By Jean Hofve, DVM
About 4 million “excess” dogs and cats will be killed in shelters this year. By being a responsible caregiver and sterilizing your companion animals, you avoid contributing to this terrible problem of pet overpopulation.
Unsterilized (intact) cats usually find a way to get out and breed. Then, even if you could find good homes for the entire litter, each of your babies would displace another kitten that will then have to die. If you take your litter to a typical, overcrowded shelter, it is likely that the entire litter of kittens or puppies will go straight from your hands to the killing room—they must be destroyed immediately, due to lack of cage space. (And don’t think you can avoid the fatal consequences by taking them to a “no-kill” shelter—they may not have space.)
Neutered cats have a much lower risk of contracting Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV) (also called “Feline AIDS”), because they are much less likely to engage in fighting, which spreads this disease. Decreased roaming and territorial behavior in cats also lowers the risk of bite-wound abscesses. Neutering male cats stops spraying or urine marking in over 90% of cats, and solves this problem in female cats, who often will begin spraying when they go “into heat.” Spaying eliminates the “heat” cycle, which causes crying, pacing, and erratic behavior. Cats in heat can attract persistent and often obnoxiously loud “suitors” from all over the neighborhood, even if they’re kept indoors.
Spayed females are not susceptible to life-threatening uterine infections and reproductive tract cancers, mastitis, ovarian cysts, miscarriages and delivery complications. All these can be expensive to treat, and dangerous to your animal’s health. Spaying at a young age also significantly decreases the risk of developing malignant breast cancer.
A spayed or neutered animal requires fewer calories for maintenance than an intact one. Some experts recommend cutting the amount you feed by 1/4 to 1/3 for 4 to 6 weeks post-operatively. By doing this, chances are good that he or she will be able to self-regulate at that weight the rest of its life. Also, animals, just like people, need exercise and physical activity to maintain their ideal weight. We as caregivers are responsible for keeping our cats and dogs active. A companion animal’s metabolism, just like that of humans, tends to slow down as we get older. Therefore, less food and more exercise may be appropriate for your cat or dog as he or she matures.
If the cost of the surgery is an issue for you, Spay/USA maintains a list of clinics offering low-cost spay/neuter (1-800-248-SPAY), as does Friends of Animals (1-800-321-PETS), or go to www.lovethatcat.com/spayneuter/. You can also contact your local shelter or animal control agency for a referral.
So please, be your best friend’s best friend — have your animal companion spayed or neutered!