New Mexico's Pet Resource SPRING 2004



by Nancy Marano

Unless you are an unaltered male cat, there is nothing pretty about a female cat in heat!

If your beloved Fluffy suddenly produces horrific screaming noises, rubs against everyone and everything in sight, becomes a twitching mass of fur with her back end waving in the air and her tail held out to one side, you know youíve waited too long to have her spayed.

How do you keep her in the house, now? All she wants to do is find the first available male, and sheís prepared to make your life miserable unless you let her out to fulfill her mission. You also might have some unexpected visitors at your door as neighborhood Romeos line up to oblige her. The whole mating ritual certainly doesnít seem very romantic, and it doesnít look like much fun, either. The male cat bites the femaleís neck to hold her down while he mounts her. Then she tosses him off and slashes him with her claws. While heís waiting to mate with her again, he may have to fight off other suitors.

The mating instinct is the strongest urge a cat has. An unaltered female cat is in heat most of the time until she gets pregnant. This does not make her a good pet. When the only thing on her mind is finding a mate, sheís not anxious to snuggle up with you.

An unneutered male isnít great in the house either. Thereís that unsavory habit he has of spraying urine everywhere to mark his territory. If he gets outside, he can be injured or killed by a car while heís on the prowl for a female. Then there are the other cats he will fight. The fights are noisy and dangerous, too, because Romeo is apt to get infections from wounds he got defending his territory or a femaleís honor.

Letís face it, unaltered cats arenít much fun. The choice is up to you, but there are a lot of benefits to having your cat spayed or neutered. You benefit because your cat roams less, territorial marking is decreased, problems from a female catís heat periods are prevented, and the hassle of finding homes for unwanted kittens is eliminated.

There are benefits for your cat, too. Your cat will be less likely to get mammary cancer, ovarian cancer, testicular cancer, or anal gland tumors. Pyometra, a life-threatening infection of the uterus, and some prostate diseases will be prevented. Sexually transmitted diseases are avoided. Cats have fewer injuries and infections from fighting or being hit by cars.

Even if you didnít get all these benefits for yourself and your cat, there would still be one monumental reason to spay or neuter your pet. It helps put an end to the horrendous problem of pet overpopulation.

Letís think about cats for a minute. I know this sounds impossible, but if you allow two cats and their surviving offspring to breed unchecked for 10 years, you will have 80,399,780 cats! These figures from the American Humane Association (AHA) assume two litters per year with 2.8 surviving kittens in each litter.

This sounds daunting, but the solution is simple. Spaying or neutering your cats takes them out of the breeding wars. You wonít be contributing to the millions of unwanted cats who are killed each year. Instead you will be affirming that animals are not a disposable commodity like paper towels.

In New Mexicoís mild climate ďkitten seasonĒ lasts most of the year. Shelters are bombarded with litters of unwanted kittens. You may actually find homes for all the kittens your cat produces, but once a kitten leaves your home you have no way of knowing what will happen to her. She may be given to someone else or taken to the shelter because the family who adopted her canít keep her. Or, even worse, she might get outside to fend for herself. If the person who adopted her didnít spay her and you didnít spay her, she will be pregnant soon. Then you have contributed to the pet overpopulation problem. If this sounds like an improbable scenario, think again. It happens every single day with disastrous results. Those results sit in the shelters hoping someone will adopt them. But there are not enough homes to take them all. People once believed animals should not be spayed or neutered until they were six months old. This is no longer true. Studies on early-age spay/neuter, which means performing the surgery on animals between 8 and 16 weeks of age who have attained a weight of two pounds, have had positive results. No medical or behavioral problems have been reported in connection with early-age spay/neuter surgery. Now shelters are able to spay or neuter every animal before releasing the pet to adopters. This assures that no offspring from shelter animals will return to the shelter.

Early-age spay/neuter has been endorsed by the American Veterinary Medical Association, AHA, HSUS, ASPCA, American Kennel Club, and the Cat Fanciers Association as well as many local veterinarians and animal shelters.

Pet overpopulation will end only if all of us take responsibility for having our own animals spayed or neutered and ask everyone we know to do the same for their animals.

Be an active partner in the solution to pet overpopulation.

Nancy Marano is an award-winning writer who lives in Albuquerque and is owned by two cats, Sammy and Rocky, and a Westie named Maggie May.

When you believe there is no love in the world, just gaze into the eyes of the cat in your lap. Ė Welsh saying

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