When Tic Tac had her third and final vaccination at the beginning of December, I knew the dreaded deadline was looming. Our girl was morphing from a kitten into a young lady cat. When the New Year came, there was no denying it: it was time for Tic Tac to be spayed.
Ever since Tic Tac joined our family, I dreaded the day because my past experience of that operation was a bad one.
The first time I spayed a girl cat, I was living in Jakarta. It was 30 years ago, and small animal veterinary surgery wasn’t common there. I took my kitten, Friday, into the clinic – and was horrified to be roped in to help with the surgery. I was too proud to let it show but to have to put my fingers inside my cat and help with this, that and the other, horrified me.
When we went home, Friday had to wear a lampshade (also known as the cone of shame, protective plastic headgear) for a week so that she wouldn’t worry the wound and open up her stitches. The gash started just under her rib cage and went three or four inches down. The massive wound combined with the lampshade meant she couldn’t groom herself, and she needed help eating, as well.
It was a week of pure torture for both of us. Then, I had to repeat it with Conchita and Perdita, two other girl cats who lived with me.
While I dreaded Tic Tac’s upcoming operation, the advantages of spaying are undeniable. Our little girl was miserable in her mini-heats and I can’t imagine how she’d cope if she were hit by these periods throughout her life.
Even if she didn’t mind being in heat, having a constant flow of kittens is not an option, as it impacts badly on the mummy cat’s health and also because there are thousands of unwanted cats being killed every year.
Also, spaying means a huge decrease in breast cancer risk as well as uterine disease.
So I made the appointment. There was one small blessing. While I’ve had to lend a hand in the odd cat operation in Malaysia too, our current vet has excellent staff. This time, I would not have to participate.
Still, I felt sick with anticipatory dread. The vet could see I was nervous and as he gave out the prep instructions, he tried to encourage me. It was kind but it didn’t diminish my fear.
Some people like to leave their pets overnight but I think feeling sore and sick in a strange place filled with other animals is just heaping trauma on top of a painful experience.
So, I arranged to pick Tic Tac up as early as possible. Accordingly, I was told to drop our girl off at 11 and to collect her at 3 o’clock.
Knowing I would be a nervous wreck, I asked a friend to distract me. She took me out for lunch and, as she’s an experienced rescuer, she refreshed me on aftercare. Most brilliantly, she told me about Wound Gard, a bitter antiseptic spray you can put on cuts that will repel your pet from licking and chewing.
As I drove to the clinic afterwards, I thought the lampshade would prevent Tic Tac from worrying her stitches but I might need it for the week after the lampshade came off.
All those years ago, Friday, Perdita and Conchita took a few weeks to recover totally. After all, it’s a massive operation.
Entering the clinic, stomach churning, hands shaking, I took a look at Tic Tac. The vet had judged the anaesthetic beautifully because she was already awake. Staggering about her box, eyes huge, she was doped up still and not really functioning consciously. But she was alive and moving. Some of my fears retreated.
Confirming for about the thousandth time that she had her painkiller injection and that we had enough antibiotics, I asked to buy a lampshade.
To my surprise, the vet suggested it might not be necessary to use one. Feral and nervy kitties, he explained, chew at their wounds, but with Tic Tac being a cheery, placid girl, she might be sensible.
Also, he pointed out, I planned to stay with her day and night, so would be able to observe her closely. I bought one anyway, on the principle that safe is better than sorry, but honestly, I was totally taken aback. It had not occurred to me that recovery might be lampshade-free.
When we got her home, we left her in her box and put her in the spare room. We checked on her every 15 minutes, and I was convinced she’d be chewing at her tummy. She didn’t.
At about 7 o’clock, she recognised us, so we let her out for a few minutes. However, her wild wide eyes signalled she was still under the influence. As we worried she might hurt herself, we put her back in her box and gave her a few more hours.
By 9 o’clock, she was almost herself. We gave her a bowl of wet food, rich with jelly moisture, and she scoffed the lot. Afterwards, she sniffed her tummy. That’s when we got a clear look at the wound: instead of a huge rip, it was less than an inch long and with just two stitches.
As if that wasn’t miraculous enough, she stood on her hind paws against the door, meowing at Target and Swooner who were on the other side.
Given our girl was looking good, we let the boys in. Target sniffed, recognised vet smell and ran. Swooner stayed but as Tic Tac wanted to play (yes, really!) we cut the social visit short.
Between you and me, I was so grateful that I was almost in tears. Having imagined torture and terror, it was a delight to see Tic Tac moving so well.
In the build-up to the operation, we had planned for me and the kitten to sleep in the spare room. Also, I had organised my work so I could spend most of my day with her.
At this point, it was clear we’d over-planned. However, while Tic Tac was bouncing back, I was a wreck. Accordingly, we waved the boys goodbye and settled down to sleep. I was in and out of sleep all night long but Tic Tac slept through the night.
In the morning, she stretched, gulped down a massive breakfast and had a wash. I watched her carefully but she didn’t even try to touch her stitches. At this point, we junked the emergency plan and went with the flow.
Tic Tac was impatient to see her brothers, so we went downstairs where Target and Swooner were waiting for us. They sniffed her over, licked her face and, to celebrate her safe return, it was treats all round.
And basically, that was it. Tic Tac just bounced back. We didn’t pick her up at all for three days or so, just in case, even though she ran around as normal. Also, we kept an eye on the boys, cutting short wild games and encouraging gentler activities instead.
As for Tic Tac, she acted as if she’d not been under the knife at all. She sniffed at her stitches once she began to heal, so I applied a little Wound Gard on the second, third and fourth day. It did the trick; she didn’t need the lampshade at all.
On the seventh day, we went back to have her stitches removed, a procedure that took two seconds, and we were officially done.
Surgery is a highly individual experience, especially with cats being so different from each other both physically and mentally. We recognise that we have a terrific vet who is a skilled surgeon and that Tic Tac is particularly calm and well-adjusted.
But every time I look at her, I see a miracle and I am grateful for it.
Did you find this article insightful?
100% readers found this article insightful