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We hope our series on the importance of spaying and neutering has helped you in some way – either clarified the issue for you or given you some information to help others grapple with the question of spaying or neutering.
The fact is that there are just too many dogs and cats for shelters to handle. The Humane Society estimates about 2.7 million healthy dogs and cats are euthanized every year. That is just too many. And the worst part is that we humans are the cause.
But that means we humans can help. What can you do?
First, if you plan to get a pet, get them from a shelter. Shelter animals are in shelters through no fault of their own. They were often abandoned or the off-spring of an animal whose irresponsible owner did not have them spayed or neutered. Give one (or two!) a chance!
And the secondary advantage is that your new bundle of love will be spayed or neutered and fully vetted. You have the security of knowing that your dog or cat has been checked out and medical issues (in the rare case – most are healthy) have been or can be addressed. And you don’t have to worry that you will contribute to the needless death of more animals in the future.
Third, share this series with friends and family. Don’t stop there – the Internet can provide scientific studies and other back up, but, of course, be careful of your sources.
And finally, share your story with Cats in Tow! Have you adopted a pet from a shelter? We would love to hear your story!
Links to the full series if you want more information:
We have taken a break from our series, but we are back talking about some of the myths surrounding spaying/neutering. If you need to catch up, here are links to previous posts: Time for a Change, The Numbers, Just One Litter, Copy Cat, Good Homes, Penny Wise, and Interference.
The connection between personality and spaying/neutering is a fear for many people. They worry that neutering a male cat or dog will make them feel less like a male, or that spaying or neutering their dog will make them less protective of the family and not a good watch dog. Or that cats or dogs will become less affectionate after being spayed or neutered.
All of these fears are ungrounded! There is simply no evidence that spayed or neutered dogs are less watchful; protecting the ‘pack’ is a basic natural instinct of dogs. Neutering will not make a male dog or cat feel less like a male either. We have to remember that even though we think of our pets as family members, they are still animals. Animal personalities are formed by genetics and environment. Dogs and cats don’t have an identity based on being male or female, and are refreshingly free of egos. They nurture their off-spring and protect their families based on the natural instinct to breed and ensure the survival of the species.
The fact is that animals that have been spayed or neutered are often more affectionate with their humans. Why? Because the instinct to breed is gone. They are not driven to urine mark or fight with other dogs and cats to keep their territory. They are not driven to search out mates, so they are less likely to try escaping and roaming. Female cats and dogs are freed of the burden of having to care for each litter. Relieving our pets of these drives reduces their stress. Many dogs and cats calm down after being spayed or neutered and make better pets.
Better pets for us and a better world for cats and dogs – what more do we need?
Should I have my cat or dog neutered or spayed? We at Cats in Tow do not even see this as a question: absolutely, without a doubt, yes. Sadly, there are many people out there who are unsure or have doubts. Why is this? One reason is that there are so many myths out there surrounding this issues.
Today’s post is a simple one, because we are just going to share an excerpt from the Feline Network of the Central Coast’s website. We just cannot say it any better ourselves:
“MYTH: Preventing cats from having litters is unnatural.
FACT: We already interfered with nature by domesticating cats over 8,000 years ago. In doing so, we helped create the problem of cat overpopulation. Now it is our responsibility to solve it. What is unnatural is the killing of millions of cats in our pounds and shelters each year.”
(One simple addition – the point applies to dogs too!)
Our current series is exploring why so many pets go without loving homes, or worse are killed. The number one reason is that people do not have their pets spayed or neutered. But why? Why do people resist doing something that could save millions, yes millions, of lives every year?
The Humane Society’s website has a very good overview of some of the more popular myths surrounding this resistance.
In this post, we will talk about a well-meaning but wrong-headed myth: I’ll find good homes for all the puppies and kittens.
Of course we would all do our best to make sure the homes of our beloved pets offspring are good homes. But first, how can we be sure of this? Are they friends? Have we seen them with their pets? Have we observed them when they are stressed or in a bad mood? How do they handle it? Have we seen their home? Have we seen their facilities for their pets? Do we know that they will get regular vet care for the pet? Do we know that they have the finances to deal with emergencies?
Even with friends, many of these questions will go unanswered. But the biggest question is, will they then spay or neuter that animal or will they let the animal have a litter? There is no way to guarantee that they will. Even if they say they will, can you believe the promise? If they don’t, can you live with the fact that that animal may then produce hundreds of unwanted offspring?
You cannot control other people. The only thing you can do is spay or neuter your pet. But this is a huge thing and will save hundreds of lives.
Our current series is focused on some of the reasons that people do not get their pets spayed or neutered. Our starting point is this well-done page from the Humane Society’s website. In the first post, we talked about the myth of just one litter.
We will look at two closely related myths today:
- But my pet is a purebred.
- But my dog (or cat) is so special, I want a puppy (or kitten) just like her.
Our pets are a part of our family, so of course we think they are special. Special in that they are a purebred or because of their unique beauty or personality.
