Springtime tends to underscore the critical importance of spaying and neutering – it’s the time when shelters see sharp upticks in the number of homeless animals and unwanted litters. However, at at any given time of year, there are more cats and dogs available for adoption than there are available homes. In fact:
• It’s estimated 6-8 million homeless animals will enter overcrowded shelters annually
• 50 to 75 percent will be euthanized to make room for new stray and homeless animals
That’s a shocking number – one that could be dramatically reduced if people spayed or neutered pets as soon as it’s safe to do so. If an animal can go into heat, they can get pregnant, and launch a cycle of babies having babies.
Male and female cats are prolific breeders across their entire lifetime, which makes spaying/neutering all the more vital. Here’s why:
• Cats have their first heat as early as 4 months of age
• The average heat cycle lasts up to two weeks
• During heat, your cat will do everything it can to mate
• Intact males can smell a cat in heat from up to a mile away
• Cats can go into heat up to 10 times per year
• Unaltered females can have up to 3 litters per year
• Typical litter size for cats: 4 – 6 kittens
• Dogs can have their first heat at age 5-6 months
• Unaltered females can have up to 2 litters per year
• Typical litter size for dogs: 4 puppies
Aside from preventing unwanted litters, spaying/neutering also has behavioral benefits, especially for the males. Neutered males will tend to stay closer to home rather than going out on the prowl for a mate (risking fights, injuries) and nasty behaviors like spraying and marking their territory will also be reduced or eliminated.
There are also long term health benefits associated with spaying and neutering – reducing the risk for uterine and breast cancer in females and testicular and prostate cancer in the males.
Generally, a fixed pet is a healthier, happier pet. It’s best to spay or neuter early – however, some large breed dogs may be healthier in the long term if you wait until they’re fully grown. Ask your veterinarian for advice.