

To read about spay/neuter tattoos, click here.


Yes, Missy, you have several ways to solve this mystery:

  1. Watch and wait.  While cats’ heat cycles can be subtle, if she has not had ovariohysterectomy surgery (surgical removal of the uterus and both ovaries) she will likely come into heat during this time of year. 
    Read about heat cycles in cats here.  A minority of cats does not cycle seasonally, but you should detect a heat cycle within six or seven months if she’s not had spay surgery.
  2. Obtain hormone assays.  You can have a blood sample taken to determine your kitty’s sex-hormone levels, andif low or zero, would tell you there are no ovaries to produce these hormones.
  3. Ultrasound of the abdomen.  A good ultrasonographer can find the uterus in the abdomen because it is in a predictable location.  If there is no uterus present, he may or may not be able to find the “stump” where the uterus was transected in the surgery.  It is usually located at or near the cervix.
  4. Surgical exploration.  We would take this approach only if there were a medical reason to look into the abdomen, such as suspecting an infection in the uterus.

Personally, I would take the first step.  If you see evidence of a possible heat cycle, but aren’t sure, you can always ask your pet’s doctor for advice.

Chances are very good that if the previous owner says the kitty is spayed, she is.  Use of tattoos after spay and neuter surgery is a fairly new practice, and not every veterinarian participates.

See you tomorrow, Dr. Randolph.

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  1. I have 2 cats that were spayed and neutered last year and I’ve never heard of these tattoos. Very interesting. It’s a good idea though.

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