It is difficult to tell if an adult female cat has been surgically altered. Spaying (ovariohysterectomy or OVH) is a surgical procedure only performed legally by a licensed veterinarian in a sterile surgery suite under general gas anesthesia.
Most OVH surgeries leave minimal scarring in a cat, but sometimes you can clip away the hair on the lower abdomen and see a small scar line. Such scars are usually directly on the midline of the body and run in a head to tail direction. They are often less than an inch long. The presence of a scar of this description is not a guarantee that your new cat has been spayed, but OVH is the mostly likely source for this type of scar.
There are many local feral cat programs that trap homeless cats and alter them for return to their environment. The programs usually snip off the tip of one ear so that the cats are easily identified as altered on sight.
Some of our local low cost spay programs will tattoo altered pets at the time of the spay near to the incision site. Clipping may still be required to see the tiny blue or green mark, but if marked, it should be proof that the cat is spayed.
If there is no external proof that the cat is spayed, you may have to watch and see if she cycles or goes into estrus. Estrus cats are more apt to yowl loudly and rub on things, lifting their rear into the air. You may see strange male cats outside more when a female is in heat. Cats often stop cycling in the winter, but if it is spring or summer and your cat has not come into heat, she is more likely to be spayed.
The best route is usually to seek help from a veterinarian. Veterinarians know exactly where to look for all of the indicators of whether or not your cat is spayed and if not, they can help do it for you. They can also provide a resource for the other things your cat may need to be a healthy and happy addition to your family.
About The Author: Dr. Kathryn Primm is a practicing small animal veterinarian and practice owner at Applebrook Animal Hospital in Ooltewah, TN. She has consulted on articles for national magazines, done numerous radio interviews and appeared on local television. She has contributed to articles for Prevention magazine (April 2015) and Woman’s Day (Feb 2014 and June 2015). Her radio segment Chattanooga Pet Talk airs each week on all the local iHeart Media affiliates. She has a social media presence on Twitter, Facebook and Google+ and enjoys interaction with others about her passions, animals and communication. She has written a book, Tennessee Tails:Pets and Their People. The book received recognition as Runner Up in the Memoirs category at a national book festival. You can read more about Dr. Primm and how to get the best value for your pet care dollar at her website, www.drprimm.com.