In order for a cat to have a safe, comfortable spay (ovariohysterectomy) so that she will not experience periods of estrus ("heats") or become pregnant, it takes a team of skilled, experienced professionals and lay staff at your veterinarian's office.
First there is your phone call (or even an email) requesting information about the spay procedure. You might ask about how long your kitty will be in the hospital, what vaccines she will need ahead of time and what pain management she will receive. You might also ask what the fees will be. A receptionist will answer these questions and then schedule your cat's procedure. He or she will explain the steps you need to take at home to prepare your cat, such as withholding food for several hours beforehand.
The day before your cat's surgery appointment, a receptionist will pull your file and prepare a written treatment plan of fees and surgery authorization for you to see the morning of surgery.
The morning of surgery (or at some offices the night before) you will drop off your cat and sign the surgical authorization. The receptionist or assistant will take your cat and bring her into the treatment room where she will be weighed, her temperature taken, and she will be made comfortable in the hospital ward.
Before her surgery, a veterinarian will examine her, which includes listening to her heart and lungs and palpating her abdomen. The veterinarian also verifies she has had appropriate vaccines and is ready for surgery. A veterinary technician may take a blood sample and run several laboratory tests to make sure your cat's kidneys and liver are healthy since they will be working to remove the anesthetics and other drugs from your cat's body after surgery.
Depending on the patient and veterinarian, your cat may have an intravenous catheter placed by the doctor or technician to provide access for life saving drugs should an emergency arise, as well as the intravenous anesthetics that help your cat "sleep" through her operation. Pre-anesthetic medications such as pain medications and tranquilizers may be given before intravenous drugs are injected to cause loss of consciousness. An endotracheal (breathing) tube is inserted into your cat's trachea (windpipe) by the veterinary technician or veterinarian and gas maintenance anesthesia is started and will continue until the spay is completed.
Your cat is placed on a warming pad on her back to maintain body temperature, her abdomen is shaved, her bladder is gently expressed (emptied) by the technician and then our patient is transferred to the O.R. (operating room) and again placed on a warming pad. The veterinary technician and veterinary assistant work together to "prep" the surgical area with surgical scrub (soap) and alcohol rinses, while the surgeon dons a cap and mask and thoroughly scrubs his or her hands. The doctor is assisted by the technician or veterinary assistant to put on a sterile surgeon's gown and gloves, the patient is draped with a sterile cloth, the sterile pack of instruments is presented to the surgeon by the technician and the operation proceeds, with the technician monitoring anesthesia, including using advanced instruments to measure oxygen saturation and blood pressure. The technician will assist the surgeon with suture packs and anything else he or she might need. Once the last suture (stitch) is placed, the veterinary technician monitors the cat until she is awake enough to have her breathing tube removed. She is then placed in a recovery ward and the technician or an assistant monitors her until she is fully awake.
She may spend the night in a quiet, comfortable cage, with towels or blanket to cushion her sleep, in the hospital. Or she may go home the night of surgery, in which case she will need to rest quietly in a small room. You may want to ask your veterinarian what level of supervision is provided after hours, in making a decision regarding hospitalization or not after this surgery
A kennel attendant will provide food, water and a litter box for your cat while she recuperates and a technician or the doctor will check her incision and temperature the next morning, if she spends the night. After the doctor completes the surgical write up and progress notes, a receptionist will prepare the file for check out. If she has external sutures or staples she will need to return in 10-14 days to have them removed by the doctor or technician. At The Cat Doctor & Friends, we use a subcuticular closure with no external sutures, so this additional visit is not needed.
As you can see, it really does take a team to spay a cat!