Tuesday, August 26, 2014

The Importance of Spaying and Neutering Cats, a Guest Post by Nancy Peterson, Cat Programs Manager for The Humane Society of the United States

As a child, every birthday and holiday I begged for a cat, but it wasn’t until I was an adult that I finally got one. I eagerly adopted four month old Shasta from a friend whose cat had kittens. Oops! My friend wasn’t planning on her cat having a litter of kittens, but didn’t get around to spaying her cat in time.


Shasta, Nancy's first cat
Photo Courtesy of HSUS


It didn’t take long to fall in love with my beautiful gray Shasta, and I often shared stories about her with my work colleague Susan, who had six cats and was a fount of kitty information. After a while, I began to suspect that Shasta was in heat, but Susan would disagree. Finally, I came in one day and announced, “Oh, my goodness. Shasta is in heat.” Susan nodded yes and smiled.
If you’ve ever lived with a cat in heat, you know it’s not fun. She’ll be calling loudly for a male cat, rolling around on the floor, and constantly rubbing against furniture or your leg. Cats have multiple heat cycles during breeding season, which is affected by geographic factors, temperature and number of daylight hours. She’ll be in heat and accept a male for three to 16 days. If she doesn’t become pregnant, she’ll keep coming into heat every two to three weeks until she mates or the amount of daylight decreases.
If I would have known then what I know now, I would have spayed Shasta before she came into heat. I certainly wasn’t planning on breeding her, but I didn’t realize that a cat could go into heat and become pregnant as young as four to five months of age. I also didn’t know that cats who are spayed before their first heat have a decreased risk of mammary tumors or that female cats who aren’t spayed could get pyometra, a potentially fatal uterine infection. Caring for a cat with pyometra can cost way more than the cost of a routine spay surgery.


Shasta cuddles in the warm laundry. 
Photo Courtesy of HSUS

When I adopted Shasta in 1974, it was common to wait until cats were six months old to spay or neuter. Nowadays, due to several advances in medicine, many animal shelters spay and neuter cats before they’re adopted, even as young as two months old or two pounds.
Neutering male cats before they can reproduce is important too. Male cats can reach puberty between four and six months of age. Living with a male cat who isn’t neutered is no picnic either. Your un-neutered male cat may try to escape the house to find a mate and spray urine. Also, once males start spraying, it’s a habit they might continue. If he’s neutered before puberty kicks in, the urge to mark territory by spraying urine is more likely to be nipped in the bud. Un-neutered male cats also have a higher chance of prostate cancer, whereas neutered male cats have a zero chance of getting testicular cancer.
In addition to helping individual cats, spaying and neutering is very important for combating cat overpopulation. According to The Humane Society of the United States, on an annual national average, 70-75 percent of cats entering animal shelters are euthanized. The reasons include lack of resources to care for cats who are too young, too old, sick, aggressive, and so on. Some heartbroken owners who don’t know that many cat behavior problems can be solved surrender their cats. Then there are community (feral and stray) cats who produce about 80 percent of the kittens born each year. Only two percent of community cats are sterilized and they are the most significant source of cat overpopulation. Check out The HSUS website to learn about and find help for community cats in your area.
So, what keeps people from spaying and neutering their cats in a timely manner? Well, they may not realize how early a cat can become pregnant, or that a cat who is nursing kittens can become pregnant as soon as two weeks after giving birth. They also may not realize that 10 percent of female cats go back into heat between the third and sixth week of pregnancy, possibly resulting in litters of different ages.
There are lots of myths surrounding spay and neuter. Some people may think that it’s best to let their female cat have at least one litter or that spaying and neutering will change their cat’s personality or make him or her fat and lazy. Not so. If anything, intact cats who reach puberty are ruled by their hormones, kind of like human teenagers, whereas spayed and neutered cats are calmer and easier to live with. Other people may put off spaying and neutering because they’re concerned about the cost of the procedures. Fortunately there are lots of high quality, low-cost spay and neuter options for pet cats.



 Shasta
Photo Courtesy of HSUS
If you’re thinking of adopting a cat or two, your local animal shelter or rescue group will be happy to introduce you to cats of all shapes, sizes, and personalities. In addition to getting a great pet who is likely already spayed or neutered, you’ll be saving a precious life.

I wish someone had clued me in on all the benefits of spaying and neutering cats before they are able to reproduce. But once I knew, you can bet my subsequent cats were spayed and neutered as soon as possible. Please be sure that you beat the heat by getting the job done earlier rather than later.

36 comments:

  1. A very important message. We didn't know about prostate cancer in male cats. Have a terrific Tuesday.
    Best wishes Molly

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  2. My new human is amazed that people still believe crazy myths about spaying and neutering. She is trying to figure out the timing of my spay, because she is trying to fit it into my show schedule. But you know, if I go into heat, all bets are off!

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  3. We didn't know about prostate cancer in male cats! That's a good argument for neutering when people are stubborn and think that their male cats can't bear kittens so don't require neutering.

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  4. Such an important message. Sharing.

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  5. Great post- spay/neuter is so important.

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  6. I wouldn't be in the TNR business, if people realized the importance of early spaying and neutering! I even have a co-worker who 'can't' let her kitty go to the vet for neutering because she'll miss him too much. WHA??? You know that I'm on her twice a day to schedule that neuter, and heck, the boys come out of it with very little post-op issues. Good post!

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  7. I used to think that the more cats the better. But it's actually their happiness that counts and that's so much easier to accomplish if we spay/neuter them.

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  8. When I was 14, I got a cat. My parents didn't explain the "birds and bees" of cat sexual maturity, and she ended up pregnant. After she weaned the kittens, I used my own money to spay her ($47 at the time). It was a valuable lesson. Our newbie Ringo is already neutered, and it's great that we don't have to think about the procedure--it's done!

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  9. Great information, thanks for sharing!

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  10. Shasta--What a beauty! Fank you furry much fur lettin' peoples know about how 'portant spay an' neuter is to kittehs. (We din't enjoy it at the time, true, but we know we's happier an' healthier becawse of it!

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  11. Hi everyone,

    Thanks so much for your comments about the importance of spaying/neutering and about the things that people -- including us -- may not have known. It's all about sharing our knowledge with others. Although this involves dogs, I'll tell you about an unusual experience I had while visiting my friend's cousins. They had 2 small female dogs who weren't spayed because the husband was opposed. I explained to the wife about spay/neutering and pyometra. A few days later, my friend called me to say that one of the dogs needed an emergency spay because she had pyometra. The other dog was spayed too! Nancy Peterson

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  12. Mommy was going to wait for her first kitty to get older, but they both almost got evicted cause the kitty would sit at the window and cry for a mate loudly all day long during her first heat. And mommy felt soo helpless at the kitty's anguish. Second kitty was quickly taken care of at her first visit with the vet. The third was brandi and the fourth was me. We both were rescue kitties and were taken care of before mommy even saw us for the first time!

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  13. yep early is good stops a lot of problems,xx Rachel

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  14. Great post, and such a beautiful kitty!
    I grew up with animals my whole life. I thank my parents for that! We have dogs, cats, horses, and cows! I was raised to be an animal lover, and i'm so glad to be able to raise my kids the same way.
    I think it's super impawtant to get our pets spayed and neutered.
    ღ husky hugz ღ frum our pack at Love is being owned by a husky!

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  15. We've come a long way but have a long way to go to share the spay/neuter/adopt message. I remember my first Siamese kitten in the '70s and her first heat because the breeder thought she shouldn't be spayed until @6 months!

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  16. Such a great post on such an important issue! Thanks for sharing! Have a wonderful day, y'all! :-D xx Roxy & Tigerlino <3

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  17. Please, please, please pay attention humans everywhere!

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  18. Thanks for this important message! As longtime volunteers at a rescue/shelter, we wish more people would spay and neuter their pets.

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  19. That's a great and complete information about spay/neuter a cat ! It's so impawtant ! We share ! Purrs

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  20. Pawsum posty and so so twu. Mommy's all 'bout da spayin' and neutewin'. Weez not unnewstand foljs dat don't. This day and ge, there be no exscuse.

    Luv ya'

    Dezi

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  21. Great post and so true! There are so many kitties in the UK too :(

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  22. Thanks to everyone for their comments and for being such good pet parents. Nancy Peterson

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    1. Thank YOU Nancy for such a fantastic post...yet AGAIN!

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  23. What an important message. We wish anybuddy who even thinks it's not important to spay/neuter a pet would read this.

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  24. OMC I had no idea that females could go into heat again while pregnant and have a second litter! So crazy! Spaying and neutering really is incredibly important. Sharing for sure.

    P.S. Thank you for your condolences and kind words about Doc. It means a lot. He really was a wonderful boy, and you are so right - dog and cats really can have special relationships. We will miss him very much.

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    1. I had no idea either!!!
      You are most welcome, I was so touched by your video and by Doc. I can tell what a special dog he was (((hugs)))) Keeping you all in my heart

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  25. Very important message. Great post.
    Sue B

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  26. Great post and very important.

    Purrs xx
    Athena and Marie

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  27. It's so important, yet, so many people don't know, or aren't aware of the problems that show up when an animals isn't spayed or neutered.

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  28. Great post - thanks for sharing such valuable information! Happy WW!

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  29. What a WONDERFUL post! This is such an important topic. As a fellow cat blogger, it's just seems like common sense to me. But then I start talking with people outside the pet blogging world and realize there is still so much education needed. Thank you so much for this.
    ~GG

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  30. Ann excellent article on the benefits of spaying & neutering. Kittens (and puppies) are cute, but there are just too many of us and we aren't all able to find good homes.

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  31. Shasta is beautiful! Excellent post, so informative, thank you!

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  32. An excellent article! Thanks for covering points that most people are not aware of. I have spent almost four years working with a TNR group through our humane society offering low cost spay/neuters as well as the program for feral cats. If people were more responsible we would not be needed. But unfortunately we are very busy. I strongly recommend pediatric spay/neuters (eight weeks/two pounds).

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