What Are Spaying and Neutering?
As part of being a responsible pet parent, it’s highly recommended that you have your cat or dog spayed or neutered early in their life. Most vets recommend the procedure for pets around six months of age, although new research suggests that female large breed dogs should be spayed later, around 18-22 months, to help reduce the risk of cancer and joint problems. Both of these surgeries essentially remove the sex organs from your pet -- and while it’s a bit unpleasant to think about, spaying and neutering have a positive impact on your pet’s behavior and health, as well as helping the larger pet community.
When female cats and dogs are spayed, the pet’s ovaries and uterus are removed. The technical name for this procedure is a ovariohysterectomy. Male pets that are neutered are castrated, or have their testicles surgically removed.
Why Is it Important to Spay and Neuter?
There are several main reasons that vets and pet organizations like the Humane Society and ASPCA recommend having cats and dogs spayed or neutered.
The removal of testicals will help eliminate the possibility of your male cat or dog getting testicular cancer. For female cats and dogs that are spayed, the risk of breast cancer is reduced, and the removal of the pet’s uterus means that uterine cancer can no longer occur. Spaying also reduces the possibility of your female cat getting a uterine infection.
When spayed, female cats have a more affectionate and friendly temperament. Neutered males are calmer and less likely to fight, and may also be more affectionate. When pets are not neutered, mating becomes a fixation and a male will seek to leave your home on a quest for a lady cat or dog. Once neutered, males will lose this instinct to escape, as well as the desire to mark their territory, bite, and hump inappropriately. Obviously, this makes them a lot easier to be around.
There are quite a few messy and unpleasant aspects of pets that aren’t spayed and neutered. Female cats that aren’t spayed go into heat, during which they yowl loudly, and also spray around your home, which smells less-than-lovely. Unneutered male cats may feel the need to mark their territory by urinating around your home.
Pet Population Control:
Don’t undervalue this last benefit of spaying and neutering: your pet will not get pregnant, or, if male, won’t impregnate any neighborhood pets. This means you’ll never have an unexpected litter of cats or dogs to handle. Even if you can give away your pet’s offspring to loving friends and neighbors, you’re potentially depriving a cat or dog in an overrun shelter the opportunity to be adopted into a friendly home.
What to Expect From the Surgery
Spaying and neutering surgeries are done by veterinarians while your pet is under general anesthesia. The surgery occurs quickly -- in less than an hour -- but more time may be needed to get the pet prepped for anesthesia. Recovery time may involve a day or two in the vet’s office, and the cost of the procedure may vary if your dog or cat is overweight or obese. This routine surgery has a low risk of complications for your pet.
Generally, your pet can be spayed or neutered at around six months of age. Ideally, the spaying should occur before the first time your female cat or dog goes into heat, which generally occurs around seven to eight months of age, to help prevent the development of mammary gland tumors later in life.
Other Considerations of Spaying and Neutering
One potential downside to spaying and neutering your pet is that they may be slightly more prone to gain weight -- the amount of energy used in trying to acquire a mate, and to procreate, is considerable, and burns off a lot of calories. However, with a sensible diet and exercise, weight gain should not be a problem.
Female pets that are already in a heat cycle should not be spayed until the cycle is over. Some spayed female cats and dogs may develop urinary incontinence, which can be treated with oral medications.
The benefits of fixing your pet, including better behavior, reduced health risks, and a nicer environment in your home, far exceed the drawbacks to your pet, and the pets adopted from shelters into loving homes will thank you!
More on Caring for Pets
Getting the Right Kitten Vaccination
Feline Leukemia Causes, Symptoms, and Treatments
This information is for informational purposes only and is not meant as a substitute for the professional advice of, or diagnosis or treatment by, your veterinarian with respect to your pet. It has, however, been verified by a licensed veterinarian for accuracy.