Spay Myths


Last year, an estimated 5 million cats & dogs were killed in animal shelters and pounds in the U.S., and almost 1,000 in San Luis Obispo County. And this figure does not include those left by the side of the road or dropped in the woods or fields. Spaying and neutering is the most effective means of preventing the unnecessary deaths of millions of cats each year. Yet there are many people who still have misconceptions regarding spaying and neutering.  Some of the following are listed below.

MYTH: It’s better to allow your female to have one litter before she is spayed.
FACT: Medical evidence indicates just the opposite.  In fact, the evidence shows that the best time to spay your female cat is before her first heat, which usually occurs around six months of age.  Cats spayed at this age are typically healthier.  Uterine infections, a major cause of illness in unspayed cats, are prevented and the potential of developing mammary cancer, which is very common in unspayed females, is reduced.  Spaying also eliminates harassment from unwanted male cats.

MYTH: Preventing cats from having litters is unnatural.
FACT: We already interfered with nature by domesticating cats over 8,000 years ago.  In doing so, we helped create the problem of cat overpopulation.  Now it is our responsibility to solve it. What is unnatural is the killing of millions of cats in our pounds and shelters each year.

MYTH:  I want my children to experience the miracle of birth.
FACT:  Frequently animals go off by themselves to give birth, usually in the middle of the night.  Teach your children instead about humaneness and kindness to all living creatures and educate them about the importance of spaying and neutering.  It should be explained to children that the real miracle is life and that preventing the birth of some cats can save the lives of others.

MYTH: I can find “good homes” for the kittens that my female produces.
FACT:  You may find homes for all of your cat’s litter, but finding truly good homes is very difficult.  Each home you find means one less home for the cats in shelters who need good homes.  Many kittens are actually “dumped,” taken to the pound or given away to unknown strangers in front of supermarkets.  This is just “getting rid” of them, not providing good homes.  Furthermore, there is no way to guarantee they will be spayed or neutered.  In less than one year’s time, each of your cat’s offspring may have his or her own litter, adding even more animals to the population.  Statistics indicate that one cat and her litter can produce 420,000 cats in seven years.  Avoid the frustration of having a litter and trying to find homes for the kittens.  If you know of good homes for cats, send these people to the pound or an animal shelter.  There are many animals waiting there, in less than optimum conditions.  Only a limited number of cats are adopted from a pound.  Most end up being euthanized.

MYTH:  Cats become fat and lazy after being spayed or neutered.
FACT:  Fat animals are usually overfed and do not get enough exercise.  It is true there may be a tendency for spayed/neutered cats to put on weight, but what is not true is that the surgery caused it.  If your cat shows signs of putting on weight, reduce the calorie intake and increase opportunities for exercise.

MYTH:  I don’t want my male cat to feel like less of a male.
FACT:  Cats don’t have any concept of sexual identity or ego.  Neutering will not change a cat’s basic personality.  A male cat does not suffer any kind of emotional reaction or identity crisis when neutered.

MYTH:  A cat’s behavior changes dramatically after surgery.
FACT:  The only behavioral changes are positive ones.  Male cats tend to reduce territorial spraying.  If they are neutered young enough, they may never start spraying.  And neutered cats fight less, resulting in fewer battle scars, contagious diseases, abscesses and trips to the veterinarian.  They also wander less as they are not interested in breeding, and the chances of being hit by a car or getting lost are greatly reduced.  Spayed and neutered animals live longer, happier, healthier lives.

MYTH:  We don’t need to neuter males, because they are not the ones having the litters.
FACT:  This is the most prevalent myth, but the most ridiculous.  Immaculate conception doesn’t explain feline pregnancies.  It takes two to tango.

MYTH:  But my cat is a purebred.
FACT:  If your purebred cat has a litter and you find good homes for the kittens, that means approximately five or six cats are not adopted from shelters or pounds.  And purebred cats do end up in shelters and pounds.

MYTH:  But my cat is so special, I want a kitten just like her.
FACT:  Your cat may be a great pet, but that doesn’t mean her offspring will be carbon copies. Professional animal breeders who follow generations of bloodlines cannot guarantee that they will get just want they want out of a particular litter.  A pet owner’s chances are even slimmer.  In fact, an entire litter of kittens might receive all of the mother cat’s (and her mate’s) worst characteristics.

MYTH: Spaying or neutering my cat is too expensive.
FACT: Surgery to spay or neuter is a one-time, relatively small cost when compared to all the benefits. It is a bargain compared to the cost of having a litter and ensuring the health of the mother and kittens. Two months of pregnancy and another two months until the kittens are weaned can add up to significant food costs, and veterinary bills if complications develop. But, most important, the cost of spaying/neutering is a small price to pay for the health of your cat and the prevention of unwanted pregnancies.

The Spay Shuttle (sponsored by C-CAPS) provides convenient spaying and neutering services at low cost in the SLO County area. They can be reached at 481-5119. Or call the Feline Network Low-Cost Spay/Neuter Information Line at 595-6612 for other low-cost services available in the County.  Spay/neuter costs can be as low as $25 or $50.