Spaying and neutering cats is a vital link in the effort to control overpopulation levels around the world at shelters and on city streets. It also ensures a long and healthy life for the animals involved, in terms of unplanned pregnancies and more docile behaviors that spayed and neutered cats exhibit.
For male cats, neutering reduces the risks for roaming, marking, and fighting by as much as ninety percent. It also significantly reduces the risk for diseases like testicular cancer, FELV, and feline AIDS, which is spread by saliva or bite wounds. Neutered males are less likely to wander off and expose themselves to outdoor hazards like automobiles and predatory animals.
Male cats are neutered by removing both testicles under general anesthesia, and cats usually recover quickly after one day in hospital. All traces of testosterone, the source of the undesirable behaviors above, are removed with the procedure.
Some males, especially Persians, suffer from a hereditary defect called cryptorchid testicles, those that don’t descend into the scrotum and remain in the abdomen. Spaying is particularly important in these cats to reduce the increased risk for cancer. These males cannot be safely bred, and sometimes require abdominal surgery to remove the testicles.
For the spayed female, the benefits include a decrease in the incidence of mammary, ovarian, and uterine cancer, and the complications that develop from coming into heat, including pyometritis bacterial infections, howling, and spraying urine. Ninety percent of breast cancers in female cats are malignant. Spaying before six months of age reduces breast cancer risk by more than ninety percent.
Some pet owners consider litters for female cats as being a healthy and nurturing experience for their pet. In reality, most home pregnancies produce a surplus of kittens that wind up in shelters and contribute to the already serious problems associated with overpopulation. Whether planned or accidental, the risk of unwanted pregnancies, for individual pets and the health of the entire species, is too great.
There are common myths associated with the behavior and quality of life for spayed and neutered cats. Some believe that sterilized cats become lethargic and prone to weight gain. Others fear complications from early spay/neuter procedures, including incontinence, behavioral problems, and poor development as adults. There is, to date, no substantial evidence to support these concerns.
Spaying is a more complicated procedure that involves removing both ovaries and the uterus, accessed through the abdomen. The incision site and sutures must be well cared for during the recovery period, but females usually still spend only one day in hospital.
Owning a pet includes a responsibility for its well-being and quality of life, something spaying and neutering increases the potential for. Animal shelters in large numbers have begun to enforce mandatory spay/neuter policies in an effort to control the population. Larger cities with more resources provide the service automatically, while others in more remote locations leave the responsibility with the owner.