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How to Explain to Kids That Spay/Neuter Is Crucial to Cats

Children educated at an early age are more likely to grow up to be responsible pet owners.

 |  Aug 15th 2013  |   7 Contributions


Your family has recently adopted a kitten and now it's time to have "the talk" with your child. No, I'm not alluding to the typical "birds and the bees" fireside chat, although it's certainly related to that subject. I'm referring to the "why kitty needs to get spayed or neutered" discussion.

The child will probably know the cat is going to the vet's clinic and may have to stay overnight. How much detail you choose to explain will depend on the age of the child and their ability to understand the specifics of the procedure. What's for certain is that kids who are educated at an early age are likely to grow into adults who practice responsible pet ownership.

We made sure all of our cats were spayed and neutered as soon as they were ready. It's responsible, plus we can't handle more than three!

Here are some facts that will help her understand the essential nature of the procedure, as well as what to expect.
  • The Humane Society of the United States estimates that each pair of cats and their offspring may produce up to 400,000 cats in a seven-year period. Each spay and neuter is a positive step toward reducing -- and hopefully eventually eliminating -- cat overpopulation. This means less cats will end up in shelters and possibly euthanized.
  • Females are spayed. This means her reproductive organs (ovaries and uterus) are removed so she no longer has the physical ability to have kittens.
  • Males are neutered. This means the kitten's testicles are removed so he can no longer impregnate a female.

It's important to follow the vet's instructions for pre- and post-operative care. Vet and Kitten by Shutterstock

  • A kitten can be altered as early as eight weeks old, but the procedure should definitely happen by the time he or she has reached six months of age.
  • Spaying can also prevent some illnesses, elongate her life, make her more gentle and affectionate and prevent her from going into heat (a period of time in which a female cat is ready to mate).
  • Neutering can prevent some illnesses, elongate his life, help him become more calm and less likely to roam and get into fights with other animals and prevent him from spraying (urinating to mark territory).

Kitty won't feel like playing after surgery. Photo: Anders Knudsen

  • Don't avoid spaying or neutering because you want your children to experience the magic of birth and the fun of kittens. If your family really wants the kitten experience, consider becoming a foster family to a mother and litter of babies. Check with your local shelter for guidelines and opportunities.
  • The procedure happens at the vet's clinic and takes about 30 minutes to perform. You'll probably drop the kitten off early in the morning and pick him or her up either late in the day or early the next day. So the cat will have an empty stomach during the procedure, you'll be asked to pull the kitten's food the evening prior to the surgery. 

If your family's lifestyle allows it and you're qualified, consider fostering kittens. Boy Feeding Kittens by Shutterstock

  • After the surgery, kitty will feel tired and need lots of rest. He or she will probably come home wearing an E-collar, sometimes referred to as a cone. This collar helps prevent the cat from licking or biting the incision. The cat should be given lots of quiet time and will not feel like playing or being picked up. 

Each spay and neuter means less cats that may end up in shelters. Photo: Sir Iwan

Note to parents: If the cost of the surgery is preventing you from spaying or neutering your cat, please consider the following:

  • You'll pay less for the surgery than you will for taking care of a litter of kittens.
  • Low-cost programs are available all over the United States. The ASPCA provides a database for providers who offer such services. 

Do you have tips explaining the importance of spaying and neutering to kids? Tell us about it in the comments! 

About the Author: Angie Bailey is a goofy girl with freckles and giant smile who wants everyone to be her friend. Loves pre-adolescent boy humor, puns, making up parody songs, and thinking about cats doing people things. Writes Catladyland, a cat humor blog, and authored whiskerslist: the kitty classifieds, a silly book about cats wheeling and dealing online. Partner in a production company and writes and acts in comedy web series that may or may not offend people. Mother to two humans and three cats, all of which want her to make them food.

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