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You Can Help Reduce the Number of Unwanted Cats - Spaying and Neutering of Cats

Every year, hundreds of thousands of cats and kittens are destroyed because they are unwanted. Animal shelters that take in these animals and try to find them homes are overcrowded. With so many animals in need, they cannot support all animals indefinitely. The solution is not to open more shelters, but for cat owners to become more responsible about spaying and neutering their pets.

A female cat can have two litters of kittens each year. The average survival rate is about 2.8 kittens per litter. If her offspring are not spayed or neutered, the result is 12 cats the first year, 66 cats in the second year, and at the end of ten years, the total would be 80,399,780 cats.

"Spay" is the term used for the surgical removal of a female animal's uterus and ovaries. When a male's testicles are removed, it is called "neutering." Both procedures leave the animals unable to reproduce. Besides preventing unwanted pregnancies, spaying and neutering of pets has other benefits for cats and their owners.

Benefits of neutering a male cat

* Neutered cats are less likely to spray strong urine

* Neutered cats will lose the urge to fight

* Neutered cats will be less likely to try to escape

* Neutered cats will not suffer the abscesses from fighting

* Neutered cats will be less likely to contract diseases such as FeLV and FIV

* Neutered cats will not be subject to testicular cancer

* Neutered cats will not likely develop "stud tail," caused by overactive glands in the tail

* Neutered cats have a decreased risk of mammary cancer

Spaying a female cat prevents mating behaviors such as fighting and yowling/hyperactivity in females. Spayed cats don't roam the neighborhood as much, protecting them from the dangers of vehicles and aggressive dogs. Their tendency to stay closer to home also provides protection against deadly diseases such as FeLV and FIV. Finally, "fixed" pets tend to be more loving, because they are not subject to the erratic effects of hormones.

One of the biggest benefits of spaying/neutering is that it dramatically reduces the cat's risk of developing cancers of the reproductive system. A female cat spayed before her first cycle, or heat, has a greatly reduced chance of mammary cancer. Less than a decade ago, conventional wisdom dictated that pets should be neutered at between 5-7 months of age. Recent studies have found that it is not only possible to spay/neuter cats at a younger age, it actually is better for them. Today, cats undergo spay/neuter procedures at about 7 weeks of age. They recover much more quickly than if it was done later, and ensures that a female does not become pregnant with her first heat.

In the past spaying was limited for a number of reasons

* It was better to let a female cat give birth to one litter of kittens before spaying.

* That female cats in particular, might later develop incontinence as a result.

* That certain behavioral problems might result.

However, these theories have since been disproven.

In the past, animal shelters and humane societies sent unaltered cats/kittens to their new home because they wanted them to start their new life as soon as possible. Usually, owners signed documents promising to have the animal neutered. Some facilities took it upon themselves to follow up with phone calls to make sure the owners were living up to their commitment. The overwhelming number of animals coming and going in a shelter today makes this unfeasible. Instead of allowing their charges to add to the overpopulation problem, most animal welfare/adoption groups routinely spay and neuter animals before they are made available for adoption. A number of municipalities have passed laws so that no animal can leave a shelter unless it has been spayed/neutered.

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