The Importance of Neutering
Of the 6-8 million dogs and cats entering shelters, 3-4 million are humanely euthanized (See footnote). These are the ones lucky enough to end up at caring animal shelters. Those who are not so fortunate will die from accidents, starvation, exposure, poisoning, disease, abuse, or neglect.
You can make a difference! At the present time the best way to prevent the continuous breeding of domestic pets is by "neutering" (surgically spaying females and castrating males). There are many excuses for not neutering pets, but none of these reasons can justify adding to the overwhelming number of pets that must be euthanized daily.
Fallacy: Preventing animals from reproducing is interfering with nature.
FACT: We've already interfered. Domesticated animals mate more often and have larger litters than their wild ancestors.
Fallacy: Sexual fulfillment is important to animals.
FACT: Don't confuse human emotional needs and relationships with those of your pet. After neutering, you pet won't know there has been any change, except to be more content and no longer driven to seek a mate. It is the owner's responsibility to have their pets neutered. It is very sad when a female cat has litter after litter, becoming increasingly unhealthier with each pregnancy, but having no one who cares enough to stop the cycle.
Fallacy: Neutering makes pets fat and lazy.
FACT: This does have some truth to it. Cats, especially males, do put on fat and become more inactive after neutering. However, healthy benefits far outweigh this problem. Weight control can be aided by the owner through discipline regarding feeding and exercise.
Fallacy: Only female cats need to be "fixed".
FACT: A male cat can father thousands of offspring in his lifetime. Free roaming tom cats fighting other cats are a neighborhood nuisance. Veterinary bills will be unavoidable with abscesses as a result of fighting. An intact male may also develop the bad habit of marking its territory by urine spraying. Strong urine odors make it almost impossible to live with an un-neutered tom cat.
Fallacy: Children should experience the miracle of birth.
FACT: Most cats hide when giving birth, having their litters at night in a dark place. Consider instead children's books and films or become a foster family for your local animal shelter. Experiencing the miracle of birth is only half of the lesson. The other half lies in teaching responsibility for the fate of the offspring. Even if you find homes for your litter, those kittens are only competing with other kittens desperately in need of homes.
Fallacy: Neutering costs too much.
FACT: Veterinary costs should be considered before acquiring a pet. If you would like to provide a good home for a pet, but cannot pay for the neuter, call you local animal shelter. They will be happy to provide information on low-cost neutering. The costs of having a litter are often more than the cost of neutering. There could be complications requiring hospitalization or surgery. The mother and kittens will consume a great deal of food. You will be faced with finding homes or keeping the offspring yourself. In a few months, those matured kittens will be having their own litters! The cost of one neuter eliminates the necessity of many neuters later.
Fallacy: Females should have one litter before being neutered.
FACT: This is an old wives tale, which is now discredited, and is responsible for the birth of thousands of unwanted pets. Going through a pregnancy and giving birth does not change a cat's personality permanently. More importantly, cats that have even one litter are more prone to develop breast cancer later in life.
Fallacy: My purebred cat should be allowed to reproduce.
FACT: Mixed breed or purebred, there just aren't enough homes. Animal shelters receive purebred cats every day, many of which must be euthanized. Responsible purebred breeders have homes for their kittens BEFORE they are born. They also require neutering for pet-quality kittens.
OTHER FACTS YOU SHOULD KNOW
Through neutering, you can help your cat live a happier, healthier, and longer life. Spaying eliminates the constant crying and nervous pacing that is a sign that a cat is in heat. Castration stops the mating drive in males, reducing the urge to roam, which in turn, reduces the risk of fights, injury, poisoning, accidents, and contracting diseases. If you have more than one pet in your household, they will get along better if all are neutered.
A long-term benefit of neutering is improved health. Early neutering nearly eliminates breast cancer, and totally prevents uterine infections and uterine and testicular cancer.
WHEN TO NEUTER
Neuter your cat before bad habits associated with sexual maturity begin (such as tom cat spraying). You can have your kitten neutered as young as 8 weeks of age or at 2 pounds but it should be neutered by five months of age. Cats can go into heat and begin reproducing as early as four months, and can have a second heat and pregnancy while still nursing the first litter. DON'T WAIT.
YOU DON'T OWN A PET SO THIS IS NOT YOUR PROBLEM - RIGHT?
Wrong! All of us are affected by animal overpopulation. Millions of tax dollars are spent annually to round up lost, abandoned, and unwanted pets. Much of that money is spent to destroy these animals, as there is no alternative. Health is threatened by the danger of rabies, animal bites, and attack. Property may be damaged and livestock killed when pets roam in search of food. Yards and parks are fouled by animal wastes, proving a serious environment hazard.
There are homes available for perhaps only one out of every ten cats and dogs born. The rest are either euthanized or end up living a pathetic life on the streets. It is only when ALL of us assume the responsibility for pet overpopulation that we will see any decrease in the problem.
Footnote: Special Report on Controlling America's Pet Population, July 2008. The Humane Society of the United States, 2100 L Street, NW, Washington, DC 20037