Editor’s note: This article previously ran on Zee & Zoey’s Chronicle Connection, but we’re running it here with Deborah Barnes’ permission.
The benefits of spay/neuter to cats and society at large are so significant that it would seem the discussion would be closed for debate. The procedure is a safe, effective, and humane means to controlling cat overpopulation on the streets and in shelters; it significantly decreases the chances of uterine or testicular types of cancers and infections; and it virtually reduces the negative behavioral issues associated with an unaltered cat, such as loud yowling, spraying and territory marking, and aggressive fighting.
Despite all of this, some people still don’t do it.
These reasons are varied, from ignorance and apathy to people having bad information about the procedure. Here are the most common misconceptions, myths, and excuses surrounding spay/neuter.
Some cats can gain weight after sterilization, but with proper exercise and diet, this risk can be considerably reduced. Many pet food companies, such as Royal Canin, now make foods specifically formulated for this.
This can happen, but the changes are actually positive, not negative. A male cat will not become "emasculated" if you neuter him ÔÇô- he will be friendlier and less aggressive. A female cat will be much happier without the undue emotional and physical stress of being in heat.
The mere fact that your cat will be happier and healthier as a result of the procedure should be reason enough to do it. But don’t forget that your indoor cat can accidentally get outside, and the instincts for him to find a cat to mate with will be strong, and you might find yourself responsible for an unexpected litter of kittens.
Severe overpopulation and the fact that the overall health of the cat is significantly improved overrides any need for a cat to procreate.
There are so many other ways you can share the miracle of birth with your child. The best gift you can give is that of compassion, understanding, and responsibility. Picking a pet out at the shelter together and having it grow up with you as part of your family is an invaluable life lesson, especially if you are adopting an older cat, a senior cat, a black cat, or a cat with a disability, all of which are frequently overlooked at shelters.
The big deal is that each new litter quickly adds up, and there are plenty of available cats and kittens in shelters looking for a good home. Right now, according to the ASPCA, there are approximately 70 million cats on the streets and in shelters.
Euthanasia originated as a humane way to end suffering in animals due to extreme circumstances, like terminal illnesses or sicknesses. Healthy, happy cats are now being euthanized as a means to control the population. Rather than let this trend continue, we must encourage TNR (Trap, Neuter, Return) programs for feral cats and responsible spay/neuter for indoor and free-roaming cats.
Spay-neuter operations are the most routine surgeries performed in the veterinary world. They are very safe. Most cats are walking and eating within a few hours after the surgery, and back to normal behavior in a couple of days. They are prescribed pain medication after the surgery, and complications are not common, especially when the owner or caretaker follows all post-surgical care guidelines.
There are low-cost or even free clinics that offer assistance; ask your veterinarian or local shelter for options. The ASPCA also has a low-cost spay/neuter provider database available on its website. Click here for details.
All of us are affected by cat overpopulation and millions of tax dollars are spent every year to shelter and care for these animals. Much of that money is spent to euthanize them when homes can’t be found. If communities promote the virtues of spay/neuter, shelters will be less crowded, less money will be spent, and cat overpopulation will decrease.
Read more from Deborah Barnes on spay/neuter: