all text and photos by Deb Barnes
As responsible pet parents, we do our best to provide our cats with a proper diet, veterinary care, and creature comforts to ensure they have a long, happy and healthy life. When it comes to the subject of spay/neuter, however, many of us view it as an optional surgery, not considering the powerful impact the procedure has in terms of preventing feline overpopulation and the overall benefits to the health and well-being of the cat itself.
According to the ASPCA, there are upward of 70 million homeless cats in the United States alone. Of this astounding figure, approximately 3 to 5 million are cats that end up in shelters, with half of them needlessly euthanized because their numbers exceed willing adopters. The remaining cats are living on the streets, a combination of feral outdoor cats and strays that have either been abandoned or are lost. Because they can reproduce at an alarming rate – an unspayed/neutered cat pair leads up to 5,000 cats in 7 years, spay/neuter is necessary to prevent further homelessness and euthanizations.
Health & Behavioral Benefits
Some believe if they keep their cat indoors, spay/neuter is not necessary. Even with best intentions, escapes can happen, but more importantly, the overall health benefits to your cat from the procedure will result in him or her having a longer and happier life.
Spaying your female prior to her first heat nearly eliminates the risk of mammary cancer, uterine infections, and uterine cancer, which is fatal to approximately 90% of cats according to the American Humane Association. It also stops her heat cycle and the annoying behavioral issues that come along with it, such as constant vocalization and inappropriate urinating. Unless she is spayed, this cycle will repeat and continue for days and weeks at a time until she finds a mate.
Neutering your male before he is 6 months of age prevents testicular and prostate cancer and greatly reduces his risk for perianal tumors. It also reduces aggressive behavior and his need to mark the house by spraying with strong smelling urine. Additionally, he will be less inclined to want to roam or dart out the door, which might result in a traffic injury to him, a fatality, or finding a female to impregnate.
Many unintentional pregnancies occur for the simple reason we do not know the facts when it comes to cats, kittens, conception, and spay/neuter in order to act responsibly.
- A female kitten can become pregnant as early as 4 months of age and a male kitten can impregnate a fertile female at the same young age.
- A “pre-pubertal” spay/neuter is safe with kittens as soon as they weigh at least 2 pounds, which is ideally between 8 and 12 weeks of age.
- A nursing cat can become pregnant.
- A female can produce 3 litters a year, with an average litter of 4 – 6 kittens.
Despite the importance of spay/neuter, some pet parents still elect not to have the procedure done for any one of these misinformed reasons:
- My cat will become overweight after the procedure. With proper exercise, diet, and monitoring food intake, there is no reason for your cat to gain excess weight.
- My cat’s personality will be adversely affected. A male cat will not become “emasculated” if you neuter him – he will be less aggressive and friendlier. A female cat will be much happier without the undue emotional and physical stress of a heat.
- The procedure is too expensive. There are low-fee or even free clinics that offer assistance that can be found by asking your veterinarian or local shelter for options and the ASPCA has a low-cost spay/neuter provider database available on its website.
- It is not fair to the cat to deprive them of their natural right to reproduce. Due to severe overpopulation and the fact that the overall health of the cat is significantly improved, this should override any need for a cat to procreate for reasons outside of responsible breeding.
- It’s only one litter – what’s the big deal? Each new litter quickly adds up and there are plenty of available cats and kittens in shelters looking for a good home.
- I don’t even have a cat – why should I care about spay/neuter? All of us are affected by cat overpopulation and millions of tax dollars are spent every year to shelter and care for these unwanted animals. Much of that money is spent to euthanize them when homes can’t be found and the problem continues without proper spay/neuter.
The benefits of spay/neuter are far reaching and affect the safety, quality of life, and health of the entire cat population. However, because overpopulation and health and behavioral issues remain a serious problem, we cannot assume that everyone knows the full impact, value, or importance of spay/neuter. Community wide responsibility must become part of mainstream culture to ensure that overpopulation and senseless euthanizaions stop and that our cats are given the best option for a long, happy, and healthy life.
Deborah Barnes resides in the tropical paradise of South Florida with her fiancé and feline family of seven. She is the author of the 5-star rated books, The Chronicles of Zee & Zoey – A Journey of the Extraordinarily Ordinary and Purr Prints of the Heart – A Cat’s Tale of Life, Death, and Beyond as well as the award winning blog, Zee & Zoey’s Cat Chronicles that continues to cover the everyday journey she shares with her cats along with topics from the humorous behaviors of cats to very serious subjects on pet responsibility. Deborah was awarded 2013 “Writer of the Year” by Friskies Purina on behalf of the Cat Writers’ Association and she is also the Secretary of the nonprofit, Pawsitively Humane, Inc. of Miami, Florida, whose mission is to create public awareness and reduce the numbers of animals on the streets and in shelters through an extensive educational campaign.
To purchase any of Deborah’s books: https://www.zeezoey.com/the-book.php
https://www.facebook.com/zeezoey (Zee and Zoey – Facebook)
https://www.facebook.com/purrprintsoftheheart (Purr Prints on Facebook)
https://www.pawsitivelyhumane.org (Pawsitively Humane, Inc.)