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Spay and Neuter

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To Fix or Not to Fix: The Lowdown on Spaying and Neutering
If you’ve ever had an un-spayed female cat who spent half her time yowling piteously out the window for a feline Romeo, or had a tom who felt the need to mark the living room sofa as part of his territory, then you’ve experienced first-hand a couple of the reasons that people “fix” or “alter” (both common terms for “sterilize”) their pets.

However, many people will argue that altering animals is cruel or wrong.  Even with all of the information available on the benefits of spaying and neutering, there are several anti-spay/neuter myths that still persist.  In order to make the best decision for you and your pet, you should first know all the facts. 

Spaying/Neutering: The Procedure
The words “spay” and “neuter” describe the process involved in sterilizing your pet.  For females, this means the removal of the reproductive organs (ovariohysterectomy), and for males, the removal of the testicles (orchiectomy).  The removal of the sexual organs prevents reproduction and the negative behaviors associated with sexual maturity.

Your veterinarian can explain the procedure to you more fully, but normally your pet will be admitted for one to three days, depending on age, size and general health.  An anesthetic will be administered, and following a simple procedure, your pet will be allowed to recover from the anesthesia before being taken home.  Recovery time after this type of surgery is usually very quick: your pet will be up and around, acting normally, often on the same day you bring him or her home.  A follow-up appointment may be necessary for removal of stitches a week or so after the surgery.

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Benefits of Spaying and Neutering
Having your feline fixed will benefit you and your pet in a number of ways, the most notable being in the areas of health and behavior.  Your fixed cat will likely live a longer and healthier life, as spaying decreases your cat’s risk of ovarian, uterine and breast cancer in females, and prostate and testicular cancer in males.  Researchers have found that if your pet is neutered before the first estrus cycle (in females) and before hormones kick in (in males), the risk of these types of cancers is greatly reduced.

Spaying and neutering early also prevents behavioral problems commonly associated with reproductive hormones, including some of the following:

  • Un-neutered males often “spray” (urinate outside of the litter box) to mark their territory.

  • Sexually mature males that normally live indoors often escape the house to roam the neighborhood, or disappear completely. 

  • Male cats that haven’t been neutered sometimes behave more aggressively.  They pick fights with other males in the home or try frantically to get out of the house to answer the “challenge” of other neighborhood males, scratching doors, windows or humans in the process.

  • Female cats that have not been spayed go into a heat cycle, or estrus, that can last anywhere from six to 12 days and occurs three or more times per year. 

  • Females going through their estrus cycle often cry or yowl constantly, behave nervously, or drag their bellies on the floor with their rears in the air in hopes of attracting a mate. 

  • Even if you keep your un-fixed female cat indoors, her cries can attract male cats in the neighborhood, resulting in torn screens and pungent territory markings around your home.

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As Bob Barker Says: Help Control the Pet Population
Bob Barker, host of the game show The Price is Right since 1972, is one of the most well-known advocates of spaying and neutering in the U.S.  A long-time animal rights activist, the 84 year-old Barker ends every show with an entreaty to the audience to help control the pet population by spaying or neutering their pet.

Bob knows that the overpopulation of animals in our country is a serious issue.  Communities spend massive amounts of money every year on this problem, and worse, put down millions of unwanted or homeless animals.  The main cause of this problem can be directly attributed to the number of un-spayed and un-neutered animals roaming the streets.

Common Myths Associated with Spaying and Neutering
Despite the many health, behavioral, and community benefits involved with spaying and neutering, many still decide against the procedure because of myths that surround the issue.  Below, we’ve debunked a few of these common spaying and neutering myths:

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Myth: Fixing my pet will make him fat and lazy
Only lack of exercise and proper diet can make your pet overweight or lazy.  Make sure your pets gets plenty of play time, have a cat tree to climb on, access to a scratching post for scratching, and a vet-approved diet, and they will stay slim and svelte well into adulthood. 

Myth: Spaying or neutering my pet will change his or her personality negatively
This myth is almost true, except for the negative part.  Many pet owners believe that their altered pets are much more family-focused and affectionate and much less aggressive, especially males.  Male cats that are hormone-driven tend to focus on nothing else except finding a mate or challenging other males for their mates.

Myth: Cats should have one litter of kittens before being spayed
Recent medical research has shown the opposite.  In the past, it was thought to be healthier for female cats to have a litter of kittens before being sterilized, but new studies have begun to prove that having the operation as early as possible is much better for your cat and reduces the risk of reproductive cancers later in life.

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Myth: My cat is a purebred, so I’m obligated to breed him or her.
Breeding cats is a huge responsibility.  It requires a commitment of time, money, professionalism, and the willingness to uphold the breeding regulations, standards and ethics.  Up to one in four pets found in US animal shelters is a purebred, so it also falls to breeders to ensure that their cats will receive quality new homes, where they will be loved and cared for all their lives.  Deciding to breed your pet is a serious decision and should not be taken lightly.

On whichever side of the debate you fall, be sure to consider all of the pros and cons for both you and your cat before deciding for or against spaying or neutering.  Having your cat spayed or neutered can improve the life and health of your pet, help to avoid negative behavior issues associated with reproductive hormones, and contribute toward decreasing the number of unwanted animals.

To learn more about keeping your kitten healthy,
visit our Health Information page!

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