Guide to spaying and neutering cats

WHY SPAY OR NEUTER YOUR CAT?

In the US alone, more then 10 million unwanted dogs and cats are euthanized (killed) each year in animal shelters. Many more may be abandoned or killed less humanely.

Spaying females and neutering males (permanently ending their ability to reproduce) can prevent many of these tragedies.

BENEFITS OF SPAYING & NEUTERING

Though completely natural, breeding is hard on a cat. A spayed female or a neutered male cat tends to be healthier, gentler, and more trainable than an unfixed feline. These pets are friendly and tend to stick closer to home, instead of roaming in search of mates. This spells a greater level of safety for a pet, as he or she will be less likely to leave home suddenly on instinct and dart out into traffic or other dangers.

Unaltered cats are likely to spray or otherwise mark their territories, both indoors and out, so spayed or neutered pets seem to create fewer messes in the home.

One fertile male cat can father hundreds of kittens in a single year.

In addition, unfixed female cats are more prone to cancer of the mammaries (breasts), ovaries, and uterus than spayed ones.

WHAT IS SPAYING?

Essentially, spaying (ovariohysterectomy) is abdominal surgery, which removes a female cat’s ovaries and uterus. Most veterinarians recommend spaying a female cat by about six months of age, before she experiences her first heat cycle.

The animal is given a general anesthetic, so she suffers no pain. After removal of the reproductive organs, the incision is sutured and bandaged. The entire procedure may be done in an animal hospital or veterinary clinic.

After spaying, a female cat will not experience any heat cycles.

Some cat owners opt for a tubal ligation instead of spaying. This procedure, essentially severing and tying off a cat’s fallopian tubes, will render her sterile, but it will not prevent heat cycles.

WHAT IS NEUTERING?

Neutering (castration) is surgical removal of a male cat’s testicles. Usually, this is done with a general anesthetic. The procedure is quick and leaves no scarring, as two tiny incisions are made, usually requiring no sutures at all.

Veterinarians generally recommend neutering male cats between six and nine months of age, before they are able to learn aggressive, tom-catting habits.

Occasionally, a cat owner will favor a vasectomy for a male cat. This procedure severs and ties off the vas deferens, eliminating a cat’s ability to fertilize an egg. A vasectomized cat is capable of mating with a female cat, but he cannot produce a conception. Vasectomies do nothing to prevent aggressive behavior, territorial spraying, or a male cat’s desire to roam the neighborhood in search of female cats in heat.

THE COST

Basic costs for spaying can average $100, and prices for neutering may run $75. However, lower-cost alternatives are available.

Most local humane societies and animal shelters offer discount certificates for sterilizing your pets. In addition, many veterinary clinics will honor a sliding-scale fee program, based on clients’ income levels.

Because professional animal care practitioners believe strongly in the need to spay and neuter pets, most are willing to negotiate, if funding is an issue.

Certainly, the cost of breeding your cat and accepting the expenses of caring for the offspring greatly outweighs the cost of sterilization.

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