However, you can never get carbon copy of your pet. Biology tells us that mixing the genes of two animals is going to give us a different animal. Then there is the influence of environment on personality. You would never expect your second child to be exactly like your first!
And if your pet is special because it is a purebred, don’t count out getting another purebred from a shelter. In fact, the Humane Society website says that one in four dogs and cats in shelters are purebred. Rescue organizations for specific breeds abound.
At Cats in Tow, we believe all cats and dogs are special. That is why we work to provide loving forever homes to all of our animals. Why not come see how special they are!
We have been talking about numbers in this series. The number of loving cats and dogs that go without homes. And we hope that through this discussion, Cats in Tow can make a small difference in those numbers.
The Humane Society has a succinct list of myths and facts surrounding spaying and neutering. We will explore some of these myths in more depth in the next few posts.
The first myth is a prevalent one: It’s better to have one litter before spaying a female pet.
Where does this myth come from? That is difficult to say. There may be a relationship to the myth that having a litter will calm a dog. There is no evidence for this. Dogs and cats are not human. They mate and breed because their natural instincts tell them to do so, but having a litter does not change the essential nature of most dogs or cats.
Many people even think that letting their dog have a litter of puppies will fix behavioral problems. No! Fixing behavioral problems in dogs requires training and exercise. In fact, some dogs become more aggressive because their natural instinct to protect their offspring kicks in. This again is biology. They are protecting their gene pool and should not be confused with a mothering instinct.
The truth is that there is a lot of medical evidence that shows cats and dogs that do not give birth are healthier:
- Female dogs and cats spayed before going into heat have a significantly reduced risk of developing mammary cancer.
- Spaying your dog greatly reduces the possibility that she’ll contract pyometra, a potentially fatal bacterial infection.
- While ovarian and uterine tumors are uncommon in dogs, spaying reduces the risk that they will develop.
- Carrying and giving birth to puppies can cause physical suffering and stress for dogs.
(For more details, visit the ASPCA website.)
According to Alley Cat, “research shows that kittens and puppies spayed or neutered before 12 weeks of age have fewer complications from surgery than those over 12 weeks. Also, kittens and puppies rebound much faster after the surgical procedure, with less stress than their counterparts over six months of age.”
As well, “[s]payed and neutered cats lead improved, healthier, and longer lives. Spayed outdoor females are able to enjoy a happier and longer life without the constant stress of endless pregnancies and nursing kittens, and neutered males are calmer and no longer suffer injuries in fights over females and territory.”
If you wait to spay or neuter, you run the risk of inadvertently contributing to pet over-population, and ultimately to the death of dogs and cats. Dogs and cats in heat are focused on one thing, breeding. Even indoor cats and highly-supervised dogs are notorious escape artists at this time.
In terms of emotional health, cats and dogs will not regret not having a litter. Yes, we love them like family, but we need to remember that they having offspring is purely biological for them. They do not have an emotional tie to being a parent as people do.
If the health of your pet is your first concern, then spaying or neutering is the best course.
There is a serious pet over-population, not just in the US, but across the world. And the biggest reason for this is that people do not spay or neuter their pets. According to the ASPCA website, only “10% of the animals received by shelters have been spayed or neutered.” Only one in ten animals.
What can that mean in terms of over-population? Cats can be sexually mature from 3 ½ months, usually after they reach 4.4 pounds. They can have up to three litters per year and the average is four kittens per litter. That is 12 kittens each year for one cat. Cats do not experience menopause. So they can have kittens their entire lives, but will usually slow down as they grow older. Still, that can be from 40 to over 100 kittens for just one cat. If only one in ten cats is spayed, that is hundreds and hundreds of kittens in just a few years. There just aren’t that many homes for all of them.
Dogs start a little later, from six to 12 months. These numbers vary much more in dogs because of the different sizes and breeds. However, on average, a litter of puppies will be between five and eight, with a female dog averaging five to eight litters per lifetime. Again, just too many for the number of loving, safe homes available.
But why don’t people get their pets spayed and neutered? Just think of the difference we humans could make for animals if we could get the number of pets spayed and neutered up, 20%, 40%, 50%? But the reasons animals are not spayed or neutered are many and complicated. We will look at some of those reasons in upcoming posts.
A time of birth and growth. While cats and dogs can and do give birth all year, there is always a surge in spring. Unfortunately, this is not a good things for most of these animals. In fact three to four million of these dogs and cats will be purposely killed each year in the US – euthanized through no fault of their own.
The fact is that the world is over-populated with domestic cats and dogs. And shelters are feeling the burden of this over-population. They are full to capacity and cannot find homes for many of the animals in their care.
Where does this over-population come from? We humans are ultimately responsible. We domesticated cats and dogs. It is our responsibility to care for them. Yes, they are following their own animal instincts to mate. But we can help them. We can help them by caring for them. We can help them by preventing them from having all these unwanted litters. Why don’t we?
This is a tough question, but it is one Cats in Tow will explore in the coming weeks, including the myths around spaying and neutering. It is high time for us to help our dog and cat companions!