by Meg Bendzinski
It is common knowledge that spaying or neutering your dog or cat will prevent them from reproducing, thus helping to reduce the problem of unwanted pets. Many of these pets either end up in shelters or living on the streets exposed to disease, and other dangers. In states where pet overpopulation is especially high, some of these pets may even be euthanized due to a lack of adoptive homes. One would think that these reasons alone would be enough to convince someone to sterilize their companion animal before they have reached reproductive maturity, but that is not always the case.
The following are some common myths about spaying and neutering along with the facts that will clear up any misunderstandings.
Myth: A female cat or dog should have a litter before she is spayed. In fact, it is best for your kitten or puppy to be spayed before her first heat cycle (approximately 6-9 months of age). This reduces the likelihood of mammary cancer by about 50%. The longer a female goes unspayed, the more likely she is to develop cancer and pyometra, an infection of the uterus which if left untreated can be fatal. In addition, allowing your dog or cat to have even one litter is producing more animals that will need good homes.
It is especially important to spay female cats. The risk of mammary cancer is reduced by 85-90% if spayed before their first heat cycle. In addition, a cat’s instinct to reproduce is extremely strong, and the heat cycle can be very disturbing for them. They howl, rub up against everything, and spray urine around to attract males. They get extremely agitated and are also uncomfortable. Their heat cycles can continue for as long as 3 weeks, and during the breeding season (fall and spring) they may go into heat every 2 weeks. The resourcefulness of the cat is one of the strongest contributors to the drastic overpopulation problem suffered by the species. Therefore, it is best to eliminate the problem and the stress on your female kitty by having her spayed before her first heat cycle.