How to Know If a Cat Has Been Spayed: 12 Steps

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How to Know If a Cat Has Been Spayed: 12 Steps
How to Know If a Cat Has Been Spayed: 12 Steps

Knowing how to recognize whether or not a cat has been spayed may not seem like an important skill, but it can be very helpful if you decide to adopt a stray pet. Unsterilized cats can be a big problem in the long run, especially when they come into heat. Fortunately, they can be spayed at any age, so help control the animal population -- sterilize your pet.

Note: This article only applies to cats.


Method 1 of 2: Looking for Physical Signs

Tell if a Cat Is Spayed Step 1

Step 1. Look for evidence that the hair has been cut on the abdomen

Try to turn your cat on her back to take a good look at her stomach. If she has recently been sterilized, the hair on her lower abdomen will be shorter than on the rest of her body, as veterinarians will need to remove the hair before performing the operation.

However, note that other veterinary procedures may also require that pieces of the cat's fur be trimmed

Tell if a Cat Is Spayed Step 2

Step 2. Look for a scar

This can be difficult, especially if the hair has had time to grow back, but it's not impossible. Hold (or have someone hold) your cat so that she lies on her back, her abdomen up. Divide the fur on the lower abdomen as best you can. When you can see the animal's skin, look for a scar from the operation. This can be difficult to do as the tools used for sterilization currently leave a very thin scar, which can fade to the point where it is barely visible over time.

Generally, the scar will be a thin, straight line running horizontally across the abdomen

Tell if a Cat Is Spayed Step 3

Step 3. Check tattoo marks

Sometimes, after the operation is complete, the vet will make a small tattoo as an outward sign that she has been sterilized. This mark is usually green, made in the shape of a hairline, and located on or near the incision scar. The tattoo should be visible when splitting the hair on the abdomen, but you may need to look closely to see it.

Also check the inside of the cat's ear, looking for tattoos - this is a common place where important information is tagged on pets. In the US, for example, the letter M means the cat has had a microchip implanted - almost all other tattoos mean the animal has been neutered

Tell if a Cat Is Spayed Step 4

Step 4. Look for a "cut" ear

Some veterinarians and animal agencies use the practice of clipping the tips of a cat's ears as a sign of neutering. In this case, one of the animal's ears (usually the left) has about 5mm of the tip removed - just enough to create a "flat" tip. This is done while the cat is asleep due to anesthesia and quickly heals. Check your cat's ears - if one of them appears to have had the tip removed, she has probably been spayed.

Tell if a Cat Is Spayed Step 5

Step 5. If in doubt, ask a veterinarian for help

Sometimes, the cat can be spayed without showing any easy-to-see outward signs. In such cases, it may be best to consult a veterinarian -- a trained animal medicine professional will almost always be able to tell whether your cat has been spayed or not, and if not, may ask for medical tests to be sure.

Tell if a Cat Is Spayed Step 6

Step 6. Ask the breeder or pet shop owner if the cat has been spayed

The animal breeder or pet shop owner must know if the cat has been spayed. It is more difficult to obtain information from shelters or zoonoses centers. When in doubt, take the cat to the vet to confirm sterilization.

Method 2 of 2: Looking for signs of heat

Tell if a Cat Is Spayed Step 7

Step 1. Look for overly affective behaviors

Unsterilized cats periodically go through a period of heightened sexual activity, called "estrus." This period can last up to three weeks, although visible symptoms usually don't last that long. A cat in heat will always start acting differently than normal, so if you notice any of the signs of heat listed here, your cat has probably not been spayed. For example, she may act unusually affectionate, rubbing herself against inanimate people and objects.

A female cat in heat will also often show "sexual" affection, staying in "exposed" positions - hindquarters raised, tail up or to the side, and head lowered toward the ground. This is especially common in the presence of male cats

Tell if a Cat Is Spayed Step 8

Step 2. Check that the cat enters a mating position or leans over with her hind legs

A female cat in heat will usually show sexual affection when entering a mating position by crouching: her hindquarters will be raised, as will her tail. The cat's head will be down. Watch to see if the cat enters this posture in the presence of male cats.

When a cat enters this position, she will usually tap her back paws on the ground. It will lift each paw quickly, as if it were walking in the same place. It is said that this behavior attracts males because of the movement of the female's genitals during the walk

Tell if a Cat Is Spayed Step 9

Step 3. Pay attention to loud, long meows

A cat in heat will want everyone around her to see her. Loud meows are a common sign of heat. These sounds typically begin after the onset of heat and increase in intensity over time. At the worst of times, these meows can be very frequent and even seem painful or distressed (although the animal is not really in danger).

Other less common meows can range from quieter and more curious to agitated squeaks -- every cat is different

Tell if a Cat Is Spayed Step 10

Step 4. Look for a strong desire to leave the house

A cat that is usually at home and goes into heat may suddenly adopt the habits of a stray cat. She usually wants to go out to find a partner and may adopt behaviors such as scratching and knocking on the door, making noises or even trying to escape through it as soon as it is opened.

Keep an eye on the cat whenever you enter or leave the house. If the cat escapes, she may come back pregnant if she has not been spayed

Tell if a Cat Is Spayed Step 11

Step 5. Pay attention to the cat's urinary habits

A female cat that has not been spayed will use urine to indicate to males that she is in heat. A female cat who usually marks her territory with urine has not usually been spayed. The female cat can urinate indoors and outdoors, especially in the presence of male cats.

Tell if a Cat Is Spayed Step 12

Step 6. Watch for any vaginal discharge from the cat

Female cats that have not been spayed may have light, thin or bloody discharges at the time of heat. You might notice this discharge if the cat has been in heat for a while. She will likely be in the copula position and will move before she starts to release the discharge.


  • Even if you're planning on keeping your cat indoors at all times, it's still a good idea to sterilize her in case she ever escapes.
  • Even if your cat is purebred, you should still sterilize her unless you are prepared to keep her indoors. Many breeders will demand this.
  • If your cat is less than four months old, it is unlikely that she has been spayed. Veterinarians generally do not perform this procedure before this age for health reasons. However, that doesn't mean you shouldn't check. Better safe than sorry!


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