We all love out furry cat friends and want their lives to be long, healthy and happy. Many of us chose a feline companion from a shelter, guaranteeing we were adopting a healthy, social pet. This is great and every animal adopted actually saves two lives- the one we brought home and another that can now fill the vacant space in the shelter.
Shelters ensure that adoptable pets meet specific requirements. They are all examined and treated by a veterinarian as needed. They are all tested for many diseases, including feline AIDS and feline leukemia to help stop their spread. They are inoculated for rabies, distemper and other possible illnesses. They are all spayed or neutered.
Some people may argue that spaying or neutering does not allow a cat to live a “normal” life. On the contrary, spaying and neutering pets helps them live healthier and happier lives.
Responsible cat breeders ensure the continuation of pure blood lines and work to improve diversity and health within breeds. If you own a pure bred cat, you are able to enjoy the unique qualities of the animal. Some include size, coloring, coat composition or length, fur pattern, and personality.
Most of us probably cuddle up with mixed breed friends. We are happy with our pets and choose the right number and type for our lifestyles. We may choose adults or kittens and realize our limits. We may wish we could adopt more, but common sense prevails.
Cat overpopulation is in epidemic proportions. Approximately 6 million to 8 million dogs and cats in the United States enter shelters annually. Less than half come out alive. No kill shelters fill so quickly that no space remains for more needy animals. Millions of stray animals are put to death every year just because there is no room for them in shelters or they are not adopted quickly, often within two or three days. Animals that are not 100% healthy routinely die because healing them is time consuming and expensive.
Cats are not native to most of the areas they now occupy, so their reproduction remains relatively unchecked by natural predators or environmental conditions, especially when under human protection. At the same time, their breeding frequency and litter sizes have remained the same as they were millions of years ago. For instance, a single female cat can have three litters a year with an average of five kittens per litter. In only seven years, she and her offspring could potentially produce 420,000 cats.
One out of every five animal companions becomes lost at some point in their lives. Of these, only about 2% of cats are ever recovered by their owners. Many of these losses could be prevented if owners had put collars with ID tags on their animals or had identification microchips permanently implanted under their skin. Animals not claimed go up for adoption, but they may not be fortunate enough to find another home in time to meet the deadline. Meanwhile, lost animals take up precious shelter space that is needed for truly homeless cats. Other cats are deliberately abandoned by their irresponsible owners to fend for themselves in the wild or on the streets. Most animals that are not taken in by someone or brought to a shelter starve or freeze to death, die from illness or get run over by cars.
Almost one third of the cats in shelters are there because their owners don’t want them anymore. People move and leave pets behind, neglecting to try and find them homes. Owners die and no one thinks about a pet. Good intentions turn sour when a cute kitten grows into an adult and an owner no longer wants to care for a grown animal. Sometimes owners can no longer afford pet care, particularly when an animal becomes ill or injured. Family dynamics change and people lose interest in a pet.
Twenty five million puppies and kittens are born in the U.S. annually. This number far outweighs homes available for them and the capacity of the 4,000 shelters in this country. Three to four million are killed in shelters. The best way to prevent this tragedy is to spay or neuter your cat.
Spaying/neutering means sterilizing cats so that they can’t reproduce. Female animals are spayed by performing a surgical procedure to remove their uterine organs so they cannot be impregnated, while neutering involves castrating male animals so they are unable to inseminate females. Both operations are done using anesthesia. Male cats often return home to owners the same day and females usually require at least one overnight at the veterinarian’s office due to the nature of the surgery.
Spaying/neutering cats is done on animals older than eight weeks of age. Veterinarians disagree on exactly the best age for sterilizing pets but the usual range is from eight weeks to six or eight months for healthy animals. Cats who are recovering from illness, injury or trauma may need extra recovery time before they are at the optimal health for surgery. If possible, young cats should be sterilized before they reach sexual maturity or the ability to successfully breed.
Sterilizing a female cat is called Spaying orOvariohysterectomy. Under anesthesia a veterinarian surgically removes the ovaries and uterus of a female cat. Stitches used are usually dissolvable and probably will not require a follow up vet visit. After about one to two weeks most female cats resume a normal routine. Positive outcomes for female cats include:
· Prevention of signs of “estrus” or a female going into “heat”. This is the time in which a female cat is fertile and without spaying could become pregnant. Frequently during the mating cycle a non-spayed female will yowl to attract male cats, become overly aggressive or antisocial. A heat cycle can last up to a week and a cat’s behaviors can be very disruptive to peace in your home.
· Prevention of blood stains on your carpet or furniture, similar to menstrual discharge.
· Decreases in the surplus supply of kittens. In addition to millions of surplus domesticated kittens, there may be over 20 million feral cats and kittens in the United States.
· Decreases the chance of developing breast tumors, cystic ovaries and uterine infections later in life.
· Anesthesia is a much less risk at the younger age.
· Prevents breast development if done before breeding age.
Sterilizing a male cat is called Neutering. Under anesthesia, a veterinarian surgically removes a male cat’s testicles, preventing the ability to impregnate female cats. As with female cats, dissolvable stitches are used and follow up vet visits are not often necessary. A male cat usually resumes his normal household routine in two to three days. Positive outcomes for male cats include:
· Decreases the desire to roam the neighborhood. Your cat will be calmer and safer staying in your home, away from feral and neighborhood cats and other animals that could cause injury and spread disease. Kitty yowling when he senses a female wanting a “date” is annoying and bothersome.
· Decreases aggression, becoming more loving pets and more affectionate. These changes can be immediate.
· Decreases the incidence of prostate cancer in later life. Your kitty will be healthier.
· Prevents the odor of male cat urine.
· Prevents male cat spraying and marking furniture and walls.
Spaying/neutering does not cause a pet to get fat or lazy. This comes from overfeeding and poor exercise. Personalities are not altered by spaying/neutering. Personalities do not fully develop until two years of age. Aggressiveness and viciousness are not the result of surgery. Personalities will only get better.
Surgical risk is very slight due to modern anesthesia and techniques. It is much easier on the pet to be spayed before going through a “heat” cycle, due to the smaller size of the reproductive tract.
Unwanted animals are a very real concern. Stray animals can easily become a public nuisance; soiling parks and streets, ruining shrubs, frightening children or elderly people, creating noise and other disturbances, causing automobile accidents, and sometimes even killing livestock or other pets. As a potential source of rabies and other diseases, they can become a public health hazard. The capture, impoundment, and eventual destruction of unwanted animals will cost taxpayers millions of dollars each year.
At least 30 states have passed legislation requiring sterilization of cats (and dogs) adopted from community shelters. Many state laws charge guardians who choose not to sterilize their animal companions a substantial financial penalty. Laws are stronger in some areas of the country than in others. In New York City, for example, even dogs and cats sold in pet stores must be spayed or neutered. Rhode Island requires guardians to spay or neuter all cats over six months of age, no matter how they are acquired, or pay a licensing fee. Advocates expect this to reduce the number of animals euthanized in the state by about 65%.
Educating pet owners and community groups about spaying/neutering will help prevent millions of unwanted animals. Humane organizations and animal protection groups raise public awareness of overpopulation through education and outreach campaigns that promote spaying and neutering and encourage people to adopt animals instead of buying them. This effort is crucial because there are millions of animals who need loving guardians. Whether based on media exposure or direct person-to-person contact, education and outreach programs complement spaying and neutering efforts by getting the community involved in creating solutions and generating public support for overpopulation reduction measures.
Over time, these targeted efforts have succeeded in dramatically decreasing the number of animals euthanized in the U.S. Only 30 years ago, about 17 million cats and dogs were killed in the course of a single year—more than four times the amount of homeless animals euthanized by shelters today.
Spay/neutering fees vary but start at around $50. Shelter adoption fees may be higher but they include a veterinarian exam, inoculations, laboratory tests and other fees. Shelter adopted cats are healthy animals who will provide many years of companionship to you.
In the greater Albany, NY area, many options for spaying/neutering a cat are available. Shelters will only offer animals for adoptionwho are sterilized. They can refer you to a veterinarian if you have an unsterilized pet. Almost all veterinarians will spay or neuter cats. If they cannot, they can refer you to a reliable veterinarian who can. These organizations are available to give you assistance in locating the best option for your circumstances:
Spay/Neuter Assistance at the Animal Protective Foundation
Community Spay/Neuter Program
This is a partnership program between the APF, Robin’s Nest, HOPE, Cat Tales, Guilderhaven and the Montgomery County SPCA. All surgeries are performed at the Animal Protective Foundation, 53 Maple Avenue in Scotia.
This program is for cats only
Includes spay or neuter surgery, FeLV/FIV testing, and rabies vaccination.
For appointments and information, please contact one of the following organizations:
Love Me Spay Me (Guilderhaven)
Montgomery County SPCA
Includes transport from Montgomery County SPCA, Amsterdam. Drop off 7:15 am and pick up 4:00 pm same day.
Mohawk and Hudson River Humane Society
Eligibility: low income
Application available in the PAWS office or by calling MHRHS
This program is for cats only
Fee includes spay/neuter, rabies & distemper vaccinations, flea treatment and nail trimming.
Fix-a-Bull – Out of the Pits
Provides FREE spay or neuter surgery to owned pit bulls or pit bull mixes. See website for application and more info.
Friends of Animals
Cats: $65 females/$51 males
Dogs: $90 females/$64 males
Purchase a certificate for reduced-cost surgery only with a participating vet although many other costs will apply
Columbia-Greene Humane Society
Cats only. $65 includes spay or neuter, rabies, and distemper vaccinations.
Upcoming eventsfor pet awareness and fundraising opportunities include:
Orange Street CatsFundraiser:
April 9, 2011 Saturday
3:00 PM – 5:00 PM at Panera Bread, 161 Washington Avenue Ext Crossgate Commons Albany, NY
Stop and Shop! No presentation, just fun trying on Silpada Jewelry to benefit OSC!
Pins For Pets: Pet Connection Fundraiser
Location: Spare Time Family Fun Center (Latham Bowl)
Highlights:Bowling is from 7pm-11pm, April 15th, FRIDAY Night $15 for adults, $10 for children – Includes two games and shoes.
50% of all money collected goes to News10’s Pet Connection.
Mohawk & Hudson River Humane Society;
Whiskers Animal Benevolent League:
You can find more information at the links posted here or on Facebook and Twitter.
Diane Metz, Orange Street Cats, for spay/neuter list: