By BJ Towe
Here’s a fun-but-sobering fact: On average, one unaltered female cat can have as many as three litters a year – with as many as eight kittens per litter. That’s 24 kittens a year and over 100 kittens during Mama Cat’s life. And her kittens will reproduce at the same rate, making Mama Cat responsible for as many 420,000 kittens in just 7 years.
Dogs can also multiply at alarming rates. And, just like cats, there are far too many homeless dogs that desperately want someone to love and to love them. But when there aren’t enough homes to go around, unwanted pets often become malnourished and carry diseases.
Spaying or neutering a cat or dog is more affordable than the cost of caring for a litter of animals. Despite popular belief, spaying or neutering will not make pets fat – but overfeeding and lack of exercise will. And spayed and neutered pets are healthier and have fewer behavioral problems.
- Spayed female pets generally live longer lives because they are less likely to get uterine infections and breast tumors, which are cancerous in about half of dogs and nearly all cats. Because spayed animals won’t go into heat, they don’t yowl as much and won’t urinate as excessively as unaltered pets.
- Neutered male pets are protected against testicular cancer and some prostate problems. They are also less likely to wander away from home. And they may be better mannered. For example, aggression problems and tendencies to mount other animals, objects or people are less frequent in neutered animals.
Healthy puppies can have the surgery as young as eight weeks, but many vets recommend spaying or neutering dogs between five and nine months of age. Older dogs can also have the surgery, but have a slightly higher risk of complications, particularly if they are overweight or have existing health problems.
Cats come in to heat as early as 4 to 6 months of age, so spaying them early – ideally between two and five months of age – is best to prevent unwanted pregnancies. However, they too can be spayed well into adulthood, even if they are in heat. If there are outdoor, stray or feral cats in your neighborhood, remember that spaying or neutering just one of them could reduce the number of cats by 420,000 in 7 years!
For the health and wellbeing of dogs, cats and our county, please talk to your veterinarian about spaying or neutering the animals in your life.