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The number one problem of cats and dogs in the western world is that of overpopulation. The Humane Society of the United States estimates that 8-10 million dogs and cats are brought into shelters throughout the country each and every year. About half of these are euthanized in shelters for lack of good homes.
Ironically, these may actually be the lucky ones. Many more cats and dogs die on the streets every year with no food, medical care, or human attention.
Where do these pets come from? They come from homes where dogs and cats were allowed to breed indiscriminately. As pet owners, it is our responsibility to try and reduce the scale of this tragedy. The way to do this is simple: spay/neuter our cats and dogs and urge our friends and acquaintances to do the same.
What are Spaying and Neutering
Spaying and neutering cats are probably the most common procedures in any cat clinic. Both are done while the cat is under general anesthesia.
Neutering a male cat involves making small incisions in the scrotum and removing the testes. No sutures are made and the scrotal sacs are usually covered with antibiotics and left to heal.
Spaying a female cat is an abdominal surgery, which entails the removal of the cat's uterus and ovaries.
The Benefits of Spaying a Female
Spaying your female cat will prevent unwanted litters. That is the fundamental issue, because if your cat gives birth, you are the one faced with the task of finding new homes for the kittens.
Here are some added benefits to spaying your female cat:
- Prevent tumors and infections of the ovaries and uterus.
- Greatly decrease the risk for mammary cancer.
- Spaying a cat before she goes into her first heat is best, but even spaying at a later age will dramatically decrease the risk of mammary cancer.
- Avoid the hassle of a female cat in heat.
Cats in heat can be very vocal and will attract a great many male cats. If you think you can wait out the heat cycle, you're in for a surprise. If the cat does not mate, she will keep going into heat every few weeks.
The Benefits of Neutering a Male
The benefits of spaying a male are so significant, that it is possible to say that unaltered male cats cannot make good house pets. If you want to keep a male cat as a pet you simply must neuter him.
Here are some reasons, other than helping to fight the cat overpopulation crisis, which may convince you to neuter your male cat:
Tomcats (unaltered males) spray foul-smelling urine around their territory. Neutering a male cat before he reaches sexual maturity, almost always prevents this behavior pattern from emerging. If a tomcat had already taken to spraying, neutering is still likely to stop or at least significantly reduce the habit. The urine of a neutered cat is also less smelly.
Tomcats tend to roam long distances. This means they are often away from home, sometimes for days on end. Roaming puts these cats in danger, as they are more likely to be hit by a car, poisoned, or be hurt by dogs and people. Prevent injuries and disease.
Tomcats tend to get into catfights over females and territory. This means they may get injured and are more likely to be infected with the disease. By the way, this also means that it is virtually impossible to keep two or more unaltered male cats together.
Common Questions About Spaying And Neutering
At what age should I have my cat spayed/neutered?
The rule is to spay/neuter before your cat reaches sexual maturity. In fact, the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) now supports early spay and neuter for cats as early as 8-16 weeks of age. Consult your vet concerning your cat, but remember to have the cat altered before sexual maturity (usually before the age of 5-6 months).
Will my cat get fat and lazy?
Numerous studies have shown that spaying and neutering are not a cause of weight gain in cats! You can and should spay your cat without allowing her to gain weight (the same applies to male cats!). Cats become fat if they eat too much and don't get enough exercise, not because of sterilization. Read more about overweight cats. Your cat is not likely to get lazy or sedate either. The cat's personality is determined by its genetic make-up and by external stimuli, not by its hormone glands.
I want to have a large cat - Will neutering stop my kitten's growth?
No. Some studies indicate that early spaying/neutering actually makes the cats larger - not fat but rather taller and longer! Will my cat be deprived of manliness/the experience of motherhood?
Please don't make the mistake of thinking about your cat in terms of human experience. Cats are not bothered by our social concepts of gender and gender-specific experiences.
Are there any risks involved?
As with any operation, there are some medical risks involved. However, these pale in comparison to the medical and behavioral advantages of spaying and neutering cats! As stated earlier, you will in effect be extending your cat's lifespan and improving her or his quality of life. Also, please bear in mind that these are among the most common operations performed by veterinarians.
How much does it cost?
The price of neutering and spaying may change according to where you live and the veterinary clinic you go to. Vets today recognize the importance of spaying and neutering cats as a means to fighting the cat overpopulation crisis. Many vets may offer significant discounts on these operations if financial difficulties are evident or if you're treating several cats (your own or strays and feral cats).
If you feel that financial difficulties are a problem, please contact the Humane or Animal Welfare Society in your country. In the United States, call SpayUSA's toll-free number - 1-800-248-SPAY - for information on the nearest low-cost spay and neuter clinic. Also, check out this list of low-cost and free spay and neuter programs.
Remember that spaying and neutering cats are always cheaper than caring for generations of kittens!
Read more: All about ethically breeding cats
I really love kittens and I'm sure I'll find good homes for all of them - why can't I let my cat breed? Millions of cats are euthanized each year in the United States alone. In many countries, stray and feral cats are simply poisoned by state and local authorities. The fact is that there are simply not enough good homes for the number of cats born each year.
Finding good homes for cats and kittens is difficult. Giving them away from a cardboard box in your supermarket's parking lot is not considered finding a good home! You need to make sure that the adopters are willing to make the commitment to care for a cat for the next twenty years.
And what if those people think like you and let their cats have kittens? Next year there will be dozens of kittens looking for homes! Do you really think you can find good homes for all of them?
There are literally millions of wonderful cats and kittens waiting to be adopted at shelters all over the country. If you're really good at finding homes for kittens, why not start with some of those? If you know anyone who's looking for a cat - great! Refer them to your local shelter and help save a cat's life!
I have a purebred cat. Surely I can breed her and find good homes for the kittens? Please read the answer to the previous question. The Humane Society of the United States estimates that one of four cats in the shelters is a purebred cat. Unfortunately, purebred cats are just as much a part of the cat overpopulation problem as mixed-breed cats.
Breeding cats can be very complicated and requires professional knowledge about the breed and its genetics. Don't become a backyard breeder just because you own a purebred cat. You could end up with a bunch of sick kittens with congenital defects. As a matter of fact, unless the breeder who sold you the cat specifically told you otherwise, your purebred cat is probably not suitable for breeding programs and was sold to you as a pet.
If you are truly interested in breeding cats, start by reading on the subject, visiting cat shows, and discussing the technicalities and problems with as many breeders as you can. Don't start by breeding your cat without the required knowledge and expertise.
What about feral cats?
Excellent question! Strays and feral cats are just as prolific as any house cat. For the cat's life quality as well as for preventing future generations of feral cats, spay and neuter any stray and feral cats that you can. You can get help and advice about Trap-Neuter-Release programs from these organizations: Operation Catnip
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