Unneutered female cats, queens, will start to call for a mate. When a queen does this it can sound and look like they are in pain. They can roll around the floor throwing themselves about quite violently, the degree at which they do this varies from cat to cat. As they roll about, they will make a series of loud, long cries. This can go on for a week at a time, and if she doesn't find a mate she can become like this all the time. In general if an unneutered cat isn't pregnant she will be calling for a mate. If your cat does disappear you may never see her again, if she does return there is a very good chance she will be pregnant.
If you are not going to breed from your cat then you can have her neutered. This procedure is carried out under general anaesthetic and is called spaying. The operation involves the removal of the uterus and ovaries (ovariohysterectomy).
The advantages of spaying are that you will not have any unwanted kittens, that you will have to try and find homes for, and there are health advantages. Unneutered cats can develop certain conditions at a later stage in their lives. They can develop pyometra and mammary tumours.
When a cat develops a pyometra urgent veterinary attention is required to remove the uterus and ovaries. A pyometra is an infection which occurs in the womb, usually at the time when the kittens would have been born, if she had been pregnant. This condition is normally seen in older cats. The signs of this condition are excessive drinking, vomiting, depression and in some situations a coloured smelly discharge from the vulva. Mammary tumours can develop in cats as they get older, neutering reduces the risk greatly. Many of these tumours are benign but they can spread to other parts of the body. If you do discover a mammary lump on your cat then it should be monitored carefully for any changes in size, also consult your vet.
The control of the season can also be done without surgery. However this is only really an option for cats that are being used for breeding. These other options are hormone injections and pills which are given by your vet. There are commercial products, like sprays and lotions, are also available which have various degrees of success. These products only make the queen less attractive to the male, they will not prevent her from coming into heat.
Male cats, tom cats, can be neutered, castrated, when they are 6 months or older. The castration procedure is carried out under general anaesthetic. The operation involves the removal of the testicles. There can be several reasons why a male cat has to be castrated. The main ones being it stops them marking territory by spraying urine all over the house and it suppresses their desire to wander and fight.
Medically the cat may only have one testicle descended into the scrotum, the other could be in the abdomen. If this is the case the cat should be castrated as the testicle in the abdomen could become a tumour. A tumour of this type can be life threatening if it spreads to other parts of the body. Unneutered males can be aggressive, in particular with other cats, they can get quite nasty infection from wounds from fighting over territory. They will mark their territory with urine, in the house and outside. This can be very smelly and the odour is very difficult to get rid of. They will also wander off, especially if they sense there is a queen calling nearby.
With both male and female cats, having them neutered, can make them have a tendency to gain weight, with some breeds being more susceptible than others. Once neutered try and cut out the treats, and increase the amount of time you spend playing with your cat, thus making them take more exercise.