Each day over 70,000 kittens and puppies are born in the United States. As a result, over 5 million animals are euthanized, every year because there are no homes for them. Cities and counties spend millions of dollars to control and take care of unwanted animals. Behavioral problems are one of the main reasons animals are given to shelters but many orphans are the result of breeding by free-roaming, unaltered cats. The more cats that we spay or neuter will result in fewer that will have to be destroyed.
Spaying and neutering can improve your cat’s health and give them a longer life to spend with you. Spaying (ovario-hysterectomy) is the surgical removal of the reproductive organs (ovaries, uterus, fallopian tubes) of the female animal. Neutering (orchectomy or castration) is the surgical removal of the reproductive glands (testes) of the male animal. The outer is left, only the testes are removed.
When Should it be Done?
Females and males should be spayed or neutered by 5-6 months of age depending on the breed and size of the cat. Currently some clinics are performing surgeries on animals as young as 6 weeks of age. As this procedure becomes more common, perhaps it will be available in all areas. Older animals can be done as long as they are in good health. All sterilization surgery should be performed under general anesthesia by a licensed veterinarian.
Spaying before having a first litter or heat cycle is usually a simpler procedure. Heat cycles in cats start as early as 5 months and occur every 3-4 weeks during spring through early fall. The gestation period for cats is 63 days. Female cats can become pregnant again as soon as 10 days after giving birth, even while still nursing their first litter.
Female cats can be spayed when in heat or pregnant but consult your veterinarian on how far along your cat is in her pregnancy. Most veterinarians do not like to spay a pregnant female due to stress on the animal, also the surgery can take longer and therefore cost more.
Benefits of Spaying and Neutering
Spayed cats no longer have the urge to roam to look for a mate. This results in he or she staying home and having less chance of being injured or worse! Spayed and neutered cats are less likely to bite. Unaltered cats tend to have more behavior and temper problems than those that have been spayed or neutered.
Neutering your male cat prevents testicular tumors and may prevent prostate problems as they get older. Because neutered cats are less likely to roam, the threat of abscesses caused by bites and diseases transmitted by fighting are greatly reduced. Males neutered early in life are less aggressive toward other males and are not distracted by females in heat. Therefore, a neutered male will be less tempted to leave your property and roam the streets searching for a mate. Neutered males also are less likely to mark (spray) every thing in his outside territory with his urine, as well as inside the house.
In Females, spaying decreases the likeliness of breast cancer and the rate goes down to almost zero if the spaying is done before the first heat cycle. Spay surgery also eliminates the heat cycle, mood swings and undesirable behaviors, and the attraction of all available males to your yard. Female cats in heat often cry continuously and show nervous behavior and attract unwanted males.
Myths Associated with Spaying and Neutering
My cat will get fat and lazy
Not true! Cats that become fat and lazy after being altered usually are overfed and do not get enough exercise. In general, some breeds as well as indoor cats, are not as active as others. A low calorie diet for indoor cats and a feeding schedule could help.
My cat’s personality will change
Any change will be for the better. After being altered, your cat will be less aggressive toward other cats, have a better personality, and will be less likely to wander. Spraying (urine marking), which is often done by cats to mark their territory, diminishes or ceases after he or she is altered.
We can sell kittens and make money
Well-known breeders are lucky if they break even on raising purebred litters. Consider the costs of raising such a litter which includes stud fees, vaccinations, health care costs, extra food for mom and food for the litter. If your pet is not a purebred then the odds against you in finding homes. If you do find a home will it be a good one for the kitten? Or when the cute kitten stage is over will she be tossed out in the cold to fend for herself? If you can’t find homes for them are you going to just dump your problem on someone else?
My children need to experience our pet giving birth
Don’t use your pets to teach your children about the birds and the bees. They too need privacy when giving birth and any unnecessary intrusion can cause the mother to become seriously upset. This can result in an unwillingness to care for the offspring or cause injury to you, your children or to your cat. Some cats can become very protective of their new offspring so use caution.
I am concerned about my cat undergoing anesthesia
Placing a cat under anesthesia is a very common concern of owners. There is always a slight risk involved. Many veterinarians use equipment that monitors heart and respiratory rates during surgery to ensure that their patients are doing well under anesthesia. Just remember the medical benefits of having your cat spayed or neutered far outweigh the slight risk involved with undergoing anesthesia.
Is the Cost Worth it?
Yes! This is a one-time expense that can dramatically improve your cat’s quality of life and in the long run preventing expensive veterinarian bills that arise is you do not spay or neuter. Having your cat spayed or neutered is a part of being a responsible owner and you are helping to alleviate the cat overpopulation problem.
If you are having trouble affording a spay or neuter procedure, check out these resources:
Local Animal Shelter
Your local shelter may operate a clinic or know of a local clinic that offers subsidized services. It may also offer vouchers to have your pet spayed or neutered at a lower cost by local cooperating veterinarians. Locate your local shelter by going here.
Your local veterinarian may be able to work out special financing options for you. Remember, even if you pay full price for the procedures, spaying or neutering is a one-time cost with a lifetime of benefits. Spaying or neutering your pet not only helps curb pet overpopulation but also reduces your pet’s risk of succumbing to many health problems. It remains one of the best bargains in animal health care. Locate a veterinarian in your area by going here.
SPAY/USA is a national spay/neuter referral service for the public regarding low cost spay/neuter programs or they may be able to direct you to subsidized spay/neuter clinics in your area. SPAY/USA can be reached at 1-800-248-SPAY (1-800-248-7729) or you can visit their website, here. You will receive information about the nearest low-cost program and will be sent a certificate as proof you have gone through the SPAY/USA network. They have a multitude of programs and clinics nationwide.
Check out the Friends of Animals spay/neuter website, and there you can find a list of participating veterinarians in your area, based on your zip code, for a low cost spay/neuter certificate.
Low Cost or Free Spay/Neuter Programs in the United States.
In one year, a female cat and her off spring can produce 48 cats. The second year the same female cat and her off spring and their off spring can produce 288 cats. The third year, multiply that by 12 which equals 3,456 cats. That is just from one female cat! The only solution to this problem is to do your part and spay or neuter your cat.