The psychological impacts that a cat may face if left unneutered or unspayed.
A great deal of literature on reasons to spay and neuter focuses purely on the physical aspects and the advantages of neutering and spaying; of which there are many. The operations are not purely for the purpose of ensuring the already extensive feline population doesn’t grow, there are also enormous benefits a cat can reap themselves from the procedure.
What is not tackled is the potential psychological impact on a cat.
What has to be remembered when focusing on the psychological aspect is that the primary and potentially only drive for a female cat to mate is her instinct to procreate. This is not a maternal need, she’s purely “carrying out orders” that her body is giving her. And when she’s in season, she really knows about those orders. It is literally pretty much the only thing motivating her. Female cats will act entirely out of character in their attempts to attract a mate, spraying becomes more likely because it is a very clear sensory signal to a tom. Her frustration at not finding a mate is likely to make her more vocal, and she will make some terribly distressing noises. The reason for this is her desperation; the need to mate is so strong she has no choice but to do it. There is no option for her, unlike a human making a conscious decision; if she doesn’t then she will become anguished. If a female cat is spayed before her first season, she never has to encounter this. She avoids the distress of a programmed instinct that would cause her emotional anxiety, stress and disruption and she is none the wiser that she has.
Interestingly, the impact of not neutering is just as radical as not spaying. Toms that are unneutered are more likely to enter into territory disputes due to feeling the need to retain dominancy in an area. This is not to say the cat really wants to, but the need to find as many mates as possible means they have to display that they’re in charge so there is less competition for females.
If a cat is not by nature confrontational, this can cause him added problems. He is likely to be rather conflicted; part of his nature is telling him he needs to scare away other prospective mates, whilst his personality is content at taking the back seat a little more, so to speak. This will make the tom anxious and unhappy because he’s very likely to go with the stronger instinct which would be the need to mate. With this personality, it’s likely he won’t be as confident in a dispute and so is less likely to fare as well as a more confident, territorial opponent.