WHY YOU SHOULD “FIX” YOUR CAT
In just seven years, one unsprayed female cat and her offspring can produce about 420,000 cats. Many of these cats will be euthanized (humanely destroyed) in animal shelters because nobody wants them. Others will meet sad (and often painful) ends as a result of traffic accidents, poison, animal attacks, abuse, neglect, and illness. That’s a lot of feline misery—all avoidable.
Responsible cat owners sterilize their cats. There is not one single reason not to sterilize your cat if you are not an experienced breeder involved with a responsibly planned and organized breeding program.
Sterilized cats enjoy longer, healthier lives. Spaying your female cat eliminates her risk of uterine and ovarian cancer, birth complications, uterine infection, and ovarian cysts. If she is spayed before her first heat, her risk of breast cancer will be reduced considerably.
The unsterilized female cat will have multiple heat cycles a year which will last for several days. Female cats are seasonably polyestrous, meaning they go through multiple heat cycles during the year (mostly between February and October). Unless she becomes pregnant, she can cycle every two to three weeks. This is very annoying to owners. During this time she will roll around on the floor, moan, wail, call desperately, and attempt to escape outside to get to a male cat. If she does manage to escape, then you can be assured that there is at least one unsterilized male waiting for her. Cats are very fertile and the chance of her having a litter of kittens is more likely than not. You will then have to feed and care for several kittens for approximately 8 weeks. There will be veterinarian expenses for their first shots and worming. Then, to top it off, you will need to find good homes for them. Then she’ll come into season and it starts all over again. In other words, even if you find people to take your cat’s kittens, you are simply adding to the problem of the overabundance of unwanted cats and kittens, because these people might otherwise have taken in cats from animal shelters.
Once the kittens are weaned, your cat will come into season again and the process begins once again, unless you spay her. She may spray (yes, spray) your furniture and carpets, doorways and windows with urine. She may even stain your belongings and furniture with discharge.
It is sentimental to believe that a female cat desires kittens. Nature drives her to mate. The urge is very strong. Some even lose weight since the urge to mate can override the need to eat.
Some cat owners claim “I want my cat to have one litter of kittens before I have her spayed.” This is not a wise decision. Having kittens is no picnic for your cat.
Unsterilized males are difficult to keep home. Due to his heightened sense of smell, he can detect a female cat in heat from a considerable distance. His instincts will drive him to find her and to mate with her. He will very likely meet up with other unsterilized males also looking for her.
NOTE: Even if he is strictly an indoor cat and not neutered, he will constantly try to get out whenever he senses a female in heat.
When unneutered males encounter each other, fighting will occur. The resulting bite wounds, abscesses, torn ears, scratched eyes, infections, and other damage from the fighting can end up becoming very costly to you. There is also the chance that your male could be killed during his battle with another male. Is it worth it not to sterilize him?
Males who have not been neutered will spray urine to mark their territories. This is an instinct and it will happen. The urine used to mark with is overwhelmingly pungent and offensive-smelling, and will make your home absolutely reek! He will spray all over your house and furniture, and this odor is nearly impossible to remove, even with good cleaning solutions. He will also become aggressive and irritable if you deny him female companionship. Neutering will stop this horrible odor and in most cases, spraying will also stop.
Some people balk at having their male cats neutered. If he is allowed outdoors you will be responsible for contributing to the large number of unwanted cats and kittens that are destroyed each year by humane societies that are unable to find homes for them.
NOTE: It is very important to neuter the male cat. He can do more damage in increasing the huge problem of unwanted and stray cats. He can go from one female to another, producing a large number of kittens. The female, once pregnant, is out of circulation for a while. He doesn’t have that problem. Cats are extremely fertile. Neuter your male cat! He can produce many more offspring than a female can.
Males who are not neutered, are at more risk to diseases such as Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV), and to injuries from fights with other toms, and to prostate cancer.
Neutering your male cat reduces his risk of prostate enlargement, prostate cancer, and testicular cancer. He will also be a more affectionate companion to you. He will not stray off in search of a female cat or engage in fighting other male cats and returning home with injuries, or worse yet, getting lost and not returning home at all. Best of all, he will most likely stop spraying everything!
Neutering (castration, or more formally, orchidectomy) is the removal of a male cat’s testicles from the scrotum. It’s performed under general anesthesia and is considered a simple, routine procedure. The veterinarian will make two small incisions in the scrotum and remove both testes, the tubes that carry the sperm. No stitches are needed and your cat can return home the same day. No abdominal incision is required, so it is usually less expensive and quicker than spaying.
Spaying (ovariohysterectomy) is the surgical removal of a female cat’s uterus and ovaries. It is performed under general anesthesia. Spaying is now considered a relatively simple, routine surgery. It requires a small incision in the cat’s abdomen.
Spay and neuter surgeries are very safe procedures, with complications appearing only rarely. Healthy cats tolerate general anesthesia extremely well. Gas anesthesia is usually used, although male cats are often neutered with an injectable anesthesia. Cats are closely monitored during and after surgery. After awakening from the anesthetic, the cat might remain groggy for a few hours. This is normal. The veterinarian will give you instructions on how to care for your cat and if any stitches need to be removed. You will also need to be sure your cat has some pain medication. Oftentimes a pain medication is given while the cat is still under anesthesia. This usually lasts three days. Since spaying is a more invasive surgery, which requires an abdominal incision, additional pain medication may be needed. Most cats recover very quickly from sterilization.
Once the arrangements have been made with the veterinarian and a surgery date is set, you need to remember to withhold all food and water from your cat the evening before the surgery. Sometimes it is not necessary to remove your cat’s water; follow your veterinarian’s instructions. We usually withhold food from eight or nine PM on. We make sure that the cat has a good feed at the evening meal (usually around five or six PM). The cat will rest well that night and all the food from her supper will be digested by morning. (Kittens should not be fasted for so long. Withhold food three to four hours prior to surgery for them.) The operation is done under a general anesthetic, and a full stomach may result in vomiting and aspiration during the introduction of anesthesia. Your veterinarian will guide you. Follow the veterinarian’s directions explicitly. Also be sure pain medication is being administered. Females usually need pain medication after surgery for two to three days.
Your veterinarian should decide the correct time; follow their advice. Kittens of both sexes can be spayed or neutered as early as eight weeks of age. Most females are done between five to nine months of age, before she has her first heat cycle. The surgery is easy to do at this time, and there is less chance of complications. Your cat’s size and health status will determine when. Each cat differs in development.
Many humane shelters will not release a kitten or cat until the cat has been spayed or neutered. Cats, as stated earlier, are very fertile. It takes only one mating to produce a litter. It very rarely doesn’t take. That’s why we have so many unwanted cats. Please do the responsible thing and spay or neuter your cat. You will have a more content, healthy, less aggressive (particularly in males) and more affectionate companion. Best of all, the spraying of urine will cease, in most instances; and in all instances with males, the strong, pungent and offensive urine odor will be gone.
Ideally your cat should be sterilized before puberty is reached. In most cats puberty occurs around six to seven months of age, but during the spring mating season, some cats will mature more quickly. Some females can get pregnant as early as four months of age. Some veterinarians prefer that they be six months old or older before spaying. Your veterinarian will advise you on the best age to have your kitten/cat spayed or neutered. Heed your veterinarian’s advice. Our veterinarian prefers to wait until the cat is six months old.
A female cat who has even one litter of kittens may run a greater risk for contracting breast cancer than a female cat who has been spayed without ever going through a heat cycle. Spaying also reduces the risk for uterine infections (pyometra) which can be fatal to your cat if not detected, and it can be difficult to detect in some cats. We’ve been down this road. We now spay all females. No more expensive emergency surgeries for us!
A female cat does not need to have a litter of kittens to be psychologically fulfilled or to “settle down” behaviorally, as many people seem to believe. The operation will not change her personality, except perhaps to make her less irritable at certain times of the year (when she would be in season). You have less chance of heat-related urine marking, and none of the wild behaviors associated with heat cycles. A spayed female makes an outstanding pet. She will devote herself exclusively to her human family.
Spaying or neutering won’t make your cat fat or lazy. Spaying and neutering does seem to slow the metabolism down, but obesity is caused by a lack of exercise and feeding the cat more than is needed. Neutered and spayed cats, due to a decreased activity level (associated with the surgery), may not require as much food or may require food with a lower fat content. They will not be so restless and will become more affectionate toward you. Some cats actually become more playful since the distraction of the mating urge is no longer present.
The cost varies from place to place. Some fees can be very expensive. Granted, they are less expensive than replacing furniture and carpeting your cat has sprayed.
Most veterinarians set their fees at a price most cat owners in their area can afford. Shop around and compare rates and services given. In our area, over $300 for a spay or neuter is possible. One county away, you can get the same quality service for around $150, including pain medication.
If you are on a limited income and can’t afford the full price, ask local veterinarians, shelters, the Humane Society or ASPCA (if they are in your area) about low-cost neutering programs. They do exist. There are sometimes mobile spay/neuter vans in larger metropolitan areas that are a good option. You may have to travel a few miles to go to where one of these mobile units is located, but you will save quite a lot of money. Just be sure that those doing the surgery are trained and licensed, and that pain medication is included.
BIRTH CONTROL DRUGS
Birth control drugs are not approved in the United States for use in cats. There can be very serious side effects, which can be fatal.
Work is currently being done to test a contraceptive vaccine for use in cats. Long term effects are not known yet. This vaccine is still experimental. This is not a wise path to follow; there are too many unknowns. Spaying and neutering are the best, and safest, option for your cat.