Your Help

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:

Time for a Change

The Numbers

Just One Litter

Copy Cat

Good Homes

Penny Wise


Changing Feelings

Changing Feelings

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 ChangeThe Numbers, Just One Litter, Copy Cat, Good HomesPenny 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?


Debunking the Myths: Penny Wise

Many low-cost options exist for spay/neuter services. Most regions of the U.S. have at least one spay/neuter clinic within driving distance that charge $100 or less for the procedure, and many veterinary clinics provide discounts through subsidized voucher programs. Low-cost spay/neuter is more and more widely available all the time. Start with this low-cost spay/neuter finder.

“Oh, but it will cost too much money to get my cat/dog spayed/neutered.”

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.

We have discussed the numbers: how many cats and dogs could be saved each year if we all spayed or neutered our cats and dogs. We have looked at biology: how you cannot get a carbon copy of your pet if you breed them and how many shelters have purebred animals. Next: money.

It is a difficult subject for some people. But the fact is that if you cannot afford to spay or neuter your pet, you need to think about whether getting a pet is right in the first place. There will be vet costs to keeping your pet healthy. This is just one of them, and spaying and neutering prevents many more costs in the long run. As discussed earlier in the series, spaying/neutering actually prevents certain cancers, as well as relieving your pet of the stress of mating and giving birth.

But in the long run, the greatest savings is in the lives of the cats and dogs who do not find homes.

It does not have to be all or nothing though. There are many low cost options. First, get your pet from a shelter. Shelter dogs and cats should be neutered/spayed already. Yes, there is a small charge to adopt from a shelter, but the cost of the spaying/neutering, as well as a full vet check up is included in that.

If you have a dog or cat that is not spayed or neutered, the Humane Society has many resources. Enter your zip code here to find low-cost spay and neuter options. This page has additional resources for low-cost vet care.

The costs of spaying/neutering is far less than possible future costs.

Debunking the Myths: Good Homes

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.


Debunking the Myths: Copy Cat

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!

Debunking the Myths: Just One Litter

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.

The Numbers

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.

Time for A New Addition, Part 6: Finding Our Furry Friend

Decisions, decisions. For those of you following along, We are contemplating a new addition to our household for 2014: two cats. I gave a short introduction in Part 1, talked about space in Part 2, time in Part 3, money in Part 4, and considerations of type of animal in Part 5.

As most of my questions have been unanswerable, I am quite happy to announce that this week the topic requires no decision on my part! My cat or cats will be adopted from a shelter or rescue organization.

Reputable shelters are absolutely the best option when adopting a pet. Shelters are overrun with cats and dogs all times of the year. They are always looking for loving forever homes for their furry charges. No-kill shelters and rescue organizations in particular struggle with not being able to take on new animals when they are over capacity. Most of these are run by people who just love animals and want the best for them. Cats in Tow is a case in point! They have teamed up with PetSmart in Brea, California so that people looking for a new animal companion have a place to visit the animals ready for adoption. Or check out our page of currently adoptable pets.

Shelters work hard to make sure each adoption is a success. Many have foster programs where animals that are not quite ready to be in their forever homes stay temporarily in safe places. There could be many reasons why an animal isn’t ready: females who have just had kittens or puppies, puppies or kittens that are too young, illness, shyness due to abuse or abandonment issues, just to name a few. Many people think that shelter animals all have behavioral issues, but that is simply not true.

Shelters also work with veterinarians to make sure the animals are healthy. Spaying and neutering is required to keep the abandoned animal numbers from continuing to grow.

Some of the expenses that most shelters cover before adoption: spaying/neutering $150-300, two distemper vaccination $20-30 each, rabies vaccination $15-25, heartworm test $15-35, flea/tick treatment $50-200, microchip $50. Those expenses would need to be covered by you if you got a free pet from a friend, advertisement or other source.

This article dispels some of the myths around adopting from a shelter.

And most important for me, shelters are not focused on profit. They are focused on the health, well-being and positive outcome for the animals. An animal is a living being and deserves better than to be commodity. If you are still unsure of shelters being the best option, please do some research, talk with a veterinarian, look into the problems of animal cruelty and animal overpopulation.

Finally, we have our new love or loves (well, not really, but in blog land!) The end? Not quite, next week we will wrap up the series with some tips for successful adoption and introduction of new family members.

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Two lovelies looking for their forever home. Thanks to Hugh Mobley (Hugh Mobley Photography, for the photographs.

Cats of Israel (Part 1)

Cats in Tow Volunteer Angie came back from a trip to Israel with an heartwarming story about the feral cats living in this fascinating area. We’ll share her story over the next couple weeks.

“On a recent trip to Israel, I was so proud to see an amazing example of coexistence between feral cats and an entire country!

There are literally hundreds of feral cats roaming around there. Everywhere, in every alley, in every nook and cranny of every city…and they are amazingly healthy and happy. There are feeding stations everywhere for them and they wander around the outside seating for restaurants (which almost every restaurant has) and customers also feed them.”


More Help for Feral Cats

We hope you have found our series on feral cat care informative.  If you have missed any of the series, here are the links: First Step; Stray, Feral, Pet; The Feral Fix; Why TNR; Cat Colony Care; TNR: Humane Trapping; and Colony Carer Help.  We are still looking to hear from people involved with feral cats – carers, vets who offer low-cost help with feral cat colonies, someone who has a adopted a former feral or kitten from a feral litter.  Leave a comment below to tell us your story or let us know if you’d like to contribute your story as an interview or guest blog.

To wrap up this series, we have researched other feral cat organizations around the US and world.  If you are outside of the Cats in Tow area, consider getting involved with one of the organizations below or something similar.  These organizations are committed to spaying/neutering, keeping adult cats healthy and preventing kittens from being born into the wild and without adoption placements and ultimately, killed by many overcrowded shelters who don’t have any other options. 

Spaying/neutering your own animal, donating money or supplies to shelters, volunteering at shelters, adopting a shelter animal, caring for feral cat colonies, getting the word out about spaying and neutering.  There is so much you can do!

Around the US:

Alley Cat Allies, Making Connections

Orange County SPCA, Additional Resources

Sacramento Feral Resources

Forgotten Feral Cat Rescue, Michigan

List for organizations in Massachusetts

List for organizations in Western Washington state and beyond

Aggie Cat Services, Utah State University 

Neighborhood Cats, New York City

Around the world:

Toronto Feral Cat Coalition

Quadra (British Columbia) Cats

Cats Assistance to Sterilize (C.A.T.S.), Australia

United Kingdom, Celia Hammond Animal Trust

This is by no means an exhaustive list, just a quick survey of the web to show how many cats out there need your help.  If you don’t find your area above, search online. There is sure to be an organization near you.