In a survey of uk veterinary practitioners, 96 per cent indicated that they performed ovariohysterectomy on cats via flank laparatomy rather than a midline coeliotomy. At a veterinary teaching hospital 32 cats were spayed by the midline approach and 34 by the flank approach, by undergraduate students under the continuous supervision of a veterinary surgeon. The duration of each part of the procedures was recorded and information was obtained from the students, the supervisors and the owners of the cats by means of questionnaires. The total duration of the surgery and the students' assessment of the difficulty of the surgery were not significantly different between the two groups. The time taken from the skin incision to entering the peritoneum was significantly longer with the flank approach, but finding the uterus took significantly longer with the midline approach. There was a high incidence of wound complications, in the form of swelling, redness or discharges, but the only statistically significant difference between the groups was a greater incidence of discharges in the cats spayed via the flank (five cases) than in the cats spayed via the midline (one case).