Who doesn’t love a kitten? Playful and sweet, snuggly and full of purrs, they melt hearts with every swish of the tail and uncertain, wobbly step. But these adorable little fur balls don’t stay little for long, and the sad truth is, letting kitty “have just one litter,” can have a long-lasting, damaging impact on so many innocent little lives.
That’s why the last Tuesday in February has been set aside as World Spay Day in an effort to raise awareness of the problem of animal overpopulation and the importance of having pets spayed or neutered. This is an important day for all animal lovers, but here are a few things for cat parents to keep in mind:
- A single female cat can have as many as three litters every year and produces between one and eight kittens in each litter. That’s a potential for over one hundred kittens over the course of a lifetime. Yikes!
- As adorable as they are, all of those kittens need homes! And there simply aren’t enough to go around. Sadly, every year millions of kittens are surrendered to shelters, and many of them are euthanized when no one comes along to give them their fur-ever homes. Much of this could be avoided if more cats were spayed or neutered.
- Besides the obvious benefits of controlling the number of homeless kitties, spaying or neutering your cat has some specific advantages for you and your feline friend.
Why Spay or Neuter Your Cat
A Healthier Cat
Female cats who have been spayed have a lower risk of developing pyometra (a uterine infection that can be fatal). They also are less likely to have mammary (breast) or uterine cancer and cancer that affects other parts of the reproductive system. Neutered male cats will not develop testicular cancer, and they have a lower risk for prostate cancer.
Fewer Behavior Issues
Having your cat spayed or neutered will not change his or her personality, but it will cut down on the likelihood of several undesirable behaviors.
- Spraying. Unaltered male cats are highly territorial and will spray to mark their territory. Neutering solves 90% of all marking issues. Female cats who have not been spayed will attract intact neighborhood males, who may begin spraying under your windows or fighting in the backyard.
- Fighting. Male cats will be much more likely to fight, either with other cats in the neighborhood or those in the same house. Not only is this aggressive behavior unpleasant, but it can result in injury and increases their risk of being exposed to feline leukemia or FIV.
- Roaming. Intact male cats will roam further away in search of a mate, increasing the dangers associated with being outside (like traffic and other animals). And the drive to find a mate is so strong that, even if you try to keep your cat indoors, he will be quite persistent and creative in his efforts to escape!
- Vocalizing. Female cats in heat can make a lot of noise! And we’re not talking about cute little purrs and meows either. Many of them yowl and howl like crazy! During the breeding season (January to late fall) they can go into heat for several days every few weeks.
More Money in Your Wallet
Some cat parents avoid spaying or neutering because of the cost. However, this is only a short-term savings. Properly caring for litter after litter of kittens will be far more expensive than a one-time vet bill.
Even if you are the parent of a male cat, or are able to successfully keep your female away from males when she is in heat, the costs of dealing with long-term health risks can also add up. A male who gets an abscess as a result of fighting will need medical attention. And treatment for cancer can cost as much as ten times the amount of a routine spaying or neutering surgery.
If you are concerned about being able to pay for the procedure for your cat, check out the ASPCA’s database of low-cost spay/neuter providers. It’s the best thing you can do for your cat!
When is the Best Time to do it?
It’s safe to spay or neuter a kitten who has reached 8 weeks old. Many animal shelters perform the surgeries at this age in order to avoid adopting out unaltered cats.
If you adopt a cat who is not already spayed or neutered, plan to have it done before he or she is 5 months old. This will be soon enough to prevent male cats from starting to spray and female cats from becoming pregnant.
Spaying or neutering your cat is paws down one of the best things you can do for their health and well-being. And it comes with the added peace of mind that you’ll be doing your part to help solve the problems of overpopulation and unwanted kittens